The Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) has been awarded a nearly $2.5 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration for compressed natural gas (CNG) buses and vans to replace our current transit buses and vans with more environmentally-friendly vehicles. CNG is considered to be an “eco-friendly” fuel, according to the US Department of Transportation. It is produced by compressing methane and is considered safer than gasoline and diesel because it is non-toxic and doesn’t contaminate ground water. Per a recent press release, the FNSB estimates it will save 120,000 gallons of diesel and 17,800 gallons of gasoline annually with this conversion. (Borough receives $2.5M for CNG bus conversion, FDNM, August 21, 2022). But while taking one step forward to clean up our air quality, we’ll be taking nine steps back in 2024 when the Kinross ore hauling trucks are scheduled to begin rumbling through North Pole and Fairbanks. Kinross is going to be adding 1,121,280 gallons of diesel burned per year in the FNSB PM2.5 non-attainment zone as they haul ore from the Manh Choh mine to the mill at Ft. Knox.

Here’s the math, using 96 roundtrips from the Manh Choh mine to Ft. Knox daily (4 trucks per hour x 24 hours), 64 miles of road through the FNSB PM2.5 non-attainment zone (32 miles each direction), 365 days per year, and the assumption that each truck gets 2 MPG of diesel:

                             [(96 x 64) x 365] / 2 = 1,121,280 gallons of diesel burned per year.

Even if the trucks get 4 MPG (an extremely conservative estimate for a heavy-hauler), it is still more than 560,000 gallons of diesel burned per year in the non-attainment zone. (The math for the entire 500-mile roundtrip is even more staggering.) In any case, it is clear to see that removing a handful of city buses and saving 120,000 gallons of diesel but then allowing 96 ore trucks to run back and forth through town 24/7/365 will NOT get us where we need to be.

The bottom line for those of us living in the non-attainment zone is that the EPA will be mandating further sanctions on residents and businesses and our federal highway funds could be in jeopardy.

The question is, why would we agree to go along with this backward plan?