High Ozone Levels Subject Of Pinedale Meeting

Jan 18, 2012

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality says oil and gas companies in the Pinedale area are improving efforts to curb emissions on high ozone days.

The area is not in compliance with federal Clean Air Act standards, and the DEQ held a public meeting Tuesday, to brief residents on its efforts to combat the high ozone levels.

Steve Dietrich is the air quality administrator for the DEQ. He says so far, 26 companies have created ozone contingency plans, where they agree to do certain things – like refraining from drilling new wells, or curbing truck traffic – on high ozone days. Dietrich says more companies have contingency plans than in the past, and existing plans have improved.

“Maybe one company was lacking some good ideas that another company was doing; we shared those,” Dietrich said. “And then some of those became expectations for everybody.”

Dietrich says in response to public feedback last year, DEQ also started updating its online ozone reports more frequently.

But some residents are skeptical that progress is being made.

Elaine Crumpley heads the group Citizens United for Responsible Energy Development. She says officials used phrases like “hosted meetings,” “continued to examine,” and “conducted outreach” when describing the DEQ’s accomplishments.

“You look at those things and say, ‘But how do you know how that worked out?’ You know, there should be some sort of rubric to say how all that went,” Crumpley said.

Crumpley says she’s happy about one thing, though:  the EPA has formally recognized that the area is non-compliant with the Clean Air Act. She says that should put pressure on the oil and gas industries to clean up their operations, which are at least partially responsible for the heightened ozone levels.