The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is drafting rules to curb emissions near Pinedale, but the agency says there are some limitations to what they’ll be able to do.
The Pinedale area violates federal air quality standards because of pollution from natural gas development. DEQ has already imposed stricter rules on new energy equipment, and now they plan to limit emissions from older, grandfathered facilities, as well. But spokesman Keith Guille says they aren't able to regulate everything.
We’ve reported often on the effects that energy production can have on air quality. The most obvious example is Pinedale, where federal ambient air quality standards were violated, largely because of emissions from natural gas production. Regulators say the air elsewhere in the state is fine. But some worry that Wyoming doesn’t have a sufficient monitoring network to know for sure. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has decided to keep an air quality monitor in Converse County for another year.
DEQ placed a mobile monitor near Douglas after residents voiced concerns about emissions from new energy development in the area. So far, there’s no indication that air quality standards have been violated, but there were several days with high pollution levels.
Typically, DEQ moves their mobile air quality monitors to new locations each year, but the agency’s Cara Keslar says they want to keep a close eye on this area.
Ozone forecasting in Sublette County will begin again in January. Ozone is a hazardous gas that’s formed under certain conditions by the combination of volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides. In recent years Sublette County has seen spikes in ozone during wintertime, particularly on days with no wind, lots of sunlight and snow on the ground.
After five years of deliberation, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared the Wind River Indian Reservation its own state for the purpose of air quality monitoring. The decision, made under the Clean Air Act, will allow the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to apply for grants to support air monitoring programs, but it doesn’t give the tribes regulatory powers.
Almost five years ago, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes submitted an application to the federal government asking for the Wind River Indian Reservation to be treated as a separate state for monitoring air quality. They're still waiting on a response.
Eastern Shoshone tribe chairman Darwin St. Clair says it’s a matter of tribal sovereignty as well as stewardship of their land. He says with a coal power plant and oil and gas fields nearby, air quality is a high priority.
Douglas residents are concerned about emissions from a proposed natural gas processing plant on the outskirts of town. Texas-based Crestwood Midstream Partners’ Douglas facility would process 120 million cubic feet of raw natural gas per day. Residents wrote to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, worried about carbon dioxide and formaldehyde emissions, among other things.
Cole Anderson is in charge of Wyoming’s air quality permitting process. He says the DEQ has reviewed the company’s proposed emissions, and found them to meet state standards.
The Department of Environmental Quality has installed air quality monitors in Casper and Rock Springs.
DEQ Spokesman Keith Guille says they want to find out what pollutants are in the air, and whether they’re occurring at levels that are hazardous to public health.
“It’s important to get a baseline of right now what we’re seeing for air quality,” Guille said. “And then also if we do find some issues, obviously we need to start looking into what may be leading into higher levels of certain constituents.”
It’s official: The Environmental Protection Agency says Sublette County and parts of neighboring counties are violating federal air quality standards because ozone levels have gone above the legal limit multiple times in the past few years. It’s widely recognized that the problem stems from emissions in the oil and gas industry. When you get the right combination of two types of emissions -- NOX and VOCs -- coupled with certain wintertime weather conditions, ground-level ozone forms. Ground-level ozone is the main component of smog and can cause respiratory problems.