Ozone

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

New regulations designed to combat smog could leave hundreds of counties in the United States out of compliance with federal air quality standards, including up to eight in Wyoming.

Scott Sandberg / NOAA

Ozone pollution has been a problem in western Wyoming for years because of oil and gas development, but the chemistry behind it has been a mystery, until now.

A study published this month in the journal Nature looks at how wintertime ozone pollution in rural areas with oil and gas development is chemically different from summertime ozone pollution in big cities. In the Uinta Basin in Utah the researchers found levels of the two main components of ozone were opposite of what they would be in cities.

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

Every day, more than 2 billion gallons of water are produced in the U.S. by the oil and gas industry. The water comes up with the oil and gas, and can contain hydrocarbons like benzene and toluene as well as the chemicals that are injected into the well to produce the oil and gas. But the federal government doesn’t treat waste from the energy industry as hazardous, and much of that polluted wastewater is allowed to simply evaporate. That, as others have reported, could could be a problem.

Shella via Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering new air quality standards that, if adopted, would leave many Wyoming communities out of compliance.

The regulations would cut acceptable levels of ozone, a pollutant which can cause health problems.

Keith Guille is a spokesperson with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. He says the state would cooperate with the EPA if standards changed and any Wyoming community was found to have too much ozone, or be in “nonattainment.”

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has proposed new rules for controlling emissions from oil and gas operations in the Upper Green River Basin, and they're getting push-back from all sides.

The area around Pinedale is out of compliance with federal air quality standards for ozone, a harmful pollutant, because of nearby gas fields. Half a dozen groups have submitted written comments on the proposed rules for cutting emissions from existing oil and gas sites.

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.

Willow Belden

Several years ago, there were days when air pollution in Pinedale was worse than in Los Angeles. Residents complained of respiratory problems, and visits to local medical clinics increased.  In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency said the area was violating federal air quality standards, and gave Wyoming three years to fix the problem. Since then, air quality has been better. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports, nobody knows whether the problem is really fixed, and some worry that the state is not doing enough to prevent similar problems from happening elsewhere.

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

Energy companies operating near Pinedale will soon have to retrofit their older equipment to curb emissions.

Natural gas development in the Pinedale Anticline gas field has caused air pollution, to the extent that the area violates federal air quality standards. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has already imposed limits on emissions from new equipment. But until now, older equipment that was already in place was exempt from those standards. DEQ Air Quality Administrator Steve Dietrich says that needs to change.

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.

Mobile lab could help solve air quality questions

Sep 30, 2013
Willow Belden

Atmospheric Scientists at the University of Wyoming will soon have access to a mobile laboratory that will help them conduct advanced research into ozone pollution and other air quality issues.

Rob Field is a researcher in the Atmospheric Science Department. He says only a handful of universities have equipment this sophisticated.

Ozone spikes lead to doctor visits, study finds

Apr 11, 2013

A study by the Wyoming Department of Health found that ozone in Sublette County causes and exacerbates health problems.

Ground-level ozone is a type of pollution, and in Sublette County, it’s caused by emissions from the oil and gas industry. The report found that as ozone levels increased, more people went to local health clinics with respiratory complaints.

Kerry Pride with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says other studies have shown the same thing, but this is the first time they’ve done a research specific to Sublette County.

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

The Department of Environmental Quality is considering new regulations for the energy industry in Sublette County, in order to address the ozone problem there.

Ozone is a component in smog and can lead to health problems. In Sublette County, it’s caused by emissions from the oil and gas industry.

DEQ’s air quality administrator, Steve Dietrich, says one area they want to focus on is older production equipment that predates the current emissions rules. 

Researchers at the University of Wyoming are planning to map out the emissions coming from natural gas fields in Sublette County.

The area violates federal air quality standards because emissions from the energy industry have caused high levels of ozone, which is a type of smog, to form.

Rob Field is leading the project. He says they’ll use high-tech mobile monitors to measure air quality.

Courtesy of Pinedale Online

Tomorrow, the Department of Environmental Quality will announce how it plans to fix air quality problems near Pinedale.

Emissions from oil and gas development in Sublette County have caused ozone, or smog, to form at levels that exceed federal limits. Last year, a community task force recommended possible solutions. They called for tougher regulations on industry and more rigorous air quality monitoring, among other things.

A task force in Pinedale has come up with a list of recommendations for how to fix air quality problems in Sublette County.

The area violates federal air quality standards because oil and gas production have led to high levels of ozone, or smog, in recent years. So at the suggestion of Gov. Matt Mead, a group of citizens, industry reps and local leaders got together to come up with a solution.

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

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.