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Wyoming Gets Citizens' Air Quality Recommendations

A citizens' advisory task force on Wednesday submitted its final recommendation for cleaning up the air in the Upper Green River Basin to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), prompting praise from Gov. Matt Mead.

The DEQ will now review and consider that task force recommendations for reducing ozone in the basin in the western part of the state in which a combination of oil/gas production and cattle grazing has contributed to the air quality issues (see Daily GPI, June 22). Environmental groups have threatened legal action over the issue in the western basin (see Daily GPI, Oct. 5, 2011).

Recommendations from the 26-member task force covered potential rules and regulations for existing sources, such as the oil/gas production, leak detection/repair and monitoring/reporting requirements to the DEQ among a list of 11 areas for consideration. Members included residents and local government, industry, state government and federal government representatives, along with a representative from the governor's office.

"The members of the task force brought different perspectives and came together in a productive manner," Mead said. "I appreciate the many hours they contributed to this important issue, and I look forward to the DEQ's analysis of their recommendations.”

Last year during Mead's initial months in office, there were six smog alerts before the end of March for the Pinedale natural gas production area in western Wyoming (see Daily GPI, March 15, 2011). Mead, major producers and the DEQ worked to address a six-year-old air quality attainment issue that had seemed to be in remission over the previous two years (2009-2010).

The state and gas industry have wrestled with elevated ozone levels ever since as they have occurred at unusual times in the winter when conditions cook up atypical amounts of ozone from the gas drilling operations' air emissions at Pinedale, the nation's third largest gas production field.

Among the task force recommendations is one to "require contingency plans" for development and implementation by "all oil and gas operators throughout the nonattainment area," along with promoting "expanding contingency plans to other commercial and government entities as practicable."

There is also the call for rules, regulations and/or policy "to reduce emissions from existing oil/gas stationary sources throughout the nonattainment area" (including but not limited to storage tanks, dehydration units, pressurized process vessels, natural gas-fired equipment, etc.)."

John Corra, DEQ director, said his agency will take "the next few months" to evaluate the recommendations.

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