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Ozone season looms on horizon

Posted: Friday, Dec 21st, 2012

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SUBLETTE COUNTY – Sublette County is one of few places where winter weather, unbroken snow cover and human-caused emissions can create overly high levels of ozone that negatively affect the public’s health.

With snow on the ground, strong sunlight and more engines idling throughout the county but mainly in its oil and gas development fields – although fewer than in past years – the potential remains for the pollutant to exceed federal allowances.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) continues its involvement with Sublette County operators and the public to bring more awareness.

The DEQ’s Air Quality Division (AQD) announced Thursday it will again do “in-house weather forecasting” with daily updates to the county’s residents

On Jan. 10, 2013, the DEQ hosts a public meeting at 6 p.m. at the Pinedale Library to discuss recommendations made by the 26-member Upper Green River Basin Air Quality Citizens Advisory Task Force (Task Force).

DEQ Director Todd Parfitt said in a Dec. 19 statement the department will discuss and give regulatory detail over each of the recommendations made by the task force.

“As promised, DEQ is coming back to the task force to discuss where we see the path forward, challenges, and response to these recommendations,” Parfitt stated.

The Task Force met numerous times to design specific goals and agree on a set of recommended actions and changes that the DEQ has since reviewed.

The DEQ is also making its early-winter campaign to inform the public about anticipating elevated ozone levels in the Upper Green River Basin.

This larger area including Sublette County is considered “nonattainment” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding maintaining ozone levels below the federally set level of 75 parts per billion of ozone over an eight-hour period.

“Forecasting by the AQD’s meteorologists will consist of evaluating whether a strong temperature inversion in conjunction with low winds, snow cover and clear skies is likely to occur,” spokesman Keith Guille stated Thursday. “This is the combination of factors which, together with the presence of ozone-forming emissions, appear to result in elevated ozone levels.”

As the pace of new energy development slows in the Upper Green, ozone levels are less likely to exceed the 75 ppb threshold – and several companies have slowed their activities since last winter which only had one “ozone alert,” their spokespeople said in a recent meeting with the Sublette Examiner.

Even with fewer drilling rigs, less exploration and fewer large transport-vehicle trips, representatives for Shell, QEP and Ultra Resources said they still have their ozone action plans in place and work with the DEQ and the public to alleviate ozone emissions as well as concerns.

“The AQD will continue the short-term emission reduction contingency plan program with oil and gas industry representatives operating in the Upper Green River Basin ozone nonattainment area of southwest Wyoming,” Guille said.

Oil and gas companies including those with production, drilling and service operations have volunteered to take short-term actions to further reduce emissions in response to forecasted conditions that favor possible elevated ozone levels, he added. These contingency plans will be implemented on Ozone Action Days.

“The Action Days will be issued by AQD 24-hours in advance when forecasting indicates that weather conditions would be conducive to the development of elevated ozone levels for the next day.”

The public can observe ozone action days as well, by voluntarily limiting driving trips and reducing personal vehicles’ idling times.

Winter ozone updates will start Jan. 2 at the AQD site, http://winterozone.org, as well as at http://deq.state.wy.us.

The public can sign up at the Winter Ozone site to get daily emailed winter ozone updates by email.

The DEQ also will notify Sublette County media of the current winter ozone updates and KPIN radio will broadcast a winter ozone update every day at noon.

Ozone negatively affects the respiratory systems of children, the elderly and people with existing conditions. When elevated ozone levels are forecast, people in these sensitive groups should limit strenuous or extended outdoor activities, primarily in the afternoon and evening, according to the AQD.

For the complete article see the 12-25-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 12-25-2012 paper.

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