Sublette County Commission responds to ozone concerns
by Sublette County Commissioners
March 16, 2011
Editor’s Note: The Sublette County Commissioners issued the following media release on Wednesday, March 16th responding to winter ozone concerns in Sublette County.
Sublette County Commissioners
P.O. Box 250
Pinedale WY 82941
March 17, 2011
Media release: Commission responds to winter ozone concerns
Sublette County Commission Chairman Joel Bousman, 307-749-6154
Pinedale – The Sublette County Commission is committed to addressing citizen concerns about activities in Sublette County that affect air quality, and, in partnership with industry and agency cooperators, is working to resolve the winter ozone air pollution problem in the Upper Green River Basin.
"The Sublette County Commission and the public here in Sublette County are becoming alarmed and concerned with so many alerts and spikes in ozone levels," Sublette County Commission Chairman Joel Bousman wrote to state officials Wednesday, reinforcing the commission’s concern and commitment to resolving the air quality problem.
Air quality monitoring stations in Sublette County have recorded 8-hour ozone readings exceeding the national standard on 10 of the first 15 days of March. The Boulder-area monitoring station had the majority of the exceedance events, with eight days, and on four of those days, ozone levels rose to the point the air quality was deemed unhealthy for the general public under federal health guidelines. It was only at the Boulder station that ozone levels increased to this standard – all other exeedance events are classified as "unhealthy for sensitive groups."
Eight-hour ozone readings above 75 parts per billion are deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups including children, older adults, and people with respiratory problems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality index health advisory. Under this classification, people in these sensitive groups and those who are active outdoors should limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Most of the ozone exceedance events in the county’s Upper Green River Basin fall into this category.
Bousman lives directly downwind from the Boulder air monitoring station. He said, "Like many other citizens, I also am concerned about the blue haze laying in the lowlands on still days."
Each of the three county commissioners has received an increasing number of contacts from residents expressing of concern about ozone levels. The commission appreciates communications from residents, and continues to relay those concerns to agencies and industry representatives.
Sublette County Commissioner John Linn of Big Piney noted, "Even if the commission’s work on the issue isn’t making headlines, it doesn’t mean that we are not aware and are not responding to the problem."
Although the Sublette County Commission has no direct authority over air quality, the commission is proactive in working with Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and energy companies in addressing the issue. In response to air quality concerns, the county has spent nearly $1 million to fund a heath risk assessment, and has paid for needed equipment to increase air quality monitoring in Sublette County.
The commission meets with industry representatives once a month to discuss items of concern. Linn noted the commission has worked diligently to develop a good line of communication with energy companies so the commission can relay concerns and discuss problems in a meaningful manner.
"The simple fact is, the Sublette County Commission has neither the expertise nor the authority to regulate this industrial activity, particularly when it takes place on federal land." Linn said.
Linn, who lives along the New Fork River and experiences the ozone events first-hand, said: "What we can do, we’ve done. What power we have, we’ve wielded."
"We’re all concerned about the ozone situation," said Commissioner Andy Nelson of Pinedale, "and we’re doing what we can. We’ve worked cooperatively, we’ve paid for equipment, and we also relay the concerns of our citizens to state and federal regulators."
In response to air quality concerns, oil and gas operators in the county have worked to reduce emissions, and have voluntarily developed and implemented contingency plans to reduce emissions further when ozone advisories are issued by state officials.
An ozone advisory is issued when weather conditions appear to be favorable for the formation of ozone. Ozone appears to be elevated in the Upper Green River Basin when there is a presence of ozone-forming precursor emissions including oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds coupled with strong temperature inversions, low winds, snow cover, and bright sunlight.
Industrial emissions in the county have been reduced up to 25 percent in the last few years, and a variety of mitigation measures have been implemented, including dust control, the bussing of energy employees, and implementing best available control technologies. These efforts are all voluntary.
Sublette County will continue to encourage energy companies to use the best available technology and take other measures to reduce air-polluting emissions in the county, while county government practices the same. For example, the county discontinued work on the Paradise Road construction project during the recent ozone advisories, even though the work must taken place while the ground remains frozen.
The Sublette County Commission will host a public meeting to review the Sublette County Health Risk Assessment (HRA) on Thursday, March 31, at 6 p.m. in the Sublette County Library in Pinedale, with teleconference from the Pioneer Senior Center in Marbleton. The commission and state air quality officials have agreed to host a discussion about winter ozone once the HRA discussion is completed that evening. The HRA report is available for downloading from the Sublette County government website at www.sublettewyo.com/ under "News and Announcements."
• For more information, check out the Citizen’s Guide to Air Quality Management in Sublette County, which can be downloaded from the Sublette County government website at www.sublettewyo.com/ under the county commission heading.
• Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has established a Sublette County Ozone webpage, found at deq.state.wy.us/aqd/Ozone Main.asp.
• Real-time air quality readings from monitors throughout the county can be accessed at www.wyvisnet.com.
• Sublette County residents are reminded that each county commissioner’s email address and telephone number are posted on the county website (www.sublettewyo.com/).