From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 9, Number 10 - May 26, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

EPA gets look at Pinedale Anticline

by Mari Muzzi

Air quality and environmental concerns were top priorities for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson as she toured the Jonah Field on May 21.

The objective of Jackson’s energy tour was to open dialog between the EPA and the state of Wyoming.

“I’m looking at the environmental impacts,” she said. “We’ve had some discussions already with the state and they’re as concerned as we are about air impacts.”

Gov. Dave Freudenthal invited Jackson and other state and local officials to see Wyoming’s energy production firsthand.

One of the stops on their two-day energy tour was the Jonah Field, where Jackson was informed of the procedures EnCana and other companies are using to reduce emissions due to the ozone issues Sublette County has experienced during past winters.

It is believed that the pollutants from the winters of 2007 and 2008 led to the federal ozone exceedance by 122 parts per billion (ppb), caused in part by emissions from the Jonah Field.

The current federal ozone standard is 75 ppb.

Once this occurs a state must develop a five- to seven-year plan to address and reduce the ozone problem.

Jackson said improving air quality is important for the county, Wyoming and the nation.

“We owe it to the people of Wyoming,” she said. “And, I have a larger question from the people of the country to make sure we are looking at fracking – (and) are we being as protective as we can for future generations.”

There are currently 1,000 wells and three rigs operating on the 30,000-acre Jonah Field in the Pinedale Anticline.

Paul Ulrich, government and regulatory affairs spokesman for EnCana, was one of the employees giving the tour.

“We’ve addressed emissions from every aspect of our operation,” he said. “We’re very sensitive to the ozone issue and want to do our part to reduce our impacts to causing ozone by emitting VOCS (volatile organic compounds).”

VOCS are one of the compounds that cause ozone.

Ulrsch said they are now using refinery combustors on some rigs, which helps reduce the VOCS.

So far, 65 refinery combustors have been installed on the Jonah Field at a cost of $105,000 each, he said.

Ulrsch said EnCana is also using new rig models that take up less space and reduce emissions and the company is part of the EPA National Gas Projects Inspection Maintenance Program.

“Every one of our release operators is trained to look for emission problems,” he said.

During the tour, an AP reporter asked Jackson her opinions on Sublette County’s air problems.

“Today is a beautiful day ­­­– it’s hard to believe this is a place that has had some air problems,” she said. “But that’s the thing about air pollution; it’s not always the same every day.”

Jackson had some concerns regarding the natural habitat of the area and vegetation.

Ulrsch said the Jonah has developed a recovery/restoration program to help regrow the sagebrush and restore the natural environment once drilling is completed in an area.

EnCana and other companies using the Jonah water and fertilize the sage once drilling is finished and when fracking on flat ground they use wooden mats to protect the area’s vegetation.

Jackson said visiting the Jonah Field was helpful and it allowed her to get a better understanding of the air issues and what is being done to reduce the problems.

“The first thing to do is to come and see it,” she said. “And now we have a chance to see what it is we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.”

While the objective of Jackson’s energy tour was to open dialog between the EPA and the state of Wyoming, Gov. Freudenthal’s press secretary Cara Eastwood felt that goal was accomplished.

“I think that her visit provided an opportunity for the (EPA) to understand what is going on in the state,” Eastwood said on Monday.

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