Volume 9, Number 4 - April 16, 2009
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Nonattainment boundary worries DEQ
The possibility of Sublette County’s nonattainment area spilling over to the rest of southwest Wyoming has top officials at the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) worried.
“We’re pretty concerned about that,” said DEQ Director John Corra.
On Monday, Corra was the keynote speaker at a work session attended by Lincoln County officials, Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman and representatives of the state’s congressional delegation – Sweetwater County officials were invited to the session although none showed.
The topic was this area being recommended to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “nonattainment” for ozone pollution.
In March, Gov. Dave Freudenthal designated the Upper Green River Valley (UGRV) as nonattainment after air monitors recorded above-standard levels of ozone in 2006 and 2008.
Corra explained that the Governor’s hand was forced in the issue after the EPA made a March 2008 decision to lower the federal standard from 84 parts per billion (ppb) to 75 ppb.
The change required governors nationwide to reassess their air-quality status. Coincidentally, the reassessment came during a winter with record-high levels of ozone in the UGRV. One monitor west of Boulder – the only monitor in southwest Wyoming thus far to document an ozone exceedance – recorded levels of 122 ppb.
That kicked into motion nonattainment, a federally-mandated action.
“That’s a long drawn-out process,” Corra said.
In the process, the state must define a nonattainment area. Subsequently, the DEQ chose all of Sublette County, the northwest corner of Sweetwater County and the northeast corner of Lincoln County as nonattainment.
Regardless of the state’s determination, the EPA has the final decision.
And the prospect of the EPA choosing Sublette, Uinta, Sweetwater and Lincoln counties as the nonattainment area has Corra nervous.
Nonattainment areas are beholden to a different set of standards than attainment areas.
A nonattainment area prohibits new air emissions. Businesses seeking to build a new emitting source must negotiate offsets from existing sources.
Nonattainment areas also require the use of the “lowest achievable emissions reduction,” where the cost is not considered during negotiations. Attainment areas use the less stringent criteria of “best available emission control technology” where the cost is factored into the development process.
Pointing to the Boulder monitoring station on a map of southwestern Wyoming, Corra said he doesn’t want the results from one air station to put the entire region into nonattainment.
Corra cited several studies modeling air patterns during the 2006 and 2008 ozone events. Those patterns showed particulates from the Moxa Arch infill gas development project and the Naughton Power Plant, both near Kemmerer, do not significantly contribute to the UGRV’s ozone levels.
“The problem with the Upper Green is contained to the Upper Green,” Corra said. “It’s not getting a lot of contribution from the southwest.”
That was exactly what the Lincoln County representatives wanted to hear.
Corra felt optimistic the nonattainment area would be exactly where the DEQ has established it, saying a recent meeting with the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson – including Sublette County Commissioners Joel Bousman and Bill Cramer – netted positive results.
He said that meeting demonstrated the state was not “sitting on its hands” and he hopes the state’s boundary will be honored.
The final EPA determination is expected no later than March 12, 2010.
The DEQ is conducting a public information session on March 23, with a time and place still to be announced.
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