From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 19 - May 8, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

CLOUD sends letter to BLM, DEQ, governor

by Alecia Warren

So the governor wrote a letter, and the DEQ held a meeting.

Not good enough, say the members of Citizens Learning about Ozone’s Unhealthy Destruction (CLOUD), a group of locals who banded together a few weeks ago to investigate Sublette County’s pollution problems and dig for a solution on their own.

Disappointed with the state’s recent efforts to appease locals’ concerns with such issues, the group recruited Daniel air quality scientist Perry Walker to distribute a formal and lengthy letter on the group’s behalf last week. The letter, sent to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the governor’s office, pointed out the state government’s failings to take immediate action in pursuing more rigid regulations, as well as the federal government’s seemingly tacit allowance of harmful drilling operations.

“Our goal is really to inform and increase awareness,” said CLOUD member Mary Lynn Worl of the group’s general mission. “I think there are probably many people in our community who are unaware of the health risks associated not only with ozone, but other contaminants in the air or in the ground or in the water. Plus we would like to see industry use the new technology that’s available to have cleaner emissions.”

Locals are “weary” of the government’s “failed reliance upon industry’s superficial ‘voluntary measures,’” Walker wrote in the letter. “Such measures to date have been at best thin and worse, overwhelmed by the sheer speed with which new wells and production fields are being added to both the Jonah and the Anticline.”

Other outrages topping the list in the five page letter include the BLM continuing to permit wells when the sources of high ozone remain unclear, as well as the consideration of the current proposal for an additional 4,400 wells on the anticline with year-round drilling.

The document also criticizes the silence from environmental agencies and industry representatives that answered locals’ request for a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) to measure all possible risks that gas operations create.

“My sense of what (CLOUD) wants to see is, first of all, a response, period,” Walker said of the letter he sent last Friday. He added that the document’s long list of concerns were not adequately addressed in either the governor’s written refusal to help with the HIA request, nor the public information meeting the DEQ held in Pinedale last month. “Beyond that, what they want is for the people who receive this letter to come here, sit down and have a meeting with all the citizenry and answer all their questions and to give firm answers.”

The best-case scenario the group hopes to derive from discussions with the letter recipients is a slowed pace of development, or at least a better mitigation plan than the one in the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for expanded drilling that the governor praised in his recent letter.

“I think he was wrong by essentially declaring that the SEIS on the anticline is the best we can get,” Walker said. “Before he made that decision, he should’ve come here and talked to the citizens and listened to their input. He didn’t do that.”

CLOUD doesn’t have an official membership list, but the group consists primarily of business owners concerned with how pollution will affect local tourism, and landowners who fear losing the pristine wilderness that initially lured them here.

Members have already dedicated time and money to increase awareness of the ozone problems that became a palpable problem with the DEQ ozone alerts in Sublette County in February and March this year.

Walker is currently conducting a CLOUD-funded study, for instance, to measure ozone across the county. He relies primarily on ozone badges, or half-dollar-sized paper circles painted with a chemical that changes color when exposed to ozone. After the badges have been exposed for an hour, Walker uses a machine to read how much of the pollutant contaminated the badge.

Volunteers recruited by CLOUD are currently exposing the badges across the county at various dates and times for Walker. The air quality scientist acknowledged that the DEQ already monitors ozone in Boulder, Daniel and on the Jonah Field, but he believes his study will reveal high ozone levels in other areas of the county the agency hasn’t considered.

“I don’t have my results firmly characterized yet, but I’m now seeing intriguing evidence that suggests there are residential areas in low-lying terrain with higher levels of ozone than other areas,” he said.

He only started the study three weeks ago, but both the DEQ and Wyoming Department of Health (DOH) have expressed interest in examining the study’s results, Walker said.

CLOUD will also host an air quality forum at Pinedale High School at 6 p.m. on May 13, so locals can ask questions to a panel of experts, including Environmental Health Specialist Dr. Theo Colborn and Pollution Reduction Specialist Jeremy Nichols.

“We hope to have some of the panelists share solutions,” Worl said. “What can we do as a community? What have other communities done?

“I think the air quality is just one of our issues, and we need to act before people start scratching their heads and ask, ‘Oh my gosh, how did that happen?’’’

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