From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 106, Number 6 - February 5, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

County ozone advisory activates action plans

by Stephen Crane

On Tuesday, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) issued an ozone advisory for Wednesday, Feb. 4, for Sublette County, which prompted many of the energy operators in the county to initiate their Action Response Plans.

“We forecast some weather conditions that might be conducive for ozone formation,” said Dave Finley, Air Quality Administrator for the WDEQ. “We’re telling people that today (Wednesday) is a day you ought to be on the look out.”

According to the WDEQ’s contracted and in-house meteorological staff, the forecast for Wednesday’s weather included a high pressure system, no wind, plenty of sun and snow cover, as well as probably inversion, which are factors that combine to increase the likelihood of elevated ozone, according to the WDEQ’s current model.

“We’ve told people that when we see those conditions developing, we will issue an ozone advisory,” said Finley.

After Sublette County saw five Ozone Alerts last February and March, the first ever for the area, the ozone issue has become a primary concern for the WDEQ, operators and members of the public alike.

Since that time, the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA) was published in September that included requirements for all operators in the PAPA to develop contingency plans for any potential ozone events.

Apart from an Ozone Advisory Alert test that was held on Jan. 23, Wednesday was the first time the operators actually initiated their immediate response plans.

“We made our calls yesterday to our managers and to our contractors,” said Belinda Salinas, manager of environmental, safety and regulatory affairs for Ultra Resources. “Everybody gets an e-mail and a phone call, all the way to our vice president. And we looked at what type of activities we had planned, looking at what can be put off.”

Ultra is foregoing construction activities in the PAPA, shutting down its few uncontrolled wells, as well as delaying the loading and unloading activities of its storage tanks.

“In the short term, there are some production and even completion activities, even though they’re green completions, that will be delayed,” said Salinas. “Just no unnecessary activities that may add emissions to the air.”

The company is also reemphasizing its “no-unnecessary-idling” policy for vehicles, which it implemented months ago, regardless of ozone alerts.

Shell has taken similar steps to reduce immediate emission levels.

“Three of our locations were due to have oil loads taken away, and we had rooms in those tanks for another day or two, so we deferred that until later,” said James Duran, spokesperson for Shell. “Plus, it cut down on three truck trips.”

Duran was traveling when he got the call on Tuesday, but he still initiated the action plan nonetheless.

“I was able to log onto my computer and send an e-mail to our control room, our field supervisors, our warehouse guy, our injection facilities and our maintenance foremen as well,” said Duran. “Basically, telling all our staff to take actions as we have specified in our contingency plan.”

And despite having no wells in the PAPA nor ROD requirements that demand ozone response plans, EnCana Oil and Gas has developed its own course of action for ozone advisories that the company applied to Wednesday’s drilling activities in the Jonah Field.

“These are voluntary actions that we know we can implement that will hopefully give some immediate relief to the ozone problem,” said Randy Teeuwen, spokesperson for EnCana. “We submitted (our plan) to the BLM, and the DEQ approved it late last year.”

EnCana’s six-step action plan includes minimizing and postponing many of its drilling activities, both big and small. Engine idling and vehicle travel should be minimal. Carpooling is recommended for employees, and refueling should only take place in evening hours.

Any supplementary equipment will be used minimally as well.

Non-essential construction and maintenance activities will be postponed, as will any initiation activities for well fracturing, completing and blowdowns.

“Eliminating emissions is our real focus, but the first step to eliminating is reducing,” said Teeuwen. “We understand the significance of the ozone problem, and we’re taking it very seriously.”

Sublette County School District #1 was also notified of the ozone advisory and was prepared to address the situation if it further develops.

“We do have what we call our crisis plan,” said Sharron Ziegler, executive secretary to the superintendent. “If we got word that this became a crisis, then we would put our crisis plan into action.”

Rendezvous Pointe also received notification on Tuesday and took appropriate action to inform its residents.

“We’re on the notification list, both here and they notify me at home,” said Paul Jensen, executive director at Rendezvous Pointe. “So we notified everybody that was in the building, and then for people that have particular respiratory limitations, we notified them individually…that if they’re going to be outside, not to be outside for any length of time.”

For the general public, Finley advised that anyone who engages in strenuous outdoor activities should use caution on days when ozone levels could be elevated.

“These things are only as good as a weather forecast,” said Finley. “And people should understand that those aren’t perfect, but we’re doing our best to try and give people information that they can use to protect their health.”

To get real-time updates on ozone levels, visit for more information from area monitoring sites.

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