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Wyoming Revises Oil and Gas Guidance to Improve Air Quality

Wyoming has revised its Oil and Gas Guidance in an effort to improve local air quality. (darek2u/iStockphoto)
Wyoming has revised its Oil and Gas Guidance in an effort to improve local air quality. (darek2u/iStockphoto)
May 17, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - On the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency's first-ever federal rules to cut methane emissions, Wyoming has issued its own revised guidelines to reduce pollution at new oil and gas wells.

Jon Goldstein, senior policy manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, sees the move as a step in the right direction, but says stricter rules in place in the Upper Green River Basin – including leak detection and repair requirements – should extend to the rest of the state.

"Leaks at drilling sites are in the top three as far as sources of pollution from the oil and gas industry in Wyoming," says Goldstein. "That's something that the Department of Environmental Quality didn't address in this update, and we feel strongly that they should follow up quickly and complete the job."

In 2011, Pinedale made national headlines when it was discovered that smog from oil and gas production put air quality on par with levels in Los Angeles.

The state started requiring operators to find and fix leaks, which improved air quality.

The American Petroleum Institute has called efforts to limit pollution "unreasonable," and says the industry is already fixing leaks.

Goldstein says frequent inspections and timely repairs would save operators money in the long run. According to a study by the consulting firm ICF International, Wyoming's oil and gas industry emitted more than 360,000 metric tons of methane in 2013 worth almost $95 million.

"Economic studies have shown that these sorts of measures, including leak detection and repair requirements, are very cost-effective," says Goldstein. "Capturing methane also means more natural gas in the pipeline, so the oil and gas companies have more product to sell."

He says more than money is at stake.

The latest American Lung Association report found air quality in Campbell and Laramie counties is getting worse.

And Goldstein notes 80 percent of drilling in recent years has been in eastern Wyoming, where there are currently no requirements to find and fix leaks.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY