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Ohio Utica Shale

Wyoming to work on ozone problem in Upper Green River Basin

By Bob Downing Published: March 16, 2013

From the Associated Press:

 Wyoming's environmental regulators say they'll soon start their plan to control pollution woes in a western Wyoming basin.

This is part of an effort to get the area declassified as a trouble zone by federal agencies.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality announced Thursday it will soon begin its final plan to control ozone in the Upper Green River Basin. The toxic gas has exceeded federal standards in the area near Pinedale for years. The ozone levels are caused largely by natural gas drilling operations.

The DEQ's plan includes several measures to be implemented by the end of August and others that are expected to take longer. The plan includes pollution-monitoring tasks and studies and at least one new rule requiring polluters to report emissions data regularly.

The agency crafted the measures based on recommendations from a task force comprised of industry representatives, state officials and members of the public.

The agency first presented the plan to members of the task force in January. Some members of the task force wondered aloud after the meeting whether the timeline laid out by the DEQ was short enough.

"I think they recognized that [the recommendations] are important, but we’re not the only people asking them to do things," Mike Saffron, environmental engineer with Encana Oil and Gas, which owns the nearby Jonah Field, told the Star-Tribune after the meeting. "The feeling we got is we really wish we were more important than we appeared to be and that things could be expedited."

Environmental groups said Thursday they still have concerns about the plan, although they liked some aspects of it.

"I am pleased that the DEQ has maintained its pledge to continue forward on all of the task force’s recommendations," Bruce Pendery, attorney for the Wyoming Outdoor Council and task force member, said in a prepared statement. "However, certain actions, including reducing pollution from drilling rigs and engines used in the oil and gas fields, are not included in the strategy, and they should be going forward."

If all goes to plan, the agency will succeed in bringing air quality in the area back into compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. Ozone levels consistently exceeded federal standards from 2008 to 2011, and in July the agency deemed the basin a non-attainment area for ozone, a distinction given to lower-level polluted areas, which grants states three years to return the area into compliance.

"Putting together this strategy allows us to be organized in our ability to move forward," Steve Dietrich, DEQ air quality administrator, said in a prepared statement. "This is intended to give us a road map to reduce the precursors of ozone in the nonattainment area."

The DEQ will complete several parts of the corrective plan, first outlined in January, between now and the end of August. The agency expects to evaluate whether it should add more staff to the area, continue forecasting ozone conditions, and update emissions control equipment guidance in the basin. The agency will also produce three reports before September -- one of the chemistry of ozone creation, one assessment of possible ozone sources in the area, and one based on several months of air monitoring done this year.

The agency will simultaneously undertake rule-making measures, set to begin by August but take longer to accomplish. The rules are expected to include requirements for emissions reporting and leak detection and repair. The agency will also explore rules related to mandatory emissions controls on equipment associated with oil and natural gas production and transportation equipment.

In an audio clip sent to Wyoming media, Dietrich said he's optimistic the plan will be effective.

"This plan is a way to go about it both from a regulatory standpoint and a voluntary standpoint," he said.

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.