Most Basin residents understand that air pollution is a hot topic locally but, considering the often beautiful skies, may wonder why. Dr. Seth Lyman, Director of the USU Bingham Research Center, was a guest this week on the KVEL Monday Radio Forum, shedding light on the topic. When it comes to air pollution in the Uintah Basin what’s really being talked about is ozone. Ozone is an invisible gas that forms when emissions react with sunlight and is typically found in big cities during the summer time. Winter ozone, explains Lyman, is unique and the sole reason the Bingham Research Center was established at USU-Uintah Basin. There is only one other place in the world that experiences winter ozone like the Uintah Basin and that is in the Pine Dale area of Wyoming, that similarly is surrounded by mountains and experiences tight winter inversions. Emissions from the oil and gas industry do get into the air during inversions and that leads to the special chemistry that allows high ozone to form. For now, the Uintah Basin is considered in Marginal Nonattainment with the EPA. This is the lowest level, explains Lyman, and the least difficult to comply with. In contrast, Salt Lake City is in Serious Nonattainment for particulate air pollution and Marginal for ozone during the summertime. One thing to consider, shares Lyman, is air quality issues are more sporadic here than on the Wasatch Front. Last year, for example, the Basin did not have any exceedances. Still, any exceedance is taken seriously by local stakeholders as it is an ongoing effort to satisfy regulatory efforts while striving to care for the health of the community, both physically and economically. In discussing the many facets of this issue, Dr. Lyman emphasized that industry cooperates and stays involved, asking for advanced information when winter ozone is on the rise so they can focus on reducing emissions where possible. “The reason we have this issue is because of meteorology,” explains Lyman. “There is oil and gas elsewhere in the US…and they don’t have this problem.” All are invited to stay informed and cut down emissions, especially during inversions when ozone is on the rise. View real time measures of Uintah Basin Air Quality at
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