Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Groups seek court action on Uinta Basin smog
Air quality » Consortium of Utah groups sues to have basin redesignated, force state to take stronger action.
First Published Sep 17 2013 06:17 pm • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:34 pm

Environmentalists are asking a federal appeals court to overrule the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and declare the Uinta Basin out of compliance with federal clean-air standards.

Booming oil and gas development in Uintah and Duchesne counties emits enough pollutants so that wintertime ozone there is as bad as many industrial cities in the summer, according to documents filed Tuesday, two days before an "energy summit" is to convene in Vernal.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

A consortium of Utah groups wants the basin to be officially designated a "non-attainment" zone as a way to force the state to take strong actions "in the face of an undeniable threat to public health."

"People in the area have come to us with concerns that there are serious health consequences already plaguing the Uinta Basin," Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said in a statement released late Tuesday. "The EPA seems to have turned their back on this community and willfully ignored the evidence."

On 43 days last winter, the basin’s smog levels breached federal standards, forcing at-risk residents to remain indoors to avoid the lung irritants filling the air. Ground-level ozone is a particular problem in the basin, exceeding federal standards for 11 straight days at one point. A state-funded study recently concluded that oil and gas operations release up to 99 percent of the volatile organic compounds and 61 percent of nitrogen oxides — both chemical precursors to ozone — found in the basin’s airshed.

Winter inversions trap these pollutants near the ground which react with sunlight to form ozone.

Citing uncertainties with monitoring data, the EPA has deemed the airshed "unclassifiable," which carries no requirements under the Clean Air Act to reduce pollution.

Federal officials could not be reached Tuesday.

Earthjustice filed the challenge in the Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Moench’s group, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and WildEarth Guardians.


story continues below
story continues below

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.