Governor responds to Health Assessment letter from Sublette County citizens
Advocates state/county cooperation in study of Sublette County air quality
by Governor Freudenthal’s office
April 10, 2008
(CHEYENNE, Wyo.) – Calling the presence of ozone in the western Wyoming air a “significant concern,” today Gov. Dave Freudenthal responded to a citizen petition requesting that a health assessment be performed in Sublette County.
The letter from Freudenthal to Pamela Curry of Pinedale, who forwarded the petition, follows.
April 10, 2008
P.O. Box 1002
Pinedale, WY 82941
Dear Ms. Curry:
Thank you for your letter requesting that a Human Health Impact Assessment be conducted in Sublette County due to air quality and other concerns. From the data that has been collected, there is little doubt that ozone is a significant concern.
After initial discussions with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), it seems that the Garfield County, Colorado, Human Health Risk Assessment – supplied by Carmel Kail - might be an appropriate tool to address the concerns raised in your correspondence. Any human health risk assessment that is ultimately undertaken should involve the state DEQ and Department of Health from a technical and logistical standpoint, but the process must be driven by your community – as was the case with the Garfield County assessment. It is my understanding that John Corra, Director of the DEQ, has already been in conversation with the Sublette County Commission to discuss this approach.
I have advised DEQ that I do not want to wait until the area is found to be in violation of the standard - which only occurs when exceedances continue for a three year period - before taking action. Similarly, I do not want to wait on the health risk assessment to trigger action. As such, Director Corra and his staff have been in regular contact with the oil and gas industry to assemble a set of emission control strategies and to request the application of additional voluntary emissions reductions to reduce ozone when the potential for exceedances exists. But I understand that ozone is only one concern of citizens in Sublette County – there are other impacts – again underscoring the need for local leadership to play a central role in defining the scope and nature of any health assessment.
In the absence of a comprehensive national energy policy and in the wake of rampant fuel switching – from coal to natural gas – our water, air and wildlife will be under even greater pressure moving forward. The intense levels of oil and gas development do not look as if they will subside in Sublette County and across Wyoming. Because most of the development will occur on federal lands, the state is limited in its ability to control what actions are authorized. It is my view, and one that I understand might not be shared by some in Sublette County, that our best course forward in such a natural gas-hungry environment is to seek greater emissions controls, wildlife habitat protections and socio-economic stability than we have today with actions like those identified in the Pinedale Anticline Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). While not perfect, and still subject to some fine-tuning under the watch of Director Corra and others, it is far preferable to the 2000 PAPA Record of Decision – which relied too heavily on the BLM to monitor and actively manage the field.
Director Corra has supplied me and my staff with regular briefings regarding the ozone alerts that have been issued in response to the elevated levels of ozone in Sublette County over the course of the past several months. I understand that Director Corra will be in Pinedale at the Rendezvous Senior Center on April 21, 2008, from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. to discuss the issue of air and water quality with the community. Mr. Corra’s coming visit to Pinedale follows an earlier community presentation on the same subject.
I look forward to hearing from Director Corra following the meeting on April 21.