Expanded ozone boundary could hurt Uintah Basin economy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is soon expected to announce an expansion of ozone non-attainment areas in the Uintah Basin, which could significantly hamper energy production and other economic development in some areas of the Basin where ozone is not an issue, with little to no benefit to the ozone issue in those areas.


A detailed technical look at ozone conditions by the Utah Division of Air Quality (UDAQ) raises questions about the need for EPA’s planned action to extend the nonattainment boundary. The state’s scientific analysis found a strong tie between elevation and increased ozone conditions, specifically at the 6,000-foot elevation contour. However, the state’s final recommendation to EPA was that any township having at least 10 percent of its area below 6,000 feet be included in the nonattainment area in its entirety.


Using such a large jurisdictional boundary – a township equals 36 square miles (92 square kilometers) or 23,040 acres (9,324 hectares) – rather than the elevation contour, has a real and tangible effect on the Uintah Basin’s development, including Enefit’s Utah Project, with no added benefits in ozone reduction in the areas where the real issue exists.


While Enefit fully supports combatting ground-level ozone to improve conditions for public health and the environment, we believe this expansion of the ozone nonattainment area is unnecessary and counterproductive to the state’s goals of creating jobs and economic development in rural Utah.


We encourage everyone with an interest in air quality and development in the Basin to keep involved in this process and submit comments when EPA releases its draft rule.