Energy industry wary of new Uintah Basin ozone regulations
Air quality has been a hot topic in Utah for years, although most attention to date has been paid to the Wasatch Front. As noted in EAO’s December 2017 newsletter, though, the Uintah Basin has a unique situation regarding elevated ozone levels, prompting regulatory agencies to shift some of their attention eastward.
EAO has been actively tracking and engaging in this critical issue. In January, we submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a draft rule to designate parts of the Basin as nonattainment of the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard, or NAAQS. We believe our comments are practical for both protecting human health and the environment in the Uintah Basin, while also allowing for responsible economic development to continue in the region.
EAO’s comments focused on data from our very own Rabbit Mountain air quality and meteorological monitoring station, operated in conjunction with Utah State University over the past several winters. Other notable public and industry stakeholders in the Basin submitting public comments included the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, Western Energy Alliance and the J.R. Simplot Company. The Utah Division of Air Quality and Ute Tribe also coordinated with EPA’s Region VIII office in Denver during the comment period.
After EPA analyzed the information provided in public comments and by the state and Tribe, the agency issued their final rule April 30, 2018. As expected, the EPA designated parts of the Basin as nonattainment of the 2015 ozone NAAQS…but they did listen to stakeholders and the public in the final rule. By assigning a Marginal designation category and limiting the area to only those parts of the Basin below an elevation of 6,250 feet, the EPA, the State of Utah and the Ute Tribe will have three years to work together to implement necessary measures to bring the Basin into compliance with the 2015 ozone NAAQS by 2021. That could include new requirements for control technology equipment, offsets for new emissions sources, adaptive management measures (such as seasonal- or weather-related operating restrictions), or other strategies to reduce ozone levels to meet the 2015 standard. In short, this is an important concern for all economic activity in the Basin, both now and in the future.
The EPA’s final rule can be found here.