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Health, Science & Environment

Court Disagrees With Green Groups on Uinta Basin Ozone Crackdown

Dan Bammes
The court ruling says the Environmental Protection Agency was right not to base a decision to require an ozone-pollution cleanup plan on data from privately operated pollution monitors.

Environmental and health advocates have tried for years to force environmental regulators to crack down on ozone pollution in the Uinta Basin. This week a federal appeals court rejected their arguments, even though some winter days the pollution in the rural Uinta Basin rivals the smoggiest days in big cities like Los Angeles.

WildEarth Guardians and other green advocates have been prodding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to order pollution cleanup plans that target energy industry emissions. But an appeals court agreed with regulators that there wasn’t enough solid proof of an ozone problem in the basin’s energy fields to require additional pollution controls immediately.

“The unfortunate thing is that everybody recognizes – even EPA recognizes now -- that the monitoring data shows there’s a very serious problem,” says Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians, which brought the suit. “Public health is languishing while the regulators drag their feet.”

The environmentalists say they’ll keep pressing the issue based on more recent pollution data and tougher ozone standards due next fall.

The Utah Division of Air Quality has been working over the years to avoid that regulatory crackdown. Brock LeBaron is the DAQ’s deputy director, and he says state regulators are working with industry, Indian tribes and other regulators to lower pollution.

“We’re not after cutting production,” he says. “What we’re after is trying to reduce the emissions per unit of production. That’s the challenge.”

The Western Energy Alliance, an industry group, joined DAQ in applauding the D.C. Appeals Court ruling. The group credited new state and federal regulations and voluntary measures for lowering basin pollution already.

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