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Regulators Hiring New Inspector To Help With Basin's Ozone Problem

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Winter ozone pollution in the Uintah Basin rivals the summer smog episodes in big cities like L.A. and Houston. The state of Utah is tackling the problem with science and stronger enforcement of clean air reguations.

The Utah Division of Air Quality is interviewing for a new staff position —  a compliance officer based in the Uintah Basin.

The basin contains thousands of oil and gas wells and support facilities, and they’re blamed for an odd ozone-pollution problem there during the winter. The pollution is bad enough that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to order a final cleanup plan by the end of the year.

“The focus right now is in the oil and gas industry," says DAQ Director Bryce Bird, "making sure that we have a compliance effort there, especially looking at leak-detection-repair programs and looking at some efficiencies."

The oil and gas industry is already working on plugging leaks. But having a compliance officer in place in the basin will show EPA the state’s serious about reducing the industry’s pollution in this rural area. New ozone cleanup plans are also being readied for Wasatch Front counties that struggle with ozone pollution in the summer.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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