Residents from the Upper Green River Valley today said that growing concerns about local air quality had caused them to urge the Bureau of Land Management to reconsider the agency’s decision to allow more than 3,000 additional wells to be drilled in the Jonah Field in the coming years.
In a news conference held at the Sublette County Public Library in Pinedale, the Wyomingites especially are concerned because the BLM has set no timeline for the implementation of better, cleaner drilling practices and that the federal agency previously has underestimated the level of produced nitrogen oxides emissions by a factor of three.
As a result, today several conservation groups filed a public appeal of the BLM’s decision with the goal that this would establish more definite emission limits and firm requirements for cleaner drilling practices as the local citizens are advocating. They are represented by Tim Preso and Abigail Dillen of Earthjustice, Bruce Pendery of the Wyoming Outdoor Council, and Robert Yuhnke.
“The well-known , harmful health effects – both physical and mental – of deteriorating air quality are not being recognized as a viable factor, nor are they being effectively dealt with by either industry or governmental agencies,” said J. Thomas Johnston, M.D., a former Sublette County Health Officer and community physician for Pinedale from 1958 to 2001.
The local residents, joined by the Upper Green River Valley Coalition based in Pinedale, said they are not seeking to end development on the Jonah Field, but are calling for a common sense balance that allows for energy exploration with a defined upper limit on emissions. By law, the BLM is required to control air pollution by working with Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Forest Service to set this red-line level.
Unfortunately, the Jonah project has no certain requirements for Jonah Field operators to use best available technology. Cleaner technology will only be required “at the earliest possible date.”
“The pollutants that will be emitted by this new Jonah field project threaten serious illnesses, such as asthma and other respiratory diseases, for the people who work in the field and live in nearby communities,” said Earthjustice lawyer Tim Preso. “No energy project should be allowed to go forward at the cost of the health of the people who live nearby.”
As the Environmental Protection Agency has noted, the Upper Green’s air has historically been some of the finest in the United States. But the rapid, widespread development of drilling and related activities in the valley has had a visible impact on air quality.