Rural Wyoming Has Worse Smog Than Los Angeles

Wyoming is known for its wind-swept vistas and Big Sky (if you’ve ever been there, you know what I mean). But thanks to the relentless work of the natural gas industry, this mostly rural state now has a problem in common with cities like Los Angeles and New York City: smog.

The EPA’s current safety standard for ground-level ozone is 75 parts per billion (ppb), but preliminary data shows that Wyoming’s ozone levels were 124 ppb–exceeding the worst day in Los Angeles during all of 2010; 114 parts per billion.

Where’s all this smog coming from in a state with fewer human residents than any other? Gas drilling.

The gas industry is alive and well in Wyoming, and if you don’t take people or the environment into account (and the Big Gas doesn’t), it’s been a boon for the state’s economy.

Wyoming enjoys one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, 6.4 percent. And while many other states are running up monumental deficits, lawmakers are projecting a budget surplus of more than $1 billion over the coming year in this state of a half-million people (AP).

But this profit comes at a price.

“They’re trading off health for profit. It’s outrageous. We’re not a Third World country,” said Elaine Crumpley, a retired science teacher who lives just outside Pinedale told the AP.

High levels of ozone happen in the Upper Green River Basin only during the winter. They result from a combination of gas industry emissions, snow on the ground, bright sunshine and temperature inversions, in which cool air near the ground is trapped by a layer of warmer air. Pollution builds up during the day and becomes visible above the horizon as a thin layer of brown smudge — smog — by midafternoon (AP).

According to the Associated Press, residents living near the gas fields in the western part of this outdoorsy state are complaining of watery eyes, shortness of breath and bloody noses because of elevated ozone levels.

If you’ve got 10 minutes, this SkyTruth video explores the environmental impacts of gas and oil drilling in the Upper Green River Valley of western Wyoming:

Related Reading:

Oil and Gas Companies Target Utah’s Red Rock Country

Natural Gas Fracking Threatens Drinking Water (Video)

Victory! No New Drilling In Wyoming National Forest

Our Kids Brains…And Air Pollution


Image: Smog in Arequipa
Credit: Flickr - madiko83

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Tracey O.
Tracey O.4 years ago

Seems we have a denier among us. Good beat downs too. Global warming is a misnomer & should have never been used. It is climate change as we witness worse winters & worse summers. The planet is warming & that causes more moisture in the atmosphere hence more bad blizzards. I do not need a scientist to tell me the temp on my bottom. I live in Louisiana & we had a winter recently with 3 snow events & it never snows here. Then a summer with temp over 105. That is called climate change & how deniers can not believe what is right in front of their faces is beyond me. It's amoral.

Carole R.
Carole R.4 years ago

This is certainly something I didn't realize. So sad. "Big Sky Country" needs to stay clean and naturally beautiful.

Joseph G.
Joseph G.4 years ago

@Scott M. - Dear sir, please do a small bit of your own research before next you posit or post trash or tripe so thoroughly previously debunked as that of "Robert W. Felix." This shill for industrial manifest destiny as been put in his figurative place by George Monbiot over half a decade ago:; and now I have put you in yours.
Cut the crap, buddy! - Joseph Allen Gray

Thomas S.
Thomas Syck4 years ago

Re to Scott M about glaciers growing.
The snow fall is up in some areas. To say the glaciers are growing, check back in 4 or 5 years. Whaer is the snow that fell this yerar, Is it bing packed down on to the glaciers, or is it falling heavy in the winter and melting in the summer.

From what I have seen the last few yeras, it is the later. There is heavy snow fall in the winter, but it just means heavy runoff in the summer when it melts.

Renee Still Day
Renee Still Day4 years ago

To Scott M. - Glaciers are indeed growing on Mt. Shasta and the Arctic Ice Packs are melting......YOU STILL DON'T GET IT! The climate is CHANGING, it is now colder/wetter in areas that were once warmer/dryer and vice versa. The change is happening and we are very much responsible for it. This article you posted is a great example of just that. Climate CHANGE. Wake up and realize the true science of what is happening, rather than posting an article that actually proves our case as though increased snow on a mountain top is reason to deny it.

Sandra Watson
Sandra Watson4 years ago

Interesting and thought provoking article. We need to get off oil and gas ASAP!

Freya The Wanderer
Freya H.4 years ago

I yi yi! And since this was posted four days ago, you know it's not an April Fool's joke. Too bad.

Carol Cowbrough
Carol Cowbrough4 years ago

Noted. Thank you.

Abigail J.
Abigail Jensen4 years ago

PEOPLE!!! Get a clue! This is the world we live in, and if we don't take care of it, we are cuputsie!

Scott M.
Its wonderful e.4 years ago

Oh no Glaciers growing, some for the first time in 250+ years, has an iceage begun??