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EPA proposes air quality plan for oil and gas emissions on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation

Plan to reduce volatile organic compounds in area impacted by ozone

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Richard Mylott (

DENVER --  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a plan to establish federally enforceable requirements to control air pollutant emissions from new and existing oil and natural gas sources on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in northeast Utah. The plan will be subject to a 60-day public comment period. EPA will also hold a public hearing to receive comments in person in Fort Duchesne, Utah, on February 6, 2020, at the Ute Indian Tribe Administration Offices Auditorium at 6964 East 1000 South from 1 to 5 p.m and again from 6 to 8 p.m.

EPA’s proposed Clean Air Act Federal Implementation Plan will establish control requirements for volatile organic compounds emitted from new and existing oil and natural gas sources on Indian country lands within the boundaries of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. These requirements are intended to improve air quality in the Uinta Basin and secure consistent regulatory controls for sources across Indian country and lands managed by the State of Utah. Affected sources include crude oil, condensate, and produced water storage tanks; glycol dehydrators; pneumatic pumps; pneumatic controllers; tanker truck loading and unloading; and fugitive emissions from well sites, gathering and boosting compressor stations and natural gas processing plants.

“This proposal will address a persistent air quality challenge in the Uinta Basin by reducing ozone-forming emissions,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “EPA’s plan achieves three important goals: improved air quality, continued resource development and a consistent set of requirements for operators across Indian country and state lands.”   

Oil and natural gas activities emit volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, which interact in the atmosphere to form ground-level ozone. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly and people with lung diseases such as asthma. Ozone can reduce lung function and harm lung tissue; worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma; and trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and airway inflammation. Ground-level ozone can also have harmful effects on vegetation and ecosystems.

Ozone levels in the Uinta Basin, particularly in the winter months, have exceeded Clean Air Act standards several times in recent years. On August 3, 2018, the Uinta Basin in northeast Utah was designated as a nonattainment area for the 2015 8-hour ozone standard. EPA estimates that existing oil and natural gas operations account for approximately 98 percent of volatile organic compound emissions in the basin. Approximately 78 percent of these sources are on Indian country lands with no current emission control requirements.

EPA’s proposed requirements closely reflect current Utah Division of Air Quality requirements for new and existing oil and natural gas sources on lands managed by the state in the Uinta Basin and will apply to owners and operators of new and existing sources located on Indian country lands within the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation.

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