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2019 Already A Big Year For Ozone In Wyoming

How ozone is made
American Lung Association

Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced an ozone action day in the Upper Green River Basin for March 19. That means ozone, a secondary pollutant that can cause respiratory issues, could exceed the federal limit in the area: Sublette, Lincoln and Sweetwater counties. 

It marks the ninth time the agency has called for an ozone action day this year. Last year, there wasn't a single one.

Keith Guille, a DEQ spokesman, said favorable weather conditions have made this a big year for ozone. That means lots of snowpack, sunshine and not much wind. He said oil and gas activities are also a contributor.

"We recognize there's gotta be those emission sources that help create ozone. It's not like something that's just already there, it has to be created from your NOx [nitrogen oxide] and your VOC [volatile organic compounds] and sunlight and chemical reaction happens," Guille said.

Nitrogen oxide generally comes from vehicles and causes smog. VOCs include a variety of chemicals that combines with NOx to create ozone. Guille said, this year, increased ozone monitoring doesn't necessarily mean more emissions from oil and gas, but the right kinds of pollutants getting emitted.

The "Action Day" triggers industry to join a voluntary effort to reduce short-term emissions.

"Delaying the refueling of trucks and equipment. Eliminating truck idling whenever possible. Encouraging carpooling or teleworking and then also canceling well venting," Guille said.

He said people with respiratory issues, children, and the elderly should consider holding off on strenuous activities. Of the nine ozone action days, the pollutant exceeded federal limits five times. That's only happened once in the past seven years. In 2017, the federal limit was exceeded seven times.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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