Sublette County

Pinedale, WY at sundown with a rig in the background
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

When you look past the light brown brick courthouse in downtown Pinedale, there are rolling hills dotted with sage brush and thin dark shapes in the distance. Those are oil and gas rigs. They are the largest contributor to revenue out here, but sometimes, when those companies that own those rigs remove resources from the ground, they don’t follow through on paying a key tax to the county. 

Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge

Two land trusts in northwest Wyoming have merged after one of them began to slip into financial instability after expanding its conservation efforts too quickly. The Green River Valley Land Trust holds development rights to 58 easements in the Pinedale area totally over 32,000 acres. The worry was that those development rights would be left without a trust organization if the organization folded, and that could mean those lands might be turned into subdivisions.

Sublette County Fair Art Show

The county fair in Big Piney is different than many county fairs—it has an art show. The fair’s Lynn Thomas Memorial art show is in its second year.

“There’s considerable art talent in Sublette County. And we needed a place to showcase that,” says Charmian McLellan, the art show coordinator.

Alongside local talent, the show attracts artists from as far as Michigan and Texas. An estimated 40 artists are at the art show.

pipelineartproject.com

Coal and gas from Wyoming’s mineral-rich land powers much of the nation. Now, the state even has a power switch—the same circle and line button seen on household electronics, tilled into a field in Sublette County. The 100 foot diameter Power Switch is the creation of three artists from the Pinedale area. It’s an example of land art, which uses elements of nature to harmonize with its location. And because it’s natural, it changes with the seasons.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

 

According to a new report, counties in several Western states have unhealthy levels of ozone pollution, including Wyoming’s Sublette County.

Wyoming school districts say they are pleased that state lawmakers voted to approve inflation adjustments for school funding during the legislative session that wrapped up last week.

On Wednesday, Governor Matt Mead signed the legislation approving those cost of living adjustments for schools.

Sublette County School District One’s Superintendent Jay Harnack was part of a coalition that lobbied for the funding. State law requires these adjustments, but districts haven’t seen them in recent years. Harnack says this will allow his district to get back on track.

Jimmy Emerson, Flickr Commons

This week, 9 school district superintendents met with Governor Mead to contend that the state has underfunded its K-12 schools. While Wyoming ranks near the top of the pack when it comes to per-student funding, this coalition of districts says that funding has not been properly adjusted for inflation each year—and the shortages have meant cutting crucial programs in some districts. But some lawmakers say it’s more complicated than that.

Wyoming Native and UW Trustee, Betty Fear

Sep 11, 2014

Wyoming population is continuing to grow, increasing by one percent in 2013.  That’s according to a new report by the Department of Information and Administration.  Senior economist Amy Bittner says migration to cities in the energy-rich central part of the state accounted for most of the growth.   

“Several of those towns at the top of the list are in the central part of Wyoming,” she says.  “You have Bar Nunn, you have Mills, which is also outside Casper, and then you have Douglas.  You know, that’s due to the economic activity with the energy industry.”

Willow Belden

Several years ago, there were days when air pollution in Pinedale was worse than in Los Angeles. Residents complained of respiratory problems, and visits to local medical clinics increased.  In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency said the area was violating federal air quality standards, and gave Wyoming three years to fix the problem. Since then, air quality has been better. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports, nobody knows whether the problem is really fixed, and some worry that the state is not doing enough to prevent similar problems from happening elsewhere.

Ozone forecasting in Sublette County will begin again in January. Ozone is a hazardous gas that’s formed under certain conditions by the combination of volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides. In recent years Sublette County has seen spikes in ozone during wintertime, particularly on days with no wind, lots of sunlight and snow on the ground.

Courtesy Linda Baker

Pollutants have been showing up in water wells in the Pinedale Anticline gas field since 2006. Until recently, no one knew where the contamination was coming from. Now, the Bureau of Land Management and Department of Environmental Quality have released a report indicating that most of the problem was not caused by energy production. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

Willow Belden

BOB BECK: The Department of Environmental Quality has released a plan for tackling the ozone problem in Sublette County. Emissions from the energy industry there have combined to form a type of pollution called ozone, which can be a health hazard. Ozone levels have been so high that they violate federal standards, and the Environmental Protection Agency has given Wyoming three years to fix the problem.

Willow Belden

Sublette County has an ozone problem. Ozone is produced by emissions from the oil and gas fields and contributes to smog, which can cause health problems.  Several times in the past few years, ozone levels have exceeded federal limits, and the Environmental Protection Agency has given Wyoming three years to fix the problem. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has been working with local residents and industry to come up with a solution. But that’s hard to do, because nobody understands the exact chemistry of ozone formation.

Courtesy of Pinedale Online

Last year, a task force of citizens, energy industry reps, and local leaders got together to tackle the ozone problem in Sublette County. They came up with a list of recommendations for the Department of Environmental Quality. Among other things, they called for tougher regulations on industry and more rigorous air quality monitoring. In January, the Department of Environmental Quality met with the task force to discuss how they would respond to the recommendations. They said nothing was off the table, but that some recommendations could take a long time to implement.

Researchers at the University of Wyoming are planning to map out the emissions coming from natural gas fields in Sublette County.

The area violates federal air quality standards because emissions from the energy industry have caused high levels of ozone, which is a type of smog, to form.

Rob Field is leading the project. He says they’ll use high-tech mobile monitors to measure air quality.

The Department of Environmental Quality hosted a meeting on Thursday to discuss how it plans to fix Sublette county's air quality problems. Emissions from oil and gas production in the area have caused ozone, or smog, to form at levels that exceed federal limits. Wyoming Public Media's Willow Belden has the story.

Courtesy of Pinedale Online

Tomorrow, the Department of Environmental Quality will announce how it plans to fix air quality problems near Pinedale.

Emissions from oil and gas development in Sublette County have caused ozone, or smog, to form at levels that exceed federal limits. Last year, a community task force recommended possible solutions. They called for tougher regulations on industry and more rigorous air quality monitoring, among other things.

Wyoming’s Unemployment Rate Falls Slightly

Nov 20, 2012

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reports that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 5.4 percent in September to 5.2percent in October. This is lower still than the same time last year, and much lower than the current national average of 7.9 percent.

Senior Economist David Bullard says the decrease is not statistically significant, but it does speak to Wyoming’s overall economic health.

Willow Belden

Sublette County is home to two of Wyoming’s major oil and gas fields … and emissions from the energy production have caused smog to form – a type of smog called ozone. Ground-level ozone can cause and exacerbate respiratory problems. It’s also a problem for legal reasons: ozone levels in Sublette County have exceeded federal limits several times in the past few years. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency is stepping in. It’s designating Sublette County a “nonattainment area,” which means Wyoming is obligated to fix the problem.

 It’s official: The Environmental Protection Agency says Sublette County and parts of neighboring counties are violating federal air quality standards because ozone levels have gone above the legal limit multiple times in the past few years. It’s widely recognized that the problem stems from emissions in the oil and gas industry. When you get the right combination of two types of emissions -- NOX and VOCs  -- coupled with certain wintertime weather conditions, ground-level ozone forms. Ground-level ozone is the main component of smog and can cause respiratory problems.