Ozone is a common problem in larger, densely populated cities, but it is often less prevalent in more rural parts of the country. Utah’s Duchesne and Uintah counties – each with populations under 40,000 — have high ozone levels largely due to pollution from oil and gas activity in the region. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and airway inflammation. It also can reduce lung function and harm lung tissue. Ozone can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma, leading to increased medical care. A 2013 industry-funded study showed that oil and gas development is responsible for 98% of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds in the Uinta Basin. These areas will now be required to restore air quality to healthier levels. These emissions have also worsened air quality in Dinosaur National Monument and could negatively affect Utah’s tourism economy.
“High ozone levels jeopardize public health, and we need to do everything we can to protect communities from breathing harmful air pollution. By implementing simple, straight-forward pollution standards for the oil and gas sector, the state of Utah and the Environmental Protection Agency can deliver major clean air benefits for people in Duchesne and Uintah counties. These measures will also help to diversify and strengthen the local economy. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality has made gains in recent months to update the state’s oil and gas policies, but this progress must continue to restore healthy air quality to Utah’s families.”
• Jon Goldstein, Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, Environmental Defense Fund
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