EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is travelling to Wyoming later this week. She is being hosted by Governor Dave Freudenthal on a tour of energy production sites, including a natural gas drilling operation in Pinedale.
NRDC has worked with local partners for years to help protect the wildest lands around Pinedale, in the Upper Green River Valley, from irresponsible energy development. The area provides some of the West's most vital wildlife habitat, including an ancient migration corridor for pronghorn, mule deer, elk, moose, and big-horned sheep. One special pronghorn herd migrates 150 miles twice a year, farther than any other land mammal in the Americas, aside from caribou. Pronghorn are the sole species in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem that is native only to the American West, and are the fastest distance runners on earth, reaching speeds of more than 50 miles per hour. I know you thought the cheetah is the fastest -- but not over distance. Can you tell I am a fan of the pronghorn?
Now back to energy. Not only is wildlife habitat being threatened in western Wyoming, but so is human health. The Pinedale area has been experiencing elevated ozone levels over the last two winters, including violations and advisories. This is in a rural area of western Wyoming that until recently had some of the purest air in the nation. EPA regional staff gave the Bureau of Land Management's plan for the area an "unsatisfactory" rating, and asked the BLM to strengthen protections for air quality. In addition, water contamination has occurred. Benzene has been found in over one-third of the monitor water wells in the area, with some benzene levels greatly exceeding the EPA standard.
NRDC's local partners, including the Upper Green River Valley Coalition, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Wyoming Outdoor Council and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, have been working for years to address drilling impacts on Wyoming wildlife, ranchers, hunters and anglers. But the air and water contamination in the Pinedale area is only one example of the harmful impacts of oil and gas production that is operating under outdated regulations that do not reflect industry expansion or technological advances. With an industry presence in 34 states, air and/or water contamination has recently been reported in Michigan, Texas, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Louisiana. EPA can play a critical role in addressing the growing threat to air, water and public health from oil and gas production across the country.