Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality releases 2018 ‘State of the Environment’

The Kemmerer Community Fishing Pond near the golf course. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality released the 2018 “State of the Environment” report on Monday, April 22. The department reported on its responsibilities to manage the state’s air, land, waste and water. 

Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released the 2018 Wyoming State of the Environment report on Monday, April 22, in recognition of Earth Day.

The report focuses on the department’s four primary responsibilities: air, land, waste and water.

Click here to view the full report. 

“From improving our air quality monitors, reclaiming historic abandoned mines, achieving high compliance rates by the regulated community, and improving our ground and surface water throughout the state, DEQ continues to be a leader in environmental stewardship and protection,” said Todd Parfitt, DEQ Director. “Earth Day is a perfect time to release this document and show how far we have all come within the state to better protect our natural resources.

“Even with the tremendous work of DEQ staff, state and local parties, the regulated communities, and our many stakeholders, there are still many areas where we can improve,” Parfitt continued. “The agency has been a leader on various national issues, including the Clean Power Plan, the Stream Protection Rule, Waters of the U.S., coal reclamation and bonding, and the Abandoned Mine Land Program funding. We have ensured that Wyoming has been given an opportunity to provide our unique insight into these complex and important issues.”

Some key achievements and statistics in the latest report include:

• Since 2008, air pollution from major industrial facilities has been reduced by more than 50,000 tons

• 25,000+ acres of abandoned mines have been reclaimed since 1977

• As of December 2018, 1,290 contaminated storage tank sites have been cleaned up

• Since 1999, more than 187 miles of streams and river segments have been restored

Governor Mark Gordon included a statement in the department’s report.

“My wife, Jennie, and I raised our children here,” Gordon said.  “On our ranch, we are committed to clean air, pristine water, vibrant ecological processes, biological diversity, and rich land that supports making a living, good jobs, and that special something that makes Wyoming what it is. While on the Environmental Quality Council, I saw firsthand the challenges that come with protecting the resources we all depend upon while encouraging a robust economy.

“We are blessed that Wyoming has exceptional natural resources and a strong economy, and we cherish both,” Gordon continued. “However, this does not happen by accident. The people who work at the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality care deeply about what they do and are experts in their fields. Their diligence is reflected in the State of the Environment Report, which shows the great success and improvements the agency and other stakeholders have achieved. By working with the public, industry, and local and federal partners, I am certain that we will continue to make strides to protect, preserve and enhance a healthy environment for the benefit of Wyoming and its citizens.”

The DEQ employs 265 people in six offices and seven divisions across the state of Wyoming. The agency said they are increasing transparency and public access to records in response to the increase in public interest and records requests.

The 2018 “State of the Environment” report outlines the DEQ’s four primary responsibilities in the state of Wyoming.

Cleaning the Air

The DEQ’s Air Quality Division monitors and inspects emissions from oil and gas development, mining operations, power plants and refineries to ensure healthy air quality.

In the Upper Green River Basin, 1,651 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) were reduced from 2008-2017 through permitting. The DEQ committed 5,500 hours of staff time to winter ozone forecasting. As part of the agency’s Diesel Emission Reduction Program, 47 diesel school buses were replaced with clean diesel or propane buses. Those replacements mean an annual reduction of 11 tons of NOx.

Since 2008, NOx emissions from 115 large facilities have been reduced by 47,537 tons. Based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the total NOx emissions reduced from those large facilities in Wyoming would equal emissions from 5.4 million cars or 3.9 million light trucks.

The DEQ reported a 98 percent compliance rate for air quality in Wyoming in Fiscal Year 2018. Self-audits reduced 155 tons of air pollution in the state. The agency performed 1,603 site visits and inspections in FY 2018.

Restoring the Land

The DEQ’s Land Quality Division, Industrial Siting Division (ISD) and the Abandoned Mine Land Division review environmental impacts of current and retired industrial and energy developments in Wyoming.

In 2018, the Abandoned Mine Land division reclaimed 175 acres as habitat and range land. The agency closed 21 mine openings and restored 137 acres of land adjacent to streams. More than 550 people were employed under AML contracts in 2018.

The report states that since 1977, AML has reclaimed 25,155 acres as habitat and range land, has closed 2,473 mine openings, and has restored 126 miles of impaired streams.

The agency issued five Industrial Siting Division (ISD) permits in 2018 – three wind and two transmission permits. The agency expects to issue four permits in 2019 — two wind and two transmission.

Managing the Waste

Since 1992, the DEQ has cleaned up 1,290 contaminated sites in the state and has 342 remaining.

The report states that “many communities in Wyoming have properties that are abandoned or underutilized because of known or suspected environmental contamination. These properties, known as ‘brownfields,’ may require cleanup before they are safe for reuse or redevelopment.”

Cleanup of brownfield properties in 2018 included removing electronic waste, hazardous waste, asbestos and lead-based paint, and contaminated soil.

Remediation was completed for five brownfield sites in 2018 — three in Cheyenne, one in Green River and one in Sheridan.

Protecting the Water

DEQ’s Water Quality Division is responsible for monitoring surface water and groundwater in the state of Wyoming. The agency is currently investigating the water quality and quantity of private domestic water wells north of Moorcroft.

DEQ is also working with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to investigate water quality concerns in the Pavillion area.

In 2018, a total of $1,019,097 in grant funding was awarded to new projects to restore the quality of Wyoming’s surface and groundwater resources.