Smog In Wyoming Thicker Than In L.A.

The AP notes that as a result of natural gas drilling, smog in parts of Wyoming is the worst in the country:

Wyoming, famous for its crisp mountain air and breathtaking, far-as-the-eye-can-see vistas, is looking a lot like smoggy Los Angeles these days because of a boom in natural gas drilling.

Folks who live near the gas fields in the western part of this outdoorsy state are complaining of watery eyes, shortness of breath and bloody noses because of ozone levels that have exceeded what people in L.A. and other major cities wheeze through on their worst pollution days.


Preliminary data show ozone levels last Wednesday got as high as 124 parts per billion. That’s two-thirds higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum healthy limit of 75 parts per billion and above the worst day in Los Angeles all last year, 114 parts per billion, according to EPA records. Ozone levels in the basin reached 116 on March 1 and 104 on Saturday.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality urged the elderly, children and people with respiratory conditions to avoid strenuous or extended activity outdoors.

Yes, you read that right: air pollution in Wyoming is so bad that kids can’t go outside and play. Remember that next time somebody asks you “what harm have big corporations ever caused?”

As an addendum to the problem that natural gas drilling poses for air pollution, I’d also encourage you to read Hydrofracked, which details preliminary investigations into the possibility that natural gas drilling also leads to contamination of the groundwater tables. It’s scary stuff.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Environment, US Politics, ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Ben Wolf says:

    Sorry Alex, wrong as usual. Ronald Reagan clearly stated trees cause more pollution than humans do, so instead of passing more Marxist regulation we should be having a forest-sized bonfire.

    That’ll fix the air problem in Wyoming.

  2. Stan25 says:

    The AP, as usual is full of crap. There is no smog coming off the gas wells in western Wyoming. I should know I live in Wyoming. The winds out here blow all of that so-called pollution away. As hydrofracking polluting water wells is also a load of crap What the hell is the meaning of Hydro? Bueller? Bueller? Hydro means water. The only air pollution that is occurring in the state of Wyoming are the Eco-Terrorists that want to shut down all of the industry in Wyoming and send it back to the way it was 175 years ago.

  3. PJ says:

    air pollution in Wyoming is so bad that kids can’t go outside and play.

    Dick Cheney has moved back to Wyoming?

  4. sam says:


    “What the hell is the meaning of Hydro? Bueller? Bueller? Hydro means water.”

    Do some research, cowboy. If you think they’re just pumping pure water down there, you couldn’t be more wrong.

  5. sam says:

    Wastewater Recycling No Cure-All in Gas Process

    As drilling for natural gas started to climb sharply about 10 years ago, energy companies faced mounting criticism over an extraction process that involves pumping millions of gallons of water into the ground for each well and can leave significant amounts of hazardous contaminants in the water that comes back to the surface.

    Carl Orso checked the progress as he offloaded wastewater from a natural gas drilling site at Eureka Resources, a wastewater treatment facility, in Williamsport, Penn.

    So, in a move hailed by industry as a major turning point, drilling companies started reusing and recycling the wastewater.

    “Water recycling is a win-win,” one drilling company, Range Resources, says on its Web site. “It reduces freshwater demand and eliminates the need to dispose of the water.”

    But the win-win comes with significant asterisks.

    In Pennsylvania, for example, natural-gas companies recycled less than half of the wastewater they produced during the 18 months that ended in December, according to state records.

    Nor has recycling eliminated environmental and health risks. Some methods can leave behind salts or sludge highly concentrated with radioactive material and other contaminants that can be dangerous to people and aquatic life if they get into waterways.

    More than 90 percent of well operators in Pennsylvania use this process, known as hydrofracking, to get wells to produce. It involves injecting water mixed with sand and chemicals at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas. Between 10 percent and 40 percent of the water injected into each well resurfaces in the first few weeks of the process.

  6. Ben Wolf says:

    Stan is a member of the Peek-a-boo crowd. What’s happening right in front of him is the only thing happening anywhere.

  7. wr says:

    You see, the wind blows all that air pollution away to where someone else is, so it’s not a problem for Stan25.

  8. tom p says:

    Me thinks you guys miss Stan25’s snark.

  9. James blank says:

    You can’t handle the Truth…

  10. Neil Hudelson says:

    Well at least the gas wells in Wyoming aren’t being subjected by a tyrannical EPA. Right JKB and jwest?

  11. Steve Plunk says:

    Geography and weather have much to do with this smog and even the smog in Los Angeles. In my little corner of Oregon we face the same problem with only one freeway and no drilling. Thermal inversions cause the problem.

    By all means keep trying to stop the one big advance we have made toward energy security. We should continue to rely on an unstable OPEC for the fuel that drives our prosperity. Keep using incomplete and junk science it won’t undermine the real science. When wind and solar approach reasonable contribution levels we can talk of slowing down the drilling. Until then it is the environmentalists that are burying their heads in the sand.

    Sometimes it’s like a college dorm around here. All idealistic and full of snark. Thanks goodness the grownups are making the decisions.

  12. An Interested Party says:

    Sometimes it’s like a college dorm around here.

    Oh, much better it should be like a corporate boardroom around here, eh? All about profits and the environment (not some abstract thing that tree-huggers cherish but real air that we breath and real water that we drink) be damned…”the grownups”…heh…

  13. anjin-san says:

    Well, in California we have quite a few tree-hugging hippies, so we actually have some laws to protect the environment. That allows us to have a significant percentage of the world’s automobiles AND halfway decent air quality. I am sure communism and a hatred of freedom factor in somehow as well…

  14. sam says:

    An Interested Party says:
    Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 21:43

    @Plunk: Sometimes it’s like a college dorm around here.

    Oh, much better it should be like a corporate boardroom around here, eh?

    Watch out. Plunk will unleash his passive-aggressive sweet reasonableness sthick on you.

  15. wr says:

    Geography plays a large part. But I’ve been in the LA area close to thirty years, and have seen the air pollution levels plummet. Oddly, I haven’t noticed any of the local mountains being torn down, or other huge geographical changes made. So odds are the changes in the laws made the difference.

  16. deathcar2000 says:

    i sure hope stan25 was kidding. . . . .”Hydro” does not mean WATER! the hydrolic systems that operate your brakings on a automobile do not use water, the forklifts that use hydrolic fluid to lift palets at the local home repair outlet do not use water.

    Hydro means fluid and hydrofraking uses many a nasty things (in fluid form) that would get you a giant fine if you were caught dumping them down a sewer drain.

    as for wind just blowing away the polution, that has to rate as one of the most stupid comments on the internet today!

    here’s to hoping stan25 is just a bad comic and not a bad human.

  17. Jeff G says:

    I have heard some of the most stupid comments ever on this site…

    Calling hydro-fraking “progress” has to be right up there….

    You know…if we keep making all this “progress” and “Growth”…we may all end up dead soon.

    Anyone who thinks that this Hydro-Fraking is a good idea…and that Natural Gas is “today and tomorrow’s CLEAN ENERGY” – I suggest you read up on it…and what exactly are those chemicals being pumped – by the MILLIONS of gallons – into the underground water systems…(HINT IDIOT…IT AINT WATER)

    Watch the movie “Gas-land”….it is totally sick what oil and gas companies will do for a buck..SICK

  18. RKB says:

    Complete crap and Micheal Moore fact reporting.