Cheyenne’s ranking atop an annual “report card” on the nation’s air quality is no surprise to the state’s environmental agency.
Keith Guille, a spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, said he was not surprised that the American Lung Association rated Cheyenne as having the nation’s cleanest air.
“Historically, Cheyenne and Casper have been in the top of (the ALA’s report) in recent years,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “In Wyoming, as we all know, we have a lot of clear skies and blue skies and we’re always proud of that.”
Following Cheyenne in the ALA’s annual “State of the Air” report in sixth place was Casper. Both cities won their rankings because of their low year-round pollution created by soot, also called “particle pollution.”
Guille said the state’s sparse population and its restrictions on its own industries has helped keep pollution at a minimum.
“We are big state with a small population and that helps with emissions and whatnot,” he said. “When you look at our oil and gas development, we’ve been really progressive working with the industry and the public to have control over those minor (pollution) sources.”
Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins credited Wyoming’s wind for the city’s high ranking.
“Because of our blustery Wyoming wind, Cheyenne residents are more than happy to lay claim our air quality is superb,” he said in a statement to Cowboy State Daily. “Now we have the data to prove it. I can’t think of anything more vital to a community’s health and vitality than clean air.”
The ranking comes despite the fact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is blaming Wyoming for contributing a little more than 1% to the smog found over Denver.
Guille had no explanation for the apparent disparity.
“You might want to ask the feds on that,” he said.
While the ALA reported much of the rest of the state did well in terms of pollution, it gave Jackson an “F” for its particle pollution.
Jackson Town Administrator Larry Pardee did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Other grades for particle pollution ranged from A in Converse and Sweetwater counties to C in Albany, Fremont, Natrona and Park counties.
In addition, only 11 counties, fewer than half of the state’s 23, had equipment to detect particle pollution that was monitored by the ALA.
The ALA’s report also examined ozone ground pollution and 12 counties received a grade of C or better.
However, Sublette County again received an F for its 16 days of ground ozone levels above recommended standards — 13 days where ozone levels were considered unhealthy for sensitive populations and three days of generally unhealthy conditions .
While other cities around the country had worse rankings for ozone pollution, Sublette County’s is unusual because it appears in a rural area during the winter, Guille said.
He added most of the areas with high ground ozone levels are urban and the biggest problems appear in the summer.
However, he added the state and the area’s oil and gas industry have made progress in recent years in reducing annual ozone levels.
“We’ve been working with the public and industry since 2004 and 2005 to tackle this,” Guille said. “In the last couple of years these numbers have been under the standards, which is good. This year we did not see those high ozone levels.”