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Why is Wyoming smoggier than L.A.?
The Equality State's booming natural gas industry is polluting its once famously fresh air, say commentators — and not all residents are content to live that way
 
Residents in parts of Wyoming's Green River Basin (pictured) have been urged to restrict outdoor activities due to drastically rising levels of smog.
Residents in parts of Wyoming's Green River Basin (pictured) have been urged to restrict outdoor activities due to drastically rising levels of smog.
Corbis

Wyoming is the embodiment of the libertarian Mountain West: Big sky, vast plains, towering mountains, cowboys, Dick Cheney... and smog levels that put Los Angeles to shame? The state has a booming natural gas industry, and now air-pollution levels in Wyoming's western valleys outdo the worst smog days in L.A., or any other major city. Who's to blame?

The gas industry is the villain here: Some residents are experiencing very real smog-related health problems, says Citizens United for Responsible Energy Development (CURED) in the Pinedale Roundup. And it's clear that "gas companies are more concerned with short-term profit than about locals' long-term health." Clearly, "voluntary [self-regulation] measures and bleeding band-aids" aren't doing the trick. It's time to put the blame squarely where it belongs: On the shoulders of the greedy gas industry.
"Ozone is not under control"

Wait, not everyone blames the gas rigs: Some residents say the problem is "winds blowing bad air up from places like Salt Lake City," 180 miles away, says Kirk Johnson at The New York Times. Others argue that health risks be damned, Wyoming's economy needs gas drilling. And there are even those who see "an environmentalist plot to take down the oil and gas industry." As Teren Donley, 25, says, it's only the "Greenpeace people" who complain.
"In Pinedale, Wyo., residents adjust to air pollution"

Wyoming needs to embrace regulation: Sure, Wyoming isn't "the most likely place to find a bunch of EPA-loving residents," says Tiny Green Bubble. But maybe all the "burning eyes, bloody noses, and shortness of breath" will change that. Now that some mild oversight has made the area a little less like "Los Angeles in the 1970s," perhaps citizens won't treat "regulation" as such a dirty word.
"Wyoming is to smog what Los Angeles is to smog"

 

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