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Wyoming DEQ says Cheyenne’s new ‘F’ air quality rating due to western wildfires

Downtown Cheyenne obscured by wildfire smoke from the Mullen Fire. The Historic Depot can barely be seen in the background. (John Roedel, Cap City News September 26th, 2020 File)

CASPER, Wyo. — Cheyenne’s air quality went from a grade “A” to an “F” in the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was released earlier this week.

However, Wyoming’s Air Quality Division of the Department of Environmental Quality says the new results don’t factor in smoke from summer wildfires across the region.

According to the ALA, “many Wyoming counties experienced significant increases in unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report.”

“After being recognized among the nation’s healthiest cities for ozone pollution in last year’s report, Laramie County’s grade for ozone pollution fell from A to F in ‘State of the Air’ 2023,” the release continued.

“Albany County’s grade dropped from C to F, and Campbell County went from a B in the 2022 report to an F in this year’s report. Sublette County experienced more unhealthy ozone days on average and maintained its F grade. Weston County was the only county to record a slight improvement in ozone pollution compared with last year’s report.”

Wyoming DEQ Supervisor of Public Information Kimberly Mazza said in a message to Oil City News that the ALA and EPA use different methods of collecting data. Wyoming’s Air Quality Division uses the EPA standard.

“During 2020 and 2021, Wyoming’s air was significantly impacted by prolonged wildfire smoke from within and outside the state,” she said. “While the AQD understands that the public could be exposed to this pollution regardless of the source, these wildfire events cannot be controlled by Wyoming’s air pollution regulations.”

Mazza says Laramie County is meeting all of the EPA air quality requirements from sources that are controllable, such as industrial emissions.

Intense wildfires caused by prolonged drought conditions have plagued the west for a number of years. Air currents often bring blankets of smoke into Wyoming, causing brown clouds and temporary air quality warnings.

“The AQD ensures the ambient air quality in Wyoming is maintained in accordance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” Mazza said. “Current information on air quality from the AQD’s monitoring stations across Wyoming can be found at www.wyvisnet.com.”