ON THE HEELS OF a recent independent report that called a proposed Wyoming water policy “scientifically indefensible,” the federal government on Tuesday voiced its own opposition to the policy—suggesting that if the rules were officially adopted by the state, Wyoming would not be in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.

The proposed rules in question have to do with how the Cowboy State regulates groundwater that is pumped up from coal seams and dumped on the surface during coal-bed methane production. Most of Wyoming’s coal-bed methane operations are in the state’s Powder River Basin, east of the Big Horn Mountains.

Although Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality scrapped the proposed rules last week—following a damning independent scientific report that was commissioned by the state—the provisions outlined in the proposal still constitute the DEQ’s de facto policy for regulating the water that is produced during coal-bed methane operations.

Water pumped up from coal seams is often salty and otherwise impure, and can damage native grasses that support Wyoming wildlife and can ruin a variety of habitats such as seasonal wetlands and streams.

In comments submitted on September 29 to Wyoming’s Environmental Quality Council—which is the state’s environmental rulemaking body—the EPA stated:

“… several of the provisions do not appear to be consistent with the (Clean Water Act)… and the [EPA] would recommend the (Assistant Regional Administrator) disapprove those (Water Quality Standards). Accordingly, our recommendation is that (the rules) should not be adopted as proposed. Even if retained as a policy, EPA has significant concerns regarding whether its implementation is consistent with Wyoming’s approved (Water Quality Standards).”

To read the full document submitted by the EPA on September 29, click here.

The Wyoming Outdoor Council has long argued these proposed rules are inadequate, and that the DEQ should do more to regulate not only the quality of the water produced in coal-bed methane operations, but the quantity, as well.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal has also long had concerns about the proposed rules.

Media Contact: Steve Jones, Wyoming Outdoor Council, 307-332-7031 x12; steve@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org.

West Edge