By Ramsey Scott
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — The vast majority of counties in Wyoming received passing marks in a study of air quality across the country. Both Laramie County and Natrona County rank among the cleanest in the nation in certain categories.
But those passing marks, for the most part, are lower than the grades the state received in last year’s report.
The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2019 study found that between 2015-2017, there was an increase across the country in the number of cities with high levels of ozone pollution and short-term particle pollution when compared to 2014-2016. And in many of those cases, there was an increase in the number of cities with elevated year-round particle pollution, often referred to as soot.
That national downturn in air quality was mirrored in Wyoming, with several counties – including Laramie County – coming in with a lower grade than in last year’s report. In this year’s report, which covers 2015-2017, Laramie County was given a B grade for ozone pollution and a C grade for the short-term presence of soot in the air.
That is a drop from 2018’s report, which covered 2014-2016. Laramie County had received an A for ozone pollution and a B for short-term presence of soot.
While Laramie County has seen its issues with day-to-day levels of particle pollution increase, it still is the best metropolitan area for the levels of soot on an annual basis. Once again, the American Lung Association gave it the highest ranking for annual soot levels out of 201 metropolitan areas.
“In many areas of the United States, the air quality is worsening, at least in part because of wildfires and weather patterns fueled by climate change,” American Lung Association President Harold Wimmer said in a statement. “This increase in unhealthy air is eye-opening, and points to the reality that the nation must do more to protect the public from serious, even life-threatening, harm.”
Not every county’s air quality was measured in the report due to insufficient data in most cases. But the worst area for ozone pollution of those graded in Wyoming was Sublette County, which went from a B grade in last year’s report to a D this year. Sheridan County was one of the worst counties for short-term soot in the air, dropping from a C last year to a D this year.
Campbell County also had a drastic downturn in its short-term soot levels, dropping from a B grade in 2018’s report down to a D this year. It also saw its ozone grade drop from an A to a B.
Natrona County continued to rank as one of the cleanest metropolitan areas in the country. But it did see its rating take a hit compared to last year’s report.
This year, Natrona County received an A grade for ozone quality but a B for short-term soot presence, a drop from its previous A rating. But even with that change, Casper was named one of four best cities when it comes to having no days in the unhealthy level for ozone pollution, and was on the list of the cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution.
While Wyoming saw decreases in its air quality in counties across the state, the sky is still clean and clear when compared to the state just south of the border.
Colorado is home to two of the top 25 worst cities for ozone pollution in the country. Fort Collins, just under 50 miles south of Cheyenne, was ranked 24th in the nation, while the Denver metropolitan area was ranked 12th.