‘Disheartened’ citizens politely oppose Doyle Pit

Joy Ufford photo

Wyoming’s Air Quality Division staff listen closely

PINEDALE – About 25 homeowners and residents gathered Wednesday evening for the state’s public hearing concerning air-quality issues with the county’s proposed expanded Doyle Pit operations – gravel mining and storage, crushing and an added hot-mix asphalt plant.

Comments were polite and articulate, even when speaking about being “disheartened and disappointed” by Sublette County commissioners Sam White, Joel Bousman and Tom Noble for voting, 3-2, in favor of their summertime million-dollar purchase of additional acreage to expand a gravel pit that hasn’t been excavated.

One man called the almost-secret gravel pit purchase “underhanded” and a new resident said she thought the whole transaction should be investigated.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Division had planned an earlier public hearing as citizens requested that was postponed until Jan. 25. Public comments were accepted right on through the two-hour hearing led by AQD director Nancy Vehr.

Vehr explained that she and her staff could not answer specific questions about the Sublette County Road & Bridge department’s application to fully operate 65-plus acres as a mine. But the comments were being recorded and noted by staff Andrew Keyfauver and Logan Libal for Vehr’s scrutiny and a final review and decision by DEQ director Todd Parfitt.

Comments also covered how the hot mix/asphalt plant even came to become part of the Road & Bridge project, when it was never discussed in a public meeting.

Some questioned Road & Bridge manager Billy Pape’s estimate of 50 residences within a mile of the proposed Doyle Pit expansion, located along Highway 191 at its intersection with Pole Creek Road. Comments included public safety, wildlife, silica dust, noise, the county’s lack of mitigation and noxious emissions.

Concerns included the town’s elevation, winter ozone, a growing number of retirees living here, aging families, the planned new hospital and Sublette Center on Skyline Drive and other public buildings within a mile radius of the property.

Those gathered thanked Vehr and staff for taking the time to meet in Pinedale and listen, which some said was more than the Sublette County Board of Commissioners ever did, having a deputy county attorney navigate negotiations and the purchase – between public meetings.

After closing this public hearing, Vehr said each person’s comments would be analyzed, with responses mailed out with Parfitt’s decision about the county’s gravel pit permit application.

She spent an hour answering the public’s questions “in general” about permitting, monitoring and other “air quality nerd” topics.

The DEQ-AQD has already considered approval of the application’s emissions, as noted in legal notices, based on Vehr’s review of seven criteria. In her memory, she said, prior approval had not been revoked. This process could take as long as several months, she added.

More to come about the Wyoming DEQ-AQD’s Jan. 25 public hearing at the Pinedale Library.

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