People are always somewhat surprised when I tell them that the air quality in Missoula, Montana – especially during the winters months – is right up there with the worst air in the nation. To say Missoula has a fragile ‘air-shed’ would be a significant understatement.
In fact, a 2011 American Lung Association “State of the Air” report, gave Missoula’s air quality a D grade, which doesn’t sound too great, except that the grade for the previous few years was an F. From time to time the air gets so bad in Missoula that the Missoula City-County Health Department has to issue a Stage 2 air pollution warning, alerting the public that particulate pollution in Missoula’s air exceeds national limits. Yep, this is basically Missoula’s ‘dirty’ secret, as Missoula ranks 59th among the 230 most-polluted American cities for short-term particle pollution.
Clearly the geography of the Missoula Valley and our wintertime weather patterns are a big reason why our air is so bad. The valley is prone to some pretty severe inversions, which can last for weeks, and weeks.
Today, the Missoulian is reporting that Roseburg Forest Products – one of the more vocal supporters of Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act – will be paying $130,925 for “numerous permit violations over the previous five years at its Missoula particleboard plant.” Here’s more information from the article:
“State officials say that in 2011 Roseburg submitted revised air pollution monitoring reports that revealed numerous permit violations over the previous five years at its Missoula particleboard plant. Violations included improperly certifying that the company was in compliance with its air quality permit, failing to inspect equipment and not using gasoline vapor control equipment.”
Apparently, the $130,925 will go towards a wood-stove change-out program up in community of Seeley Lake, which sits an hour north of the Missoula Valley and during the winter-months may have even worse air quality than Missoula.
Finally, it should also be pointed out that while Roseburg Forest Products was repeatedly violating air pollution standards, they were also part of a $30,000 statewide newspaper ad campaign calling for more logging of our national forests by exempting many Montana timber sales from judicial review and the citizen appeal process.
UPDATE: The Missoulian is reporting that the mill manager was fired as a result of these air pollution violations.