Utah State University’s air quality expert Seth Lyman was awarded the Clean Air Person of the Year by the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) for his continued work into developing solutions to fight Utah’s air pollution problems in the Uintah Basin.
Lyman, director of USU’s Bingham Entrepreneurship & Energy Research Center in Vernal, is a research associate professor in chemistry and biochemistry. Over the past several years, he and his team have worked with community leaders in the Uintah Basin to understand and mitigate air pollution.
“I often say that there are no perfect answers but there are practical solutions,” said Thom Carter UCAIR executive director. "For applying his knowledge, research and experience to developing practical solutions to help clear the air, Seth is well deserving of the UCAIR Person of the Year recognition.”
The Basin, which includes Vernal, Roosevelt, Duchesne and other smaller communities, suffers from severe wintertime inversion episodes. Community leaders there have been concerned about air pollution effects on health and employment but are wary to make changes that could do harm to the oil extraction industry, which powers the economy in that area of the state.
Lyman works with a group of scientists, technical staff, and students at the USU campus in Vernal.
“The air quality issues the Uintah Basin faces are complex, and the progress we have made is the result of dedicated effort by many different partners,” Lyman said. “Credit for this progress belongs to my coworkers at the Bingham Center, as well as local oil and gas companies, elected officials, government agencies, the Ute Tribe, and environmental advocates.”
Along with conducting research to understand which chemicals and conditions are needed to create wintertime ozone, Lyman and coworkers have developed a wintertime ozone forecast program that alerts the public of an ozone event and allows industry to put off certain actions that exacerbate bad air. He has also conducted groundbreaking research on the emissions coming off of evaporative water ponds. His work has been published in scientific publications, and he is nationally recognized for his research and community work in this field of study.
“Seth has the respect of industry leaders, the science community, and elected officials for his work to combat air pollution in the Uintah Basin,” said James Y. Taylor, associate vice president. “He has become a critical resource for community and state leaders and is nationally identified for the progress he has made in this area. He is well deserving of this recognition.”
UCAIR is a statewide nonprofit organization that provides education and funding for projects so individuals, businesses and communities can make changes to improve Utah’s air. Lyman was honored at the fifth annual UCAIR Summit on Feb. 26 during the 2020 UCAIR Partner Awards.
“The citizens of Utah and the Uintah Basin are lucky to have his leadership, intelligence and productive way of conducting himself leading this critical effort,” Carter said. “I have well-earned respect for Seth because he has never compromised the science and has been able to work with elected officials so that they are making decisions that are backed up by science.”
Lyman has a doctoral degree in environmental science and health, and his expertise is in atmospheric measurements, instrumentation and analysis.
Research at the Bingham Center focuses on the environmental outcomes of energy production, especially air quality impacts from oil and gas development. The 75,000-square-foot center is a state-of-the-art, high-tech educational facility, where students are trained in business, entrepreneurship, accounting, education, engineering, wildlife science, water management, social work, natural resources, environmental policy and other fields at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It was dedicated in 2010 and is named for Marc and Debbie Bingham, Utah entrepreneuers and business leaders.