CASPER, Wyo.—A controversial natural gas processing plant could be operating in central Wyoming by the end of the year.

The Casper Star-Tribune ( http://bit.ly/K1N6gA) reported Tuesday that state environmental regulators approved a permit for the plant Dec. 12, clearing the way for construction to start.

The Converse County Natural Gas Processing Plant in Douglas will be jointly owned by Access Midstream Partners of Oklahoma City and Houston-based Crestwood Midstream Partners. An Access spokeswoman estimated that the plant will be operating by the second half of the year.

There currently aren't enough pipelines and facilities to handle gas being produced in the county, forcing operators to flare gas they can't ship.

Residents are worried that plant pollution could harm people and livestock. Regulators say the permit's requirements are more stringent than federal standards.

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com