|John Baza, the director for DOGM presents an update at the public lands council.|
John Baza the director for the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining visited the Emery County Public Lands Council in their January meeting.
Baza presented an overview of DOGM and their various responsibilities in regards to oil, gas and mining activities. Baza began by explaining that DOGM is a department under the Utah Department of Natural Resources, Mike Styler is the executive director of the natural resources department which also includes: forestry, fire and sovereign lands, geological survey, parks and recreation, wildlife resources, water rights and water resources.
DOGM operates four programs including oil and gas conservation, coal mining and reclamation, minerals mining and reclamation and abandoned mine reclamation.
Baza said, "We are accountable to a board that meets monthly on adjudicated policy. This board consists of several members with ties to this part of the state including: Jim Peacock, Doug Johnson, Kent Petersen, Sam Quigley, Jean Semborski, Robert J. Bayer and Jake Y. Harouny.
"DOGM facilitates the development of Utah's mineral resources in an environmentally responsible manner. The sales value of oil, gas, coal and mineral was $7 billion in Utah in 2006. This has doubled from the years 2004 and 2005. DOGM protects the value of the resource.
"Coal is big to this part of the state. SUFCO is the biggest coal producer in the state. Our office has 23 staff members involved in the coal program with monitoring, permitting and compliance. There are 33 permitted sites in Utah which includes mines, loadouts, reclaimed mines, mines in active reclamation and forfeiture sites," said Baza.
The Utah mined land reclamation act came into effect in 1975 and it applies to all non-coal minerals mining; approval of large mine, small mine and exploration operations; applies to all lands in Utah except military and Indian reservations; does not manage mining claims or mineral leases.
"We don't manage claims we manage activity," said Baza. He also explained a little about the Lila Canyon project being proposed by Utah American Energy, Inc. They have filed for mining permits for an extension of the old Horse Canyon mine. SUWA views this as a sensitive area and they have filed appeals against the permitting for this mine and have been very engaged in the public process. The company itself has been trying very hard in the permitting process. DOGM actually approved the mining permit in 2001 and the permit was appealed by SUWA and the permit has been in the appeal process ever since that time. Utah American at the end of November filed a 60 day notice which said basically they want a decision on the permit. DOGM is bound by requirements and can't approve the permit and asked for more time to sort it out; they are conducting a cultural resource analysis and working hard on it. The 60 day clock ends on Jan. 22 and a decision must be made by that date. Baza said the matter might end up as a board hearing which will come before the DOGM board. The filing of the 60 day notice forces action on the matter. Any appeal of a DOGM board action would go before the Utah Supreme Court.
SUWA has concerns about the water, wildlife and cultural resources of the Range Creek area which have been the basis of their appeals.
Baza said DOGM has been asked to address the MK Tunnels in Emery County which are on federal land. Mark Mesch has held meetings in Emery County and they will consider the input from these meetings while trying to preserve the historical factors while making the tunnels safe for the public to visit.
Baza said the increase of the price of a barrel of oil from less than $20 in 2002 to $61 per barrel in January this year has led to a flurry of oil and gas exploration and drilling. The newly found Wolverine field near Richfield is contributing to 10 percent of the state's production. Baza also mentioned the working relationship they have with the DWR with regards to winter drilling and wildlife. Some of the money generated from drilling returns to assist with the wildlife impacts.
Baza said they try to turn around permit applications in 45 days. Baza was questioned about some gas wells below Green River into Grand County. He said they are operated by Delta and at one time they had an uncontrolled flow out of one of the wells, because they experienced a greater flow than they had anticipated. DOGM expects an increased activity in that area with Delta and also other people who have permits in that area.
Baza said in 2005 there were 1,629 drilling approvals and in 2006 there were 1,924. Sixty-seven percent of these have been in Uintah County (gas) and 19 percent in Duchesne County (oil) and 10 percent all other counties, (gas and oil.) Other areas of activity include the Nine Mile Canyon/Tavaputs Plateau and the Sevier Overthrust Covenant Field.
Baza concluded his remarks with his thanks to the public lands council for allowing him to attend the meeting and give the DOGM update.