New leadership position helps Governor push smart energy policy for Utah


When Gov. Herbert took office in 2009, he set a goal to ensure access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy by producing 25 percent more electrical energy than we consume by 2020. That effort often requires working outside Utah’s borders to push for policies that benefit workers and businesses here at home. Last week, the governor traveled to Columbus, Ohio where he took over as chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Commission (IOGCC). He will serve in the position for a year.

“States should take the lead in determining their energy future,” said Gov. Herbert. “In Utah, we have a 10-year energy plan that calls for an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach for responsible energy development–one that proudly includes fossil fuels.”

The IOGCC is a multi-state government agency that promotes the responsible development of domestic oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment. It advocates for environmentally-sound ways to increase the supply of American energy.

Utah has been a member state of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission since 1957. Together with other member states, we have had a long and successful history in the responsible development of oil and gas resources for the benefit of the residents of our states.

Oil and gas production are growing in Utah. While the Beehive State has seen energy booms in the past, today’s boom seems certain to have staying power because it is driven by market conditions, a technological revolution in drilling and well-stimulation techniques that have opened up new and plentiful resources that were previously inaccessible.

In just over a decade, Utah’s oil production has more than doubled, with the distinct possibility that we will break historical records in the next two years. Energy jobs in Utah pay on average 190 percent of the state’s median wage. In fact, the counties with the most oil and gas production in Utah have the highest median wages in the state.

And it’s not just happening in Utah.

The oil and gas industry is a major economic engine across the nation and is making a significant impact on the energy independence and energy security of our nation.

Despite the unrest in the Middle East, gas prices are holding steady – and have even dipped slightly – because of the amount of oil America is now able to produce consistently.

According to a study conducted by American Petroleum Institute in 2011, the U.S. oil and gas sector was responsible for 9.8 million jobs, $597.6 billion in labor income and $1.2 trillion of our nation’s GDP.

Through techniques like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques, the industry is keeping affordable domestic energy available to American citizens.

“Unfortunately, the federal government often hinders rather than helps energy development in our states,” said Gov. Herbert. “Historically, the regulation of oil and gas development has been delegated to states because of their local and regional knowledge. But in recent years federal agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Interior have been actively inserting themselves into the regulatory process. As you you know, this injects uncertainty and inefficiency in the marketplace and results in unwarranted project delays and deterred investment.”

The ultimate impact of this trend of federal government overreach is slower economic growth and lost energy development opportunities for our states.

“The onerous and often unnecessary regulations coming from Washington, D.C., are often a drag on the economy,” said the governor. “They are like weeds in a ditch bank; they impede the flow of commerce–or in this case, energy production.”

In Utah, the bulk of our new energy production is happening on less than one-third of our land. Delays and extensive permitting times have made it exceedingly difficult to develop the resources on the more than two-thirds of our state owned by the federal government.

For instance, from 2001 through 2012 Utah’s oil production grew from 15 million barrels per year to more than 35 million barrels per year. But this increased production and development has largely occurred on state and private lands because the Bureau of Land Management has significantly reduced permits and lease sales.

That’s why the governor’s involvement in the IOGCC is so important.

The IOGCC has a long-standing tradition of advocating for the right of a state to govern the resources found within its borders. Maintaining this right is critical to the prosperity of our individual states and imperative to our nation’s energy future.

Last year, the governor sign on to the IOGCC States’ First Initiative, established under the leadership of Governors Robert Bentley and Phil Bryant of Alabama and Mississippi, respectively. The initiative represents a ratification of one of the long-held guiding principles of the IOGCC: that federal ownership of public land does not need to preclude the states’ abilities to perform effective resource management.

At this year’s annual conference, the governor asked the commision to pass a resolution urging the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to establish processes for delegating primacy to the states for the regulation of oil and gas operations on federal public lands.

“We know that all IOGCC member states have local experts with the scientific knowledge and expertise of regional geology and operational practices to do this job well,” said the governor.

The delegating of primacy from the federal government to the states is not new.  That delegation already exists within the EPA, including even the responsibility to regulate coal mining. The proposed resolution would be one more step in the effort for states to determine their own destinies. It is also another step towards improved prosperity and increased opportunity and long-term sustainable growth in the U.S.

“As we continue to work together, I’m confident our states’ economies and energy industries will continue to flourish and serve as an example for the nation,” said Gov. Herbert. “Let us ensure that our energy industries continue to grow, increase their production and create jobs. And let us continue to not only declare but to secure our nation’s energy independence.”

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