Like many proponents of multiple use of public lands, I watched the SOTU address because I was intrigued by an announcement that the President would open up more natural gas development in the United States. In fact it was the only reason I watched the address. As you many of you probably know by now, my little corner of Utah is blessed with natural gas deposits. The natural gas industry comes with jobs, many of them good-paying jobs and also comes with the potential for the increase in private enterprise.
The extraction industry has accounted for the bulk of the economy in my neck of the woods and we’ve had a tough time making a go off it here since the results of the 2008 Presidential Election became reality. So I was a little let down when I discovered that the President planned to open up 75 percent of the offshore oil and gas resources. I was let down, but I understood the move. In a situation in which the country wants jobs, and the President needs votes, it makes all kinds of political sense that he announce that those states whose votes he needs will get the energy jobs. Whereas states like Utah which have the apparently bad habit of voting conservative, will have a tougher time with those energy jobs. That’ll teach us to vote our conscience!
I asked The Uintah County Commissioners about their thoughts. They deal with land and issues on a daily basis from the local, all the way up to the federal level. As people who focus on the industry as part and parcel of their workaday lives, the commissioners noted that the President’s words and his past actions did not match up. They commented that the President’s statement that production has been up in recent years is true, however that production has been up on leases on private lands, presently out of reach of the regulatory arm of the federal government. In point of fact, while the Applications for Permission to Drill or APD’s is up since 2009 the number is still much lower than before the sitting President took office, and the number of leases that have been approved for public land is miniscule compared to the amount that have been nominated. The chart below is compiled from data from the Utah State Office of the Bureau of Land Management. The blue bars represent the acres that were nominated for energy development while the yellow bars indicate the acres actually offered for development.
Used with the permission of the Uintah County Commission; Vernal, Utah