Message from Director John Baza – Fall 2016

John Baza, Director Division of Oil, Gas and Mining

Can states more effectively regulate extractive mineral development than the federal government?

Many of my acquaintances know that my heritage is from the island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. Guam has a long history of being overseen by governments distant to the island itself. 

The island was claimed by the country of Spain since the mid-1500’s after Magellan landed on the island in 1521.  Spain ceded the island to the United States as part of the Paris Treaty following the Spanish-American War in 1898.  Since then, Guam has been a possession of the U.S. except during the invasion and capture by Japan during World War II. After U.S. troops liberated the island from Japanese control in July 1944, Guamanian people have been citizens of the U.S., enjoying many of the same rights and privileges afforded other residents of the U.S. mainland.

I mention this because I see that the island of Guam has had its share of problems in recent decades, and they are working hard to overcome them. They have struggled to maintain a self-sustaining economic base, relying to a large extent on the economic development pertaining to U.S. military installations that have been part of the island’s scene for decades. They must live with policies and dictates of government officials far removed from the island’s inhabitants. Young people of the island wish to move away for greater opportunities, even though they can receive a good education through the island’s own schools and university.

So transporting through time and space to my current life in Utah, which I have called home since I was a lad of 12 years old, I find many of the same conditions existing in the less populated areas of this state. They live with the daily struggle for a sustainable economic engine, the governance by policies of officials based two time zones away, and the out-migration of their young people who desire better opportunities. These problems are consistent with the island of my own heritage.  So what is to be done to address these challenges?

At least in the extractive industries, I have seen an important initiative develop in the last couple of years that argues for states’ rights in managing the mineral resources of each state, rather than leaving it in the hands of policymakers in Washington, DC.  States First is a collaborative effort of two organizations (the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council) that represent states in regulating for responsible development of oil, gas, and water resources. 

Suffice it to say that the initiative is an attempt to convince the public, the regulated industries, and the policymakers in government that U.S. states have always and are still leading the way in fostering responsible development, protecting public health and safety, and preserving the environment relative to operations of the mineral extractive industries.

Learn more of the important activities of the States First Initiative by visiting

Annual Employee Achievement Award – 2016

Engineering Technician Penny Berry received the annual Oil, Gas and Mining Achievement Award. Penny works for the minerals program and manages the bonding for all mineral mines across the state.

Photo: Director John Baza presents Penny Berry with the 2016 Oil, Gas and Mining Achievement Award.

The bond program requires working with multiple entities including banks and sister agencies. Penny has worked diligently over the past year to organize the cash bond program in a way that complies with Division rules, meets the criteria of other agencies, and allows operators to understand the requirements.

She also meticulously worked on updating all reclamation contracts regarding Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. The BLM made changes to the reclamation contract forms which required Penny to work tirelessly with operators to obtain new signed contracts.

Penny is an integral part of the minerals program team and very deserving of this award.

Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program Receives National Award

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program received an award for work completed in the San Rafael Swell in central Utah. The National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) publicly recognized Utah for the exemplary physical safety hazard mitigation in the reclamation of abandoned hard rock mines and presented them the nation’s highest achievement at its annual conference in Bozeman, Montana.

“This is an honor to be recognized for our hard work,” stated Utah’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program Manager Steve Fluke. “It is the goal of the program to protect the public from the hazards of old mines. This project could not have succeeded without our partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) while working closely with the BLM’s Price field office and the Emery County Public Lands Council.” 

The San Rafael Swell project in central Utah closed 173 abandoned uranium mine openings remaining from the Cold War era. The openings were located high in cliff faces often with no road access, so the contractor enlisted helicopters, all-terrain vehicles (ATV), pack horses and a great deal of ingenuity to get supplies and labor to the sites. In addition to the tricky terrain, radiation safety protocols, designated wilderness areas, and bighorn sheep lambing added to the logistical complications. 

The San Rafael Swell is located on public land and is a popular destination for outdoor recreation including camping, hiking and ATV riding. The completion of the project has safeguarded all known uranium mine openings in the area to protect the public’s health and safety in this popular region. This project was funded by the BLM and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

For additional information on the Abandoned Mine Reclamation program, visit

Typical uranium mine location at top of shaly slope and the base of the cliff in foreground. 
Tomsich Butte in the San Rafael Swell
Completed native stone wall closure.
Workers constructing cement block wall closure wearing protective clothing and respirators.
Looking out uranium mine portal at worker welding a rebar grate closure.
Grade-beam grate closure constructed over uranium mine shaft.    
Photo credit: Kent Phillips

Oil and Gas Rule Change

On October 26, the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining approved the repeal and reenactment of Oil and Gas Rule R649-3-32, which establishes standards for the reporting of fluid spills and natural gas releases by oil and gas companies to the Division. Stakeholders and the Division recognized the rule needed more clarification, plus updates to the standards after comparison to nearby states.

The Division pursued a collaborative approach to the rule making, utilizing an informal rule process from April to August, in addition to the formal process in September and October.

The Utah Petroleum Association and the Western Energy Alliance expressed support for the rule change and the rulemaking process undertaken by the Division and the Board. No opposition to the rule was expressed during the informal or formal rule making. The rule becomes effective November 1.

Employee Highlight – Fall 2016


Jan Morse is the NEPA coordinator for the Abandoned Mines Reclamation (AMR) program. She is responsible for writing environmental assessments required before most federal reclamation projects can begin.
Most abandoned mine reclamation work completed by the Division is funded by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) and subject to NEPA. NEPA assures that proper consideration is given to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment.

Jan researches information about cultural resources, sensitive and listed species, recreation, public interest and other resources found in or near the project area. When a resource needs special consideration, she enjoys the challenge of figuring out how to do it without negatively impacting that resource.

In addition to her AMR work, Jan is active in public education where she represents the Division at local events including the Safe Kids Fair, Tintic Silver Jubilee and Park City Miners Day.

“I enjoy watching people’s expressions when they realize that our modern way of life is dependent on minerals,” commented Jan. “I’m proud to be part of the Division that ensures mineral extraction in Utah is conducted in a responsible manner that protects the environment and supports our modern society.”

Jan started as a seasonal inventory crew member in 1995. After several seasons, she was hired on full time and has now been a with the Division for 17 years.

She graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor’s degree in Earth Science from the University of California Santa Cruz.