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