Message from Director John Baza – Summer 2019

Recently I spent time with my mother who is in her 80s and she expressed frustration about trying to use an electronic ordering system at a nearby fast food restaurant. The teenager behind the counter told her that she needed to give it a try and that it was easy. I chuckled at her experience, but it made me realize how we have evolved generationally as a society in adapting to technology changes. My mother is adamant that she does not want a computer or e-mail or even try to program her digital phone (she only keeps it in her purse “for emergencies”). But my grandchildren (pre-school and 2nd grade) now run circles around my wife and myself when it comes to using an electronic tablet.

The world continually seems to move faster and get more complicated even as we try to use technology to solve our problems or to simplify our lives. Societal expectations of government also seem to increase with time, but parties who are affected by government regulation wish to keep the requirements relatively unchanged and constant. It does not seem to me that we can have it both ways: we cannot as a society expect government to accomplish more for us without shifting a burden to either the regulated community or the taxpayer.

Urbanization is also expanding throughout the state. Areas that were primarily rural are seeing oilfield or mining activity on previously undisturbed land. At the same time, human population growth is moving residential development into areas very near historic mining activity. Conflicts are on the rise along with tempers, and the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining often becomes the interface between opposing parties while trying to ensure that neither mineral estate nor surface landowner rights are adversely affected.

The Division is trying to efficiently accomplish its purpose with intelligent innovation. Through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Unmanned Aerial Systems (drones) and electronic technology, we are attempting to better collect data, perform improved analysis, and conduct timelier decision-making. We want to extend our reach without adding additional costs. As we see evolving public expectations for the extractive industries, we hope to keep pace with both the rapidness of industrial development as well as the increasing desire by citizens for better transparency and accountability from government.

Drones and Geographic Information Systems

In government we aim to drive down costs, reduce our action times and support decision making and policy decisions that improve the overall quality of life for Utah residents. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are typically thought of as data plus analytics equals data driven decisions. The Division of Oil, Gas and Mining uses GIS to extend that equation where data plus analytics plus data driven decisions equals improved service delivery to both the public and to industry. In using GIS we are able to take limited resources and very easily and strategically fix problems where and when they occur, which extends our limited resources and improves our efficiencies. 

When Division staff didn’t have the capability to fly drones for data acquisition, they were limited to conducting their work using traditional methods. They would use pen, pad, and cameras to collect data and then come back to the office to manually enter it into a computer database. Staff has now begun using Esri GIS software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications on mobile devices to minimize time and errors.

By implementing database standardization and drone technology, staff are now generating data sets that can be archived and used to accurately document existing conditions for oil, gas, and mining activities. This data has reduced disputes and provided data that could be used for litigation matters.

Web based applications help regulate, innovate, and educate our staff and the public so they can stay updated and informed with natural resource activities in Utah. Staff are focused on centralizing data and publishing it to ArcGIS Online, allowing them to spend more time ensuring responsible development of natural resources and environmental protection. The public can be more confident that tax payer dollars are being used responsibly and consistently.

We are building geodatabases for each of our programs- Coal, Minerals, Oil and Gas, and Abandoned Mine Reclamation. We are working with our existing databases to produce web maps, applications, and hosted feature layers. By utilizing these types of databases we are hoping to aggregate, integrate and standardize our geospatial data across the division. We are also leveraging drones and remote sensing to provide much needed insight and documentation to ensure compliance rules are being met and best management practices are being applied to our lands in Utah. The derived drone data will be published to ArcGIS Online for the inspectors to view and make better land management decisions.

Senior GIS Analyst Tom Thompson and Director John Baza were presented with the prestigious SAG award, presented at the annual ESRI conference in San Diego this month. This award is given to .01 of 1% of ESRI users. The award was given for Tom’s presentation Inquiring Mines want to know: Leveraging Location Intelligence for Mine Inspection, incollaboration with Engineering Technician Michael Van Hatten, Associate Director Dana Dean, and Division Director John Baza.

Photo L to R: Division of Oil, Gas and Mining Senior GIS Analyst Tom Thompson, Esri Founder and CEO Jack Dangermond, Division of Oil, Gas and Mining Director John Baza

Employee Highlight – Summer 2019

Peter Brinton is a reclamation specialist with the Minerals Program. He has been with the Division for nine years. 

As a reclamation specialist, he reviews mine and reclamation plans, evaluates environmental impacts, educates industry about permitting and reclamation, inspects sites for compliance, and enforces the Utah Mined Land Reclamation Act. His review responsibilities often include mine waste management/disposal (e.g. tailings, waste rock), hydrology, engineering, and bond calculations. Peter enjoys the occasional opportunity to review archaeology reports and inter-agency documents (EISs and a Species Status Assessment), and to manage/implement bond forfeiture reclamation projects.

The permit review work Peter does helps operators plan for final reclamation and aids in the mitigation and avoidance of environmental damage. Inspections and enforcement actions can help avoid or minimize unplanned environmental impacts.  The goal of reclamation is that a sustainable post-mining land use is achieved (like wildlife habitat or grazing).

According to Peter, the best parts of his job are the exposure to lots of unique operations and reclamation scenarios, the field time and job autonomy, and working in a multi-disciplinary environment with good co-workers who are willing to share what they know and their senses of humor.

Peter has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Utah and a Master’s of Science Degree in Hydrology from the Colorado School of Mines. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time outside, especially in the Uintas and Grand Teton National Park. He also likes time with family and friends, playing soccer, anything science and history-related, and staying fluent in his Spanish. 

Environmental Excellence Awards – 2019

The Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining announced the recipients of the 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards at an open house this week. Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox attended and presented the awards.   
The Board recognizes companies that choose reclamation projects, technological innovations, and best practices far exceeding what is normally expected under industry practices and regulatory requirements. It is also an opportunity for companies to demonstrate technical expertise and show pride in their industry.

2019 Environmental Excellence Award recipients:

Alton Coal Development, LLC., for the North Private Lease Area Kanab Creek Off-Site Mitigation Project near the Coal Hollow Mine in Kane County.

Pictured L to R: Board Chairman Ruland Gill, Kirk Nicholes, Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox

Ashley National Forest for the final reclamation work completed at the Golden Phoenix mine site in Duchesne County.

Pictured L to R: Board Chairman Ruland Gill, David Herron, Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox

Canyon Fuels Company, LLC- Skyline Mine for going above and beyond regulatory requirements and partnering with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to conduct a full scale study on mining induced seismicity. 

Pictured L to R: Board Chairman Ruland Gill, Taylon Earl, Gregg Galecki, Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox

In 1992, the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining created Earth Day Awards to recognize operators in the oil, gas, and mining industries who went above and beyond what was expected under regulatory requirements to protect the environment. 

In 2018, the Board changed the name to Environmental Excellence Awards, a change that more accurately represents the intent of the award. As opinions over fossil fuels and mining have changed over the years, it is as important as ever for these industries to show they value protecting the environment, while providing resources that enhance the quality of our lives.