As a teen growing up in the 1960-70’s, I witnessed the significant changes in governmental policies relating to environmental impact and protection during those two decades.
The Clean Air Act was established in 1963, with revisions in 1970 that greatly expanded the role of the federal government; the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was introduced in 1969 and became effective on January 1, 1970; the first Earth Day was in April 1970; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created in December 1970; and the Clean Water Act came about in 1972 with amendments to a previous water pollution law. Each of these actions was intended to change the historical behavior of American citizens and American industry to be more aware and protective of the planet’s resources and environment.
As I have now been involved with the energy and mineral extractive industries since my university years, I can attest that the 1970s brought similar attention for environmental protection to the petroleum and mining industries in the U.S. The decades since have seen increasing laws and regulatory processes designed to progressively reduce environmental impacts and minimize risk to public safety and health as well as the ecosystems that humans can affect.
Although the original Utah Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was established in 1955, this program was updated and revamped as a result of a legislative audit in 1982. The legislature also acted in 1975 to create the Utah Mined Land Reclamation Act that established a Minerals Regulatory Program in OGM. When the U.S. Congress passed the Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act in 1977, they included a provision for states to assume primacy delegation for the implementation of a coal regulatory system. Utah applied for and assumed that primacy in 1981.
It is often asked in the context of economic development discussions whether or not environmental policies have gone too far. Have we already accomplished what was intended by the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s? Should we attempt to cease all extractive industry activity and its related impact in the cause of terminating any potential risk to our natural world? Humans need the resources to be produced from the earth’s underground energy and mineral resources as much as they need clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. Thus, it is a matter of balancing responsible development with the duty to be good stewards of earth. But to ensure that we perform these actions responsibly means effort must be placed on good analysis, review, and monitoring of extractive development operations. OGM strives to perform these efforts efficiently and effectively and with due regard to balancing the public’s needs.
We are proud of the resulting outcome that the public continues to derive benefit from the production of oil, gas, coal and minerals in Utah with no significant impact to the vast majority of the citizens of the state.