Message from Director John Baza – Spring 2018

Occasionally the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (OGM) finds it necessary to take enforcement action against companies operating in the state. These actions are taken for a variety of reasons, but most often because there is a substantial risk of harm if an operator remains out of compliance with established rules. The potential for harm could be to the environment, to public health and safety, or to the monetary obligations inherent with producing energy and mineral resources.

Some recent examples of enforcement action include:

  • Needing to reclaim a waste pile associated with mining operations
  • Requiring removal of produced water and oilfield wastes from an inactive petroleum site
  • Addressing a failure to report produced volumes of oil and gas from wells in order to properly pay mineral royalties and taxes
  • Requiring the posting of an adequate reclamation bond for extractive operations in order to avoid future public liability for closure and reclamation

Most of us understand the need for structured rules and regulations in society intended to maintain order and prevent harm. Whether it is traffic regulation, laws regarding investment practices or municipal ordinances for snow clearing in winter months, we all live in a system that expects compliance for a variety of daily activities. When we all work to apply these requirements, then life flows smoothly with minimal inconvenience. But when even one or two individuals skirt the rules or try to make exceptions for themselves, then many other persons can be affected or even injured.

OGM field operations staff works diligently to ensure compliance by operators by instructing, informing, and advising parties regarding requirements for workmanlike energy and mineral production in Utah. But there are occasional examples where such efforts over lengthy periods of time have failed. These are the cases where enforcement actions become necessary to achieve a desired outcome. Fortunately, there are many responsible operating companies in Utah, and it is rare that OGM must proceed to enforcement action, but it remains a tool for effective compliance that is used from time to time.

Exploration and Production Waste Disposal Facilities Five-Year Plan Renewal

Oil and gas exploration and production waste disposal facilities in Utah are required by state rule R649-9-8.5.1 Bonding of Disposal Facilities to post full cost bonds for their operations by July 1, 2018. Operators must submit a completed application and estimated bond by July 1, subject to review by Division staff.

This rule was modified and approved by the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining in 2013 requiring an independent, third party review of reclamation and closure cost estimates to ensure coverage. Adequate bonding protects the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining and the state of Utah against expensive reclamation costs requiring state funds. Requiring full cost bonds ensures each step of remediation is covered including waste and equipment management, re-contouring sites, and reseeding.

The majority of exploration and production waste is handled through use of three types of waste disposal facilities permitted in the state: injection wells, evaporative ponds, and land farms. Injection wells take produced water and inject it deep into underground rock formations. Evaporative ponds are filled with produced water and then use evaporation to vaporize the water. Land farms use microorganisms in the soil to naturally biodegrade hydrocarbon contaminated soils.

Currently there are 30 permitted facilities in Utah- one in Sevier, two in San Juan, two in Grand, seven in Duchesne and 18 in Uintah counties.

Oil and gas program staff has worked to notify and remind operators of the upcoming deadline to ensure compliance by July 1 through letters and information on the Division website. Staff will follow-up with non-responsive operators in May to make certain everyone has been notified. Operators who do not post a full cost bond will have their permits revoked until the bond requirements are met.

For more information on the five-year permit renewal process, visit

Loose in the Lab Program

In 2010 the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (OGM) conducted statewide research to determine how much or how little Utahns knew about petroleum, mineral, and coal production, how the use of these natural resources impact their personal standard of living and post-mining regulations. The results indicated that there was a disconnect in what Utahns knew about their energy and mineral use highlighting an opportunity for education.

In 2011, Utah Legislators provided OGM with funding to create and implement the Utah Geology for Utah Kids- Science that Rocks! education program aimed at Utah’s fourth grade school children. The statewide school curriculum includes an earth science component at the fourth grade level making it an ideal fit. 

Bryce Hixson, owner and creator of Loose in the Lab, is the contracted instructor. He developed a four-hour teacher instruction program where teachers are taught how to teach geology using creative and fun methods. Teachers participate in hands-on demonstrations; receive guidebooks, a classroom set of student lab books, a classroom kit containing mineral specimens, and all materials necessary to conduct lab activities.

The purpose of the program is to provide an educational geology program to fourth grade classrooms each year. The goal is to provide an integrated, hands-on, science unit that incorporates learning about and understanding the rock cycle, the geologic history of Utah and its oil, gas and mineral resources. The program is designed to educate Utah’s fourth graders about the value of extracting oil, gas and mineral resources to benefit our lives while protecting the environment and acting as responsible stewards of the land.

Since the beginning of the program 1,248 fourth grade teachers from 26 of Utah’s 40 school districts, five charter schools, and the Catholic Diocese of Utah have been trained. This means that roughly 28,579 students a year are being reached with this program.  Feedback from school administrators and teachers is extremely positive. Teachers often leave the workshops feeling more confident in their abilities to teach their students geology. 

“This helped answer my questions about geology and now I feel more confident teaching it.” – Teacher Jessica Littlefield, Cache County School District.

            “This is such an amazing program! I’ve seen colleagues use it and was so jealous. The kids LOVE it!” – Teacher Lexie Blackhurst, Davis County School District.

For more information on the program, visit

Five Mile Pass Mine Shaft Closure Project

This project closed a large mine shaft opening in the Five Mile Pass area near Fairfield, Utah. This area is a very popular destination for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding due to the close proximity to the Wasatch Front.

Construction was completed by inmates from Utah Correctional Industries. This partnership provides lower cost labor to the state, while providing inmates opportunities for skill development. 

Upcoming Abandoned Mine Reclamation Projects

The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP) estimates there are 20,000 abandoned mine openings across the state. Since the program began in 1983, approximately 6,000 of those have been closed.

The AMRP prioritizes project areas for mine closures (often mining districts) using a geographic information system (GIS) model. The model analyzes factors such as the estimated number of mines, proximity to roads and nearby population, and land use to find the areas of highest risk. 

Utah has a rich mining history and provides nearly every mineral needed by our modern society, including copper, silver, and uranium. Park City, Eureka, and Moab were established by miners. When the mines no longer produced, they were often simply abandoned leaving hazardous equipment, open shafts, tunnels, and piles of waste rock. The Utah Mined Land Reclamation Act was passed in 1975, making it illegal for mines to be abandoned. In 1977, the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) was created to fund state regulatory and reclamation efforts.

SMCRA created the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund to pay for the cleanup of mine lands abandoned before 1977. The fund is financed by a tax on coal mining operations. 80 percent of AML fees are distributed to approved state programs to fund reclamation activities. Coal reclamation projects are the first priority, but hard rock (gold, nickel, lead, etc.) reclamation projects can also be eligible.

Once mine openings are identified for closure, several planning and analysis tasks come before any dirt is moved. As federally-funded projects, reclamation work is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, as well as other state and local laws. These laws require agencies to consider the effects of the project on cultural resources, threatened and endangered species, and the human environment. This entire process can take up to one year.

Once NEPA is completed, a construction contractor is selected through the Division of Purchasing bid process and construction can be scheduled.

The following is a list of upcoming AMRP projects scheduled for spring and summer this year:

  • Diamond Gulch West in Juab County will close approximately 82 mine openings on private land with backfill and rebar grates.    
  • Dutch Mountain in Tooele County will close approximately 116 mine openings on public land with backfill, masonry walls, and rebar grates.
  • Kenilworth Maintenance III in Carbon County will provide stream restoration by regrading and installing riprap in a series of check structures to reduce flow velocity.         
  • Chief One Subsidence in Juab County will use a concrete cap and approximately 23,000 cubic yards of fill material to close a large subsidence hole.
  • Factory Butte Adit in Wayne County will close one coal mine opening with a block wall and backfill.
  • Hiawatha Phase I in Carbon County will close approximately 15 coal mine portals with block walls and backfill.       
  • Honerine Portal in Tooele County will re-timber a historic mine portal on private land and install a gate to preserve cultural integrity.     
  • Poverty Flat in Sevier County will close two mine openings; one shaft with backfill and one incline with culvert and bat grate.       
  • Prince of Wales Shafts in Salt Lake County will repair three grated shafts on private land in the Wasatch Range. Helicopter support to move supplies will be required.

The AMRP’s mission is to protect the public from dangers of old mines. Mining sites can be intriguing to unsuspecting explorers but can contain dangerous gases, unstable structures and explosives. Stay Out and Stay Alive!

Tips to staying safe:

  • Stay on designated trails and routes
  • Check maps for mines before heading out, but remember that many mines aren’t mapped
  • Never enter an abandoned mine- stay out, stay alive!
  • Familiarize yourself with the landscape and know signs of mining areas (mine dumps, headframes, and old equipment)
  • Respect private property and NO TRESPASSING signs

For more information about the AMRP or for a full list of upcoming projects, visit

Employee Highlight – Spring 2018

Dayne Doucet is a petroleum engineer and was recently selected to oversee the well permitting in the oil and gas program. As the permit manager, he reviews all applications to drill (APDs) verifying requirements of the Division rules are met and that development is done responsibly.

He utilizes his engineering skills by assisting with shut-in temporarily abandoned (TA) wells, and reviews well designs. Dayne also participates in Board hearings by providing technical expertise in Division matters. He often fields questions from both the public and operators and does his best to provide answers and education on what the Division does and why.

According to Dayne, the best part of his job is the people with whom he works. Whether meeting with internal staff or working with operators in the field, he feels lucky to be involved with smart, passionate, and hardworking people. He also values working for an organization that uses responsible development, protecting public health and safety, and preserving the environment as the guiding objectives for doing business.

Dayne has worked for the Division since February 2015. Before working for the state, he worked in the oil and gas industry in Wyoming, Texas, Colorado, and Utah. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Petroleum Engineering from Montana Tech in Butte, Montana.

When Dayne isn’t working, he enjoys everything Utah Jazz, golfing, reading, fishing, and spending time with his wife and family.


Do you have a topic you’d like discussed or feedback for our staff? If so, please email We welcome your comments.

1594 West North Temple, Suite 1210
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114