Director, John Baza

In October, I attended the One Utah Summit in Cedar City. It was an opportunity to discuss topics that unite us in Utah including water scarcity and resiliency, outdoor recreation, the beauty of Utah’s landscapes, economic entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency, cultural heritage, and diversity. This conference previously had the name of the Utah Rural Summit, but as the name change implies, it is a hallmark of the Cox-Henderson administration to bring all the parts of the state under the same banner of One Utah.

The concept of One Utah is just as appropriate for energy and minerals extraction in the state. We all depend on abundant and affordable energy supplies and mineral resources that come from the earth. Even renewable sources of power, such as wind and solar, rely on materials derived from mined products at some point – whether it is the towers and blades that compose windmills or the minerals that end up in solar panels. In rural Utah, not only do we depend on the same consumer products of fuel and manufactured goods, but local economies are supported by industrial jobs and the service sector that is built around vibrant business activity.

It is easy to align ourselves with one faction or another in a political landscape. It allows us to disregard those sectors of society that do not comport with our views of the world. But the concept of One Utah is constructive by nature. By acknowledging and embracing our interdependence, we can build relationships, partnerships, and collaborations that provide benefit to Utahns wherever we reside. Our mutual successes in society are based on establishing and maintaining good working relationships in all corners of the state.


Director, John Baza

Utah’s current drought conditions have raised public awareness toward water scarcity and water conservation by water users. It highlights the importance of protecting all potential water supplies both on the surface and underground.

Division staff takes these principles very seriously in our work to regulate and require responsible development of the state’s underground energy and mineral resources. It takes water to develop energy resources and it takes energy resources to develop water.

The Energy-Water Nexus is well-recognized by both the private sector and policymakers in government. Division staff belongs to the national association of state oil/gas and water regulators known as the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) that has established itself as a knowledge-based organization dedicated to protecting the nation’s groundwater resources, especially as it relates to the extraction of underground petroleum resources. The association is non-profit and is organized into work groups and committees that produce valuable information regarding hydraulic fracture stimulation in the oil and gas industry, produced water reuse, aquifer storage and recovery, source water protection, carbon capture utilization and storage, and groundwater data collection and management.

GWPC is holding its annual forum at the Sheraton Hotel in Salt Lake City on September 27 – 29. Subject matter experts and representatives from state regulatory agencies nationwide will convene to provide presentations and discuss pertinent information to the overall concept of the Energy-Water Nexus. The event is not only timely for Utah and other western states as drought conditions worsen, but it is also the first in-person meeting of the GWPC after two years of virtual meetings and conferences.

For more information about the 2021 GWPC Annual Forum in Salt Lake City, visit


John Baza, Director, Division of Oil Gas and Mining

Two news articles caught my attention this past month. The first one described a proposed lithium mine in northern Nevada. Lithium is a key component used for large storage batteries in electric vehicles and for energy storage.

Of main concern was the potential impacts to nearby rural communities including traffic, noise, nighttime lighting, air and water quality, and the effect that an influx of numerous workers would have on rural communities. These same impacts could play out at other sites throughout the western U.S. and in Utah where lithium deposits may be found.

If the dream of an electric vehicle transportation fleet is to become reality, these impacts must be addressed.

The second article was an opinion piece by Mr. Thom Carter, Energy Advisor to Governor Spencer Cox, who wrote about the need for extractive energy and mining operations to keep an “all of the above” energy mix of renewable and non-renewable energy projects active in Utah. He provided the message that “keep it in the ground” was not possible if we wish to produce the critical minerals necessary to manufacture solar panels, wind turbines, and all the energy storage and power transmission infrastructure to keep renewable energy moving. His premise is that “advocating for renewable energy sources also means maintaining, if not expanding, our mining infrastructure.” I totally agree with his point of view.

The bottom line is that the development of renewable and non-renewable energy and the production of critical minerals is not a zero-sum scenario vis-à-vis the importance of climate change, public land management, environmental impacts, or economic benefits to rural communities. It is not one or the other of two competing alternatives, because the goal of a more livable world for people relies on those materials that we can extract from the earth. All considerations must be weighed in the balance to produce the best possible outcome for Utah citizens.

Division of Oil, Gas and Mining staff attempts to perform its regulatory function in this manner. We do not pick winners and losers in the extractive industries based on political or ideological preference. Our decision-making on permit approvals and compliance enforcement are science and logic-based and designed to achieve acceptable outcomes for responsible development. I truly believe that we can find innovative solutions to many of the challenges facing humanity as we work collaboratively to achieve a better quality of life through energy and mineral development.


John Baza, Director, Division of Oil Gas and Mining

New years are always a time for transition and renewal, and boy, do we need some renewal after the last year! Now is a time to look forward with hope and commitment to seeing better days ahead.

We have worked hard this past year not only to keep the machine of government humming, but to move faster and farther down the road of progress than before. Some notable accomplishments include:

  • Shortly after in-person office work was curtailed in March, we used electronic tools previously developed to move seamlessly into a new remote workplace.
  • Electronic permitting and reporting have been in place for several years
    allowing continued interaction with the regulated community with very few hiccups.
  • Division field inspectors were able to extend their reach with remote work processes for
    collecting data and recording information on our databases.
  • Staff implemented new tools for prioritizing workloads, inspection frequency, and monitoring
    conditions in areas of higher concern.
  • Board of Oil, Gas and Mining hearings are being held remotely for both Board members and participants. Meetings have been held in a hybrid in-person/electronic format for several years, so the transition was relatively simple.

Many have questioned the need to return to a fully in-person workplace as we have seen
benefits of more efficient communication between managers and staff, employees working
within their own flexible schedules, and the improvements in air quality. At some point, we will likely return to a hybrid telework scenario with fewer employees onsite, but still deriving the benefits of remote work.

Recognizing that we are also faced with a transition of governmental administration in
Washington DC, the new year brings substantial uncertainty for the extent of new federal
policy and the impact of those changes on Utah’s economy and quality of life. The commitment
from Division staff to continue meeting our responsibilities is unwavering. We will continue to ensure
responsible development of our underground energy and mineral resources while protecting
the public health, safety and welfare and preserving the environment. We like to think that our
efforts will continue regardless of who is in White House, and our processes for continuous
improvement will forge ahead.


John Baza, Director, Division of Oil Gas and Mining

As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun.  I don’t think that “fun” aptly describes 2020, but it is hard to grasp that it has been nearly a year since the Office of the Legislative Auditor General published its audit report of the Division’s Oil and Gas Program – and truly time has flown. 

Including work that was in process at the time the audit was released in November 2019, it has been a busy 12-14 months for the program.  Although government audits do not often highlight the positives and they are usually difficult to endure, I have to admit that Division staff rolled up their sleeves and went to work addressing the recommendations of the audit. 

Below is a summary of some of the valuable accomplishments achieved over the past year.  Each of the following items included several subparts that are worth digging into in detail, but to keep things brief, this summary is at a fairly high level.

  • Improved Compliance Workflow – non-compliance issues can now be addressed in a timely manner using database upgrades and implementing an automated electronic compliance process to simplify tracking, streamline administrative process, and incentivize the regulated community toward compliance.
  • Prioritization Modules – data driven software provides real-time information to staff in determining critical priorities for field inspection and personnel deployment.
  • Filling key staff positions – including additional field operations monitoring staff as well as Salt Lake based technical staff for reviewing proposals and compliance tracking.
  • Performance metrics – again applying technology to ensure data-driven decision making as well as tracking key indicators of both operator compliance and OGM staff effectiveness.
  • Updating bonding requirements – a status report of current bonding has been briefed with the governing Board of Oil, Gas and Mining, and new rules to update bonding requirements have been drafted and will proceed through Division development and stakeholder review in accordance with time frames established by the legislature.

But that’s not all.  The Division has been just as busy carrying out the work of its other programs in regulating mineral mining and coal mining along with safeguarding hazards associated with legacy abandoned mines in the state.  Along with the day-to-day work of the Division, our Board has been active in conducting monthly electronic hearings and finalizing work on various rulemakings that were deemed important. 

Even through the challenges of remote work, the past year has been productive and it is due largely to the dedicated state employees who work for the Division.  I am grateful for their effort and commitment.


John Baza, Director, Division of Oil Gas and Mining

There is an often-quoted statement by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that reads, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” This concept is difficult to understand and accept during times of severe suffering and sacrifice such as what the world has experienced the past few months.

However, there is value to the knowledge gained during difficult trials.  New growth can occur, and organizations can improve and achieve positive outcomes given the lessons learned and enough subsequent effort.

We have all had to quickly adjust to a “new normal.” Virtual meetings, masks, social distancing and limited human interaction have created new challenges, but it has also allowed us to analyze ways to be more efficient and prioritize how work gets done. While staff in the office is limited, we are all maintaining good electronic communication and ensuring that field inspections continue, permits are issued and dangerous abandoned mine openings safeguarded.

We hope this pandemic ends soon, but until then, Division of Oil, Gas and Mining staff is committed to maintaining a high level of service that ensures responsible development of Utah’s energy and mineral resources, while protecting public safety and the environment.


John Baza, Director, Division of Oil Gas and Mining

Recent events have created an extremely challenging set of conditions in Utah and throughout the world. The global pandemic is changing the way of life for many and it is difficult to predict how long the effects will continue. 

The extractive industries have not been immune and are facing unprecedented times. Oil prices are at historic lows due to the reduction in travel and political disagreement among petroleum producing countries. Utah petroleum operators are struggling to keep production flowing even as consumers see some of the lowest gasoline prices in years.

Oil and gas production plays a vital role to Utah’s economy by providing energy-related jobs, boosting local businesses and generating oil and gas tax revenues. The Division’s budget relies heavily on monies generated from a conservation tax, which is 0.002 or 20 cents for every $100 of produced value of crude oil or natural gas. We will need assistance from policymakers to help maintain our role of ensuring responsible development of resources, while protecting citizens from the adverse impacts of development.

Even though production will temporarily decrease, there are over 16,000 wells statewide and 30 disposal facilities that need to be inspected. As the economics of the extractive industries decline, operators may limit resources to maintain facilities or go out of business entirely. Oil and Gas Program inspectors will continue inspecting sites to prevent any harm to people or the environment.

The Division supports the environmentally responsible development of essential petroleum resources with a commitment to public safety, needs and education. Staff is committed to protecting the environment through the regulatory processes that monitor responsible energy development.


John Baza, Director, Division of Oil Gas and Mining

Few people in the modern United States have had to live with a lack of energy supplies.  Even as a student in the mid-1970s and facing the inconvenience of lines at the gasoline station, I still had access to fuel and energy. Today much of the world’s population still does not have access to electricity. The International Energy Agency reports that in 2018, 860 million people in the world did not have access to electricity, and over 2.6 billion people did not have access to clean cooking fuels. Energy poverty is very real to nearly 1 billion people on our planet.

Today much of the world’s population still does not have access to electricity. The International Energy Agency reports that in 2018, 860 million people in the world did not have access to electricity, and over 2.6 billion people did not have access to clean cooking fuels. Energy poverty is very real to nearly 1 billion people on our planet.

When people do not have adequate energy fuels, they may spend hours each day gathering resources simply to cook. Often times, this job is left to women and children which curtails their basic survival needs or opportunities for education. There are also negative impacts on human health and safety, whether it’s the need for one street light for safety in a small African village or electricity for a regional clinic to help the sick.

Imagine what our lives would be without access to electricity or safe, clean cooking/heating fuels- cold showers in the winter, sweating in the summer heat, inability to find or cook food, walking or biking everywhere, not to mention no cell phones and computers. We are very fortunate to have such comforts and would be wise not to take these conveniences for granted.

I am thankful that I can be engaged in the important public service of facilitating responsible development of energy and minerals for the benefit of people in Utah and beyond our state’s borders. It may make only slight difference for those human beings who are trapped in situations of energy poverty, but it can increase the quality of life for those who benefit from such resources.  And maybe in a small way, those benefits can trickle down to solve human problems throughout the world.

Message from Director John Baza – Fall 2019

Director, John Baza

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining’s (OGM) Oil and Gas Program recently underwent a legislative audit completed by the Office of the Legislative Auditor General. Audit results, as well as the division’s response are available at OGM.Utah.Gov/Audit.

In an effort to sustain a culture of compliance, the division has created an action plan to improve regulatory responsibilities, prioritization, oversight of inspections and financial management. The actions will allow for better enforcement, refine program and employee performance metrics and update existing administrative bonding rules as recommended by the audit.

We are taking this audit very seriously. It has been a painful process to see where we have fallen short, but we are dedicated to improving our leadership, culture and expectations. Utahns need to know that we are protecting public safety and the environment while performing our jobs as oil and gas regulators. This audit gives us guidance on how to better fulfill that mission.

The Division is grateful for the time and effort the Legislative Auditor’s Office put into identifying opportunities for improvement within our Oil and Gas Program.

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.