Message from Director John Baza – Fall 2017

Many communities in Utah recently underwent municipal elections in which local citizens were engaged in choosing their local government representatives. As I considered who I would vote for, I felt that who I voted for was not as important as what I saw as significant issues in my community that needed to be addressed. Regardless of what the issues may have been, I wanted to know where individuals stood on those issues, and I wanted to vote for the person who could passionately represent my interests in those issues.

City government leadership should be focused on those things that matter most to their community’s citizens. Ordinances and policies will differ from community to community dependent on the opinions of a majority of the residents of any particular city. However, as the size of the community increases, more issues are in play, and the community’s majority opinion may differ substantially from certain individuals who have a minority viewpoint. As one philosopher once stated, “the good of the many outweigh the good of the few.”

It is the same in state government. The substantially large population base leads to diverse opinions and differing views on everything from medical care to land use to transportation. As citizens, we hope that our concerns are adequately reflected by the efforts of our elected officials and in turn by those appointed and employed by state leaders in their various functions. Occasionally, however, there are differences of opinion between majority and minority interests that are seemingly unfair to those individuals whose lives are affected by state policy and implementation of administrative rules.

In the development of the energy and mineral resources of Utah, this is an ongoing discussion with substantial differences of opinion. The charge of the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining is to foster and encourage responsible development of Utah’s underground energy and mineral resources. We must do so with adherence to the governing statutes established by the legislature, and to the administrative rules adopted by our governing Board of Oil, Gas and Mining. In some cases, the application of such laws and rules seems unfair to various parties such as the developers, adjacent landowners, community activists, or members of the unconnected but observing public. Some may never fully agree with the decisions made by DOGM, but they should know that we will always abide by the statutes and rules established for petroleum and mining operations.

Ultimately, each citizen has the right to petition for a change in law or administrative rule to either the legislature or an administrative board such as ours. This is the process by which state policy is changed and interested parties have the ability to achieve correction in policy that affects them. But it must be remembered in the policy changing process that both elected and appointed officials will generally need to seek the good of the many that may contradict the good of the few.