Issue in Focus
Apr 20 2018
Oil is not yet associated with Utah the way it is with states like Texas or Alaska, but ever since the pioneer days, Utahns have known about the oil buried beneath our feet.
On July 11, 1847, less than two weeks before Brigham Young crossed into the Salt Lake Valley, Mormon pioneers discovered an oil seep. The incident is recorded in the diary of William Clayton, who wrote “during the day, some of the brethren discovered an oil spring about a mile south.” He later continued, “the ground is black [all] over with the oil . . . baked hard by exposure to the sun.”
The discovery of oil in 1847 was regarded as a great blessing, and indeed Utahns are still benefiting from that discovery more than 170 years later, as our houses are lit from the same reserves those pioneers used to fuel their stoves.
Today, Utah is a net energy exporter, as it has been for years. The hydrocarbon industry in Utah adds $20 billion to the Utah economy each year and supports more than 18,000 good-paying jobs.
But those are abstract statistics. What they mean in practice is that that industry helps build stronger families, schools, businesses, and communities. It means more good-paying jobs and a sense of purpose to thousands of people who might otherwise have very little opportunity – and very little hope.
But not everyone sees it that way.
I’m sure many of those activists in Washington, D.C. who are looking to keep Utah’s energy buried underground through cumbersome federal regulations are motivated by good intentions. But make no mistake, there is a very real cost to their agenda. It is a human cost as well as a financial cost.
Thankfully, the Trump administration has made it a point to clear away many harmful regulations as part of its “Energy Dominance Agenda.”
But there is an even more fundamental change that must take place if we truly want to unleash Utah’s energy potential: Namely, we need to decentralize control of energy from the federal government to the states.
Because at the end of the day, it is Utahns who get to live and work in this great state, and it should be Utahns who write the rules.
That is why I co-sponsored the ONSHORE Act. This bill would devolve control over the drilling application process to the states and would give states and tribes control of regulations for hydraulic fracturing. It would also give states’ permitting ability for oil and gas on federal land within their borders.
If the ONSHORE Act passes, it would protect and enhance the achievements of the past year and a half, and it would be one more dramatic step toward energy abundance and community security.