By Robert Gehrke | The Salt Lake Tribune
(Editor’s note: Opinion pieces are published for discussion purposes only.)
Congratulations, Utahns. You have a stake in a nice plot of land. A lot of it, actually.
The state of Utah owns about 5.5 million acres of forests, waterways, mountains, hills, parks, prairies and, yeah, a fair amount of arid desert.
Some of it is spectacular to look at, some of it fun to play on, some of it essential to our livelihoods and some of it worth a lot of money because of the oil, gas and minerals underneath it.
But as Utah residents, we entrust our state officials to care for it, manage it effectively and, as Gov. Gary Herbert put it, “through careful deliberation … identify the most responsible stewardship for our varied lands.”
It’s an essential exercise because these lands are not simply ours. They also belong to the next generation and all of the ones that will follow.
That’s why an audit this week that found an astounding lack of oversight of oil and gas operations should be troubling to all of us.
The mission statement for the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining — or DOGM — states that it “regulates and ensures industry compliance and site restoration while facilitating oil, gas and mining activities.” But, as the audit makes clear, it is failing miserably.
Not once in the past 24 years could the division identify a single fine levied against companies drilling on state land. Not once.