Crude reality: North Dakota oil boom has Utah envying its surplus green

State officials see federal control as blocking source of revenue, education funding

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  • joeandrade Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 9:22 p.m.

    Thanks for a comprehensive and well written story.

    The major issue not addressed is CO2 and methane production and climate change, which Herbert and apparently Stewart (both of them, Cody and Chris) continue to ignore.

    Every major fossil fuel energy firm is now including a significant carbon fee or tax in its short and long range planning. As soon as there is even a modest fee on carbon, practically all fracking-based and shale-based energy 'sources' will be economically non-competitive.
    Another BUST for Vernal and the Uinta Basin - and likely an even greater BUST for North Dakota.

    Federal Lands are our greatest asset - not for energy production but for tourism and recreation. Most of the nation understands that - and our kids understand it. It's only our so-called 'leaders' still programmed by 19th century thinking and economics who are clueless.

    Let's get them unelected before they further ruin our wonderful state.

  • A Guy With A Brain Enid, OK
    Jan. 16, 2014 5:13 p.m.

    Ahhhh.....I see the environmentalists are here in full force.

    I worked a government job once that involved building on a piece of ground that had at one time (over 40 years ago) been a skeet range on an Air Force base. The (mandatory) environmental survey found that there were "traces" of lead found in the soil samples. We weren't drilling water wells or planting crops on the land, we were building a building for an Army National Guard unit. But the "trace" amounts of lead-contaminated soil had to be dug up and removed. Then, because the soil was deemed "contaminated" it had to be disposed of in a special way and taken to a special place for "hazardous" material. My beef with all this was that A) we weren't going to build or do anything on the land that involved ingesting the soil or the water that leeched down through the soil and B) that same soil had been sitting there for 40 years and hadn't hurt anybody.

    But build a government building on it?

    Oh, nooooo.

    The environmentalist people ran the show on that and it costs us (taxpayers) hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Utter nonsense.

  • A Guy With A Brain Enid, OK
    Jan. 16, 2014 5:02 p.m.

    I'm for:

    - oil (in our borders and off-shore drilling, too)
    - wind
    - solar
    - nuclear

    Anything that will get us OFF foreign oil!

    I am not for ethanol. Why grind food into fuel, especially given the undisputed fact that it costs more (in energy) to make the ethanol than just the standard oil-based gasoline? Ethanol uses up more energy than it produces. Go look it up. Plus, I know the environmentalists typically go ga-ga for ethanol since it's a 'green' fuel, but how can they justify eliminating food for all those people trapped in poverty? I'm pretty sure that between fuel and food, those that struggle for money would rather have something to eat.

  • Happy Valley Heretic Orem, UT
    Jan. 14, 2014 8:26 a.m.

    Utah BLM currently administers over 3,800 oil and gas leases, containing approximately 4.3 million acres of land.
    Approximately 17 million acres are available (open under standard stipulations, special terms or conditions or no surface occupancy), and 5 million acres are withdrawn due to wilderness study areas, national monument or withdrawal through existing land use plans.

    But they want more.

    Big difference between oil sand and oil slate, I believe Utah is oil slate.
    Look at the Uintah Basin on google earth south of the highway looks like
    a city with no homes just the cleared lots, looks like ant hills completely
    peppering the landscape

  • endoftimes Vernal, UT
    Jan. 13, 2014 6:43 p.m.

    @ Kings Court

    Take another look. A company based in Oklahoma City is currently producing 75000+ barrels of oil per day with NO open pit mining. There are other companies using old technology and open mining, but the future is in the Jackfish projects. Don't believe every place the great google takes you.

  • kiddsport Fairview, UT
    Jan. 13, 2014 2:31 p.m.

    May I remind you that the Federal Government, according to the constitution, is "We, the People." Rights of ownership, and State's Rights, go hand in glove. The Federal Government doesn't "own" anything. In all legal aspects, the Federal Government acts on behalf of "the people of the United States." People who resided in the Utah Territory, the "Mexican Session," and those who later migrated to those lands did not lose their citizen's right to equal representation merely by geographical incidence.

  • kiddsport Fairview, UT
    Jan. 13, 2014 2:17 p.m.

    A very lively discussion here with excellent points on both sides. I understand the concern over Federal control over State control. I find it hard to accept that individual control over Federal actions is more effective than individual control over State or local actions. I imagine I could influence a county commissioner who lives in my neighborhood much easier than I could some bureaucrat in a Federal agency. I agree with those who believe the control should be equally divided three ways- a third to Federal, a third to State, and a third to local officials- just as the constitution designs checks and balances.

    As far as per capita spending on student performance, Utah's high student achievement has shown it's not the amount of money you spend on education so much as the emphasis our local society places on the importance of education. If you take a statistical look nationwide, at some point, there is an inverse relationship between the per student outlay and achievement. It's because of the focus on the wrong factor.

    Jan. 13, 2014 12:54 p.m.

    Be it resolved that whenever a US Territory attains statehood that all Federally owned lands therein revert to said State in perpetuity!

  • What in Tucket? Provo, UT
    Jan. 13, 2014 9:58 a.m.

    How about a little cut for the citizens like they do in Alaska? Is anyone taking contributions to foil more wells from Saudi Arabia?

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Jan. 13, 2014 9:00 a.m.

    Want to see what shale oil development in Alberta looks like. Use a satellite viewing website and look for Ft. MacMurray, Alberta, Canada and see what you find.

    It looks small until you zoom in and start watching the distance scale at the corner of your screen.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    Jan. 13, 2014 8:44 a.m.

    Turning Utah into ND will end UT's state religion and predominant Mormon culture.

  • Zaruski SLC, UT
    Jan. 13, 2014 8:00 a.m.

    Pff what a joke. We can't hand over our public lands to be pillaged, polluted and destroyed in the name of astronomical private profits, boo hoo.

    Companies in ND are having a heyday up there. And the rest of the folks are enjoying burst pipelines, polluted rivers and aquifers, fiery train crashes.

    And the regulators are refusing to do anything about it. There has been anything from dozens of unreported spills to building wells and pipelines without a license. When asked, the agency in charge simply stated that they would not bring charges in those instances because if they did, it would inhibit other companies from setting up shop in ND. Yep. That's what we need here in Utah.

    Tell you what though. I have a couple of acquaintances who have moved up there because of their oil boom. Apparently, Mickey D's pays something like $17/hr. And their burgers DON'T cost $50 a pop. Somehow, ND Mickey D's figured out how to stay profitable even while paying their employees a (near) living wage. Shocking.

  • ParkCityAggie Park City, Ut
    Jan. 12, 2014 8:12 p.m.

    In other words, we want the Federal Government to give up it's land, that they paid for when then purchased it from Mexico (again, remember the treaty of Hidalgo? Yes I bring it up ad nauseam for a reason) so that the State GOP can enrich the coffers of their constituents (and thus themselves). Yea, great idea, and all under the guise of more money for schools, which there is no guarantee of. Also, tar sands oil, much like what they are extracting out of the ground in Canada, is not used for energy production. It's used for plastics and they sell most of it to China! So we're to believe that our government would like to extract tar sands oil out of our pristine federal lands for "energy extraction" that will make us the next North Dakota? Not buying it. By the way, ever seen what happens when a tar sands pipe bursts? Its not like regular crude oil, just ask the folk in Michigan who spent 1 billion cleaning up a tar sands spill there!

  • Demo Dave Holladay, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 8:08 p.m.

    When it comes to energy, we have painted ourselves into a corner and there is nowhere left to go. Sure, we can continue to drill and burn our way into the future, and someone will make a lot of money on the journey, but the fact is that it will all run out - the oil and the money and the land we destroyed to get it. Then what?

    What are we doing to ensure that there is something else with which to heat our homes and run our cars when the oil is gone? For that matter, what right do we have as Americans, comprising only 5% of the world's population, to consume 20% of its oil? This has to stop, folks, and it has to stop now!

  • Al Vernal, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 7:38 p.m.

    To add more to my recent post, we here in the Uintah Basin are the ones most impacted by the energy industry. Our roads, our schools, our businesses, etc. We have the most to gain and the most to lose. Yet the state of Utah takes the largest chunk of the funds provided because of the extraction industry for itself. I do find it a bit hypocritical for the state politicians complain about Utah not being treated fairly, (which is true) and then treat the Uintah Basin the exact same way they are treated by the federal government. The resources generated by the Basin should primarily stay in the Basin and not be swallowed up by the state legislature.

  • Al Vernal, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 7:29 p.m.

    Many commenters on this thread have absolutely no idea of modern energy extraction but hold to their outdated notions told to them by SUWA, the Sierra Club, and their friends in the federal government east of the Mississippi. There can be no question that windmills are much more of an eye-sore than are the oil rigs here in the Basin.

    SUWA and friends have convinced the unlearned that the oil rigs are going up in the middle of the beautiful red rock formations. Not so. The oil patch is not of particular beauty to anyone. I grew up on the San Rafael Swell and know what beautiful deserts look like and am in favor of preserving the beauty of those areas. Energy extraction is not, nor will not, happen there. If you give the local people the control, then you will have the perfect balance. We don't want the problems of out-of-control growth, we live here. We do want a good economy, good schools, and responsible growth. The federal government and SUWA don't care about the Uintah Basin, I DO.

  • sherlock holmes Eastern, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 4:31 p.m.

    Seems the posters are a little cautious about energy growth today.

    The Uintah Basin has seen times where there was little going on, and it has seen times when there was a lot going on. They prefer the latter, but a hundred miles.

    The Bakken is hardly like the Basin. Not comparable from a social, public infrastructure standpoint. Vernal and Roosevelt have much to offer new residents, and not just good jobs. Good economies make it possible to have good streets, schools, recreation, even a public busing system for those without transportation.

    I, for one, hope that 2014 offers as nice a year for the energy sector, and all those associated with it, as did 2013.

  • Kings Court Alpine, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 4:28 p.m.


    Use google and look up images for the Canadian Tar Sands in Alberta. You paint a rosy picture of the area. The pictures tell the real story. It is an environmental disaster. It is a 100% strip mining operation.

  • *Pixie* Roosevelt, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 2:53 p.m.

    As a resident of the beautiful place that just happens to be sitting on top of all that oil & gas, I can't believe that anyone in our state government want a "North Dakota" type situation occurring in the Uintah Basin.

    Seriously, it's not about the greenbacks all the time. Besides, the money never stays; it's a use it up and leave type situation.

    If the leaders of Utah were truly smart (a long shot, I know) they'd encourage slow growth and development over no-holds barred, whatever you want growth. They'd encourage safe practices rather than dangerous ones. They would advance more varied business models to coast through the boom & bust cycle that is a known factor of energy production. They'd encourage reformation rather than destruction.

    And number one, they'd be all for preserving the beauty that makes Utah truly unique. And that does not include oil rigs and pipelines, dusty roads and heavy truck traffic, dirty air and dirty water, and dumps filled with toxic waste.

    Nobody is going to want to live in North Dakota once all the energy companies have totally ruined it.

  • BU52 Provo, ut
    Jan. 12, 2014 1:21 p.m.

    The mentality that those bureaucrats in D.C. are so much wiser than allowing local control of the resources cracks me up. When did those far away people of the Leviathan become so wise as to control our resources....But no matter. I would argue that we just sit on the resources because when the Federal government collapses under it's collective wisdom ($17 trillion and counting) we might need some energy to take care of our own.

  • dustmagnet heber city, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 1:14 p.m.

    Please watch the documentary "Gasland" or "Gasland 2" to see what the oil companies are doing to destroy lives and the environment with gas exploration.

    Jan. 12, 2014 11:34 a.m.

    It would be wonderful for the state to be able to access at least some of these resources. I, like others commenting on this board have little confidence that the additional funds would actually flow to education or heaven forbid air and water quality issues.

    Also, does anyone else find it ironic that the photo on an article (about the state's inability to get its hand on additional carbon fuels)shows the state official peering out at the salt lake valley, and because of the pollution can't even see the bottom of the hill?

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 11:16 a.m.

    Do we envy the oil spills, as well?

    When does leadership factually put a value on the lives of it's citizens…

    over profit?

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 10:25 a.m.

    @endoftimes. I personally do not think windmills are an eyesore and are a great auxiliary energy source for the gird. As far as the horizontal method you talked about does some better than open pit mining but i do not think the first tar sands mine in utah is doing that.

    My real problem is the way the state would handle the energy extraction. It wouldn't go to education because at the end of the day the republicans in this state hate public education. A portion of the extraction revenues wouldn't go to the citizens, where it rightly belongs. So the only option left is total exploitation by the energy companies and the state at the expense of the citizens of this state.

  • FT salt lake city, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 10:03 a.m.

    As someone who does business in North Dakota I suggest people familarize themeselves with the other issues that oil development brought them. Violent crime, drugs, prostitution, poor development, increased pollution and enironmental issues. Many North Dakotans will tell you life was so much better before the boom. As Aladdin told Jafar, "you wanted it, and everything that goes along with".

  • justamacguy Manti, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 10:03 a.m.

    I can't believe that there are people that say the education system will suffer if the state makes more money? Your sure not going to get you money at the current status of the states income. The education system will alway use our children to cry for more money. If Utah could use it's mineral resources, at least your education system could be underfunds at a much higher dollar amount.

  • endoftimes Vernal, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 9:37 a.m.


    Take a look at Alberta, Canada's tar sands method of producing this oil. The newest technology uses drilled holes horizontally under ground into the formation. The sands are heated by steam and other methods, then pumped to the surface. There is no open pit mining involved.

    As far as damaging the environmental damage, conventional oil production locations are 2 to 5 acres for up to 10 well, thanks to new technologies in horizontal drilling. The footprint of these locations are minimal. Flying across the nation, the most notable environmental eyesores are those ridiculous windmills, visible from 35000 feet and by the way very inefficient in producing electricity.

  • grj Bountiful, ut
    Jan. 12, 2014 9:33 a.m.

    @ Kings Court

    North Dakota is not a "Rocky Mountain" State, nor is Texas. The article clearly stated explorationists take their investment dollars elsewhere from Utah because it takes so long for a permit to be approved on Federal lands here. Raising taxes usually sounds like a good idea until you look behind the numbers, and in this case such a move would further serve to keep oil and gas investment money out of Utah.

  • NeilT Clearfield, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 9:12 a.m.

    The energy boom in ND has brought an influx of new residents with it's resulting increases in crime and lack of housing. I have a nephew working in ND. He is driving 100 miles one way to work. Remember the energy boom of the seventies. Rock Springs Wyoming was the wild wild west. Crime was rampant. The oil industry can attract a very rough and transient crowd. Be careful what you wish for.

  • Owen Heber City, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 8:14 a.m.

    Shale gas vs. shale oil: apples and oranges. The tech does not exist or it would be used all over the world. Check out Canadian efforts and their impact.

    North Dakota's plains vs. Utah's desert: apples and dodo birds. No offense, but once Utah's desert is industrialized, there are no replacements. Check out aerial photos of the Bakken field for a hint at what it takes.

  • hnoel Layton, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 8:05 a.m.

    North Dakota is not exactly a tourism "Mecca."....Utah is. Irresponsible energy development will cripple, if not destroy our tourism industry -- the largest in the state. It will also cripple if not destroy our own living conditions and enjoyment of the great outdoor offerings in the state. We currently have energy development in Utah, and it would be irresponsible to not take advantage of our natural resources ---RESPONSIBLY. Right now, developers must "fight" and make the case for their developments. This is as it should be. Putting all of our land into the hands of our legislature will, of course make it easier for developers, but will give us unbounded development. By any measurement, there will always be a limit to the amount of energy that can be mined, fracked, drilled, etc. Our tourism will last forever -- if we don't destroy it. Simply put, Many of us don't trust our legislature to be responsible when it comes development. They have proven time and time again that development is the most important activity on their agenda.

  • dustmagnet heber city, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 6:57 a.m.

    Why should the Feds trust the State to manage these resources. Look at how the State manages it's water and air!

  • snowyphile Jemez Springs, NM
    Jan. 12, 2014 6:48 a.m.

    'Last-frontier' rhetoric. But Utah takes advantage of the ACA, thank goodness.

  • dustmagnet heber city, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 6:38 a.m.

    There are other ways to increase funding to education - it just takes a commitment in order to do it rather than an excuse to not do it!
    Just as there are ways to decrease the air and water pollution in this State - sadly no one seems to want to do anything "Substantive" to accomplish this.
    Some States, for example, use lottery proceeds to help fund education. Voluntary fund revenue.
    There seems to be an attitude prevailing in this State of "talk", "laws", and not doing anything to truly improve quality of life by "enacting and enforcing". Thus you have the plundering and profiteering occurring here.

    Increase the permit fees for polluting companies and channel that excess into education, is one possibility. Discourage pollution and encourage education.

    Jan. 12, 2014 4:49 a.m.

    North Dakota's boom comes at a great price (see Casselton, North Dakota). The Department of transportation has already sent out advisories on oil that has been recovered by fracking, and it's potential explosive nature. San Francisco is already fighting the plan to move the oil there in mile long trains (that will go through Northern Utah). Like all boom eras it will end, leaving a mess in it's wake.

    One of Utah's main attractions for business is it's recreation and open spaces. We will lose that if the state takes control and sells off the land. (and you know they will) Then selling Utah, land of the nuclear waste dump, will be impossibile.

  • Epinephrine Grand Forks, ND
    Jan. 12, 2014 1:35 a.m.

    Being a North Dakotan resident, it is amazing the wealth, jobs, and services oil has brought to the people living here. Also, I do believe the oil boom has brought more to education to North Dakota as well. For instance, this past legislature just approved a brand new medical school that costs $124 million. Millions are being poured into buildings that are being built and redone in colleges around the state.

    Along with this oil extraction comes investments in renewable energy as well. For instance, regulators just approved a 200 MW wind farm. This wind power allows North Dakota to power 15% of the state.

    Hopefully, Utah will be able to harness some of this oil. There are many benefits I am personally enjoying by moving to North Dakota. But not the cold!

  • endoftimes Vernal, UT
    Jan. 12, 2014 12:25 a.m.

    Earlier this year the Uinta Basin held an oil and gas symposium in Vernal. The presentations varied from tar sands to air quality to transportation issues. Governor Herbert spoke to the audience of about 500 regarding the future of the oil and gas industry in the Uinta Basin. He spoke on that subject for about 2 minutes, while the remainder of his 20 minute speech was directed to the many executives of various oil and gas companies to relocate their head quarters to Salt Lake City. That would be great for the Wasatch front, however the real nightmarish problem is transportation. Anyone who travels from SLC to Vernal find hundreds of oil tankers per day going both directions on mostly two lane highways. UDOT is conducting studies to improve the highway system, but as we know such studies take years to complete, not to mention the construction design and implementation. I agree that the Basin has largely been ignored, but the income to the State is enormous from oil and gas royalties.

    Had the Governor drove to Vernal on highway 40 rather than fly the state plane, he would have witnessed firsthand how large this issue is.

  • endoftimes Vernal, UT
    Jan. 11, 2014 11:37 p.m.


    Take a look at Alberta, Canada's tar sands method of producing this oil. The newest technology uses drilled holes horizontally under ground into the formation. The sands are heated by steam and other methods, then pumped to the surface. There is no open pit mining involved.

    As far as damaging the environmental damage, conventional oil production locations are 2 to 5 acres for up to 10 wells, thanks to new technologies in horizontal drilling. The footprint of these locations are minimal. Flying across the nation, the most notable environmental eyesores are those ridiculous windmills, visible from 35000 feet and by the way very inefficient in producing electricity.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Jan. 11, 2014 11:08 p.m.

    Plus, let's just say North Dakota is North Dakota...

  • Kings Court Alpine, UT
    Jan. 11, 2014 9:38 p.m.

    Utah could do more right now. Out of the Rocky Mountain states, Utah has some of the smallest severance taxes on mineral extraction. Utah is practically giving money away to the fossil fuel industry. I'm not sure what more energy extraction will do for Utah because they will just give that away too. For instance, Texas has a severance tax of 7.5% on its oil extraction while Utah has 3% tax on the value up to $13 per barrel, then it rises to 5%. North Dakota charges a flat 6.5% on all oil extraction.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 11, 2014 9:03 p.m.

    "...critics of the movement assert that the vast Utah landscapes controlled by a D.C. landlord are the reason Utah enjoys a $6 billion outdoor recreation economy. Giving state or local government control of that acreage would leave it pillaged, plunging the state's most prized and pristine areas into an abyss of environmental abuses."
    Yes, as we've recently seen regarding the "proper" interpretation of marriage and the decree by a Federal Judge that Utah's citizens, as declared in their constitution, don't have it right, we see here that our Federal overlords also know the "proper" usage of the land Utah.

    I suppose, if nothing else, it gives us a little more empathy for the Indian populations that once lived and dominated the land here in Utah, and the rest of America for that matter.

    Nevertheless, more empathy with the Indians or not, as a tax-paying citizen of Utah it doesn't make me feel any better to have a Federal boot on my neck.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    Jan. 11, 2014 6:24 p.m.

    It is comical that state leaders and the legislature use education as the reason to have access to these lands. How many times has a republican in this state said that throwing more money at education doesn't necessarily provide a better result.

    Also the oil in North Dakota is actual oil in a liquid form that just has to be pumped to the surface with minimal damage to the environment . Our vast energy is locked up in oil shale which has to be mined. This would be like having Kennecott open style mines every where in this state.

  • RichardB Murray, UT
    Jan. 11, 2014 5:54 p.m.

    Utah's education system will always be underfunded. It's not a priority of our legislature.