It was inappropriate for Gov. Gary Herbert to pressure SITLA into postponing the Book Cliffs lease. Because of his pressure, rural communities in eastern Utah lose an enormous economic opportunity.
Leasing the Book Cliffs to oil and gas interests will create jobs in rural communities with struggling economies. In January 2013, Herbert signed a letter from governors in the United States and Canada to President Obama urging the president to "move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline project." Now, just nine months after telling the president to "drill, baby, drill," it's hypocritical for Herbert to turn to schoolchildren and rural communities and say "not in my backyard."
Herbert's interference makes me wonder what kind of pressure was put on SITLA to postpone the Book Cliffs lease? Did the governor make SITLA promises that helped sweeten the deal? As a long-time Utah Democrat, I have to wonder, was this just another back-room deal struck amongst Utah Republicans?
What we need now is for Utahns to realize the benefit of a SITLA lease to themselves and their children. We need real dialogue between rural stakeholders, SITLA and Herbert about the benefits of a Book Cliff lease.