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Op-ed: Cost too high to pull oil, gas from Moab area

By Allan Muns

First Published Aug 01 2014 03:43 pm • Last Updated Aug 01 2014 07:11 pm

In the spirit of full disclosure, I live in Dallas and Durango, Colo., and often frequent the majestic beauty of Utah. I own oil and gas interests, and would like an energy independent America.

The state of Utah is presently in the enviable position of having both world-class energy and mineral deposits as well as being home to some of the most stunning natural beauty in the world. The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has the unenviable position of being the steward of nearly half of Utah’s land while walking a very tight rope between the interests of energy and mineral companies while preserving pristine environments.

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To the BLM’s credit, it has created a framework for assisting this balance specifically in Moab called a Master Leasing Plan (MLP); the purpose of which is to allow input from the public at large and stakeholders ranging from local government, energy and mineral companies as well as environmental groups to provide input on mineral leasing.

But can the Moab MLP succeed as the designated steward of federal lands adjacent to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks? Only time will tell. Difficult decisions require factually balanced data and a clear vision for the future.

Here are facts that the BLM might want to consider:

A recently released groundwater study of the Colorado River basin performed by NASA and the University of California­ lrvine estimates that from December 2004 through November 2013 the basin has lost 17 trillion gallons of water. This is enough to fill Lake Mead, the nation’s largest water reservoir,­ twice over. Moab is not water abundant.

Energy and mineral extraction can be highly water intensive. Fracking a single well can use from 2 to 6 million gallons of water.

The infrastructure required to develop and maintain a significant oil and gas deposit (such as that surrounding Arches and Canyonlands) requires hundreds of miles of roads, pipeline right of ways and tank facilities, all of which permanently change the surface of the land, not to mention the deterioration of air quality and noise pollution that is an inevitable result of oil and gas and potash development now being proposed in the Moab MLP area.

There is a time and a place for everything, including energy and mineral resource development. Delaying or eliminating development of oil and gas as well as potash mining is in the long-term interest of the public lands within the Moab MLP.

Technology continues to advance exponentially with respect to oil and gas development, and there is no immediate need for these resources to be developed within close proximity of natural unspoiled beauty and two National Parks. These resources are clearly not "going anywhere" and could be potentially designated by the Department of Energy as part of the government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). Should it be necessary, extracting these resources could be done in the future at considerably less cost to the environment.

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In the end, all Americans are stakeholders in the BLM Moab Master Leasing Plan and our national park system. We should hold the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy and the entire federal government accountable to make thoughtful, forward-thinking energy policy that does not permanently damage the environment and our collective quality of life. The people of Utah and all Americans need to "own" the issue of energy vs. environment. With respect to this issue and specifically the environment, we need to remember, "If you break it, you own it and you can’t put it back together again."

Allan Muns is chairman and CEO of Republic Resources Ltd. and Muns Family Partnership.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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