“We are pleased a mutually beneficial agreement could be reached,” said Governor Gary R. Herbert. “By being willing to listen and respond to stakeholder concerns, Anadarko is once again demonstrating it is a responsible corporate citizen and one of the more socially conscious energy producers in the nation.”
“We also appreciate the cooperative approach taken by SITLA,” said Congressman Rob Bishop. “Providing time to work out a broader lands initiative through a more inclusive and balanced approach is a win-win for all Utahns, especially Utah’s school children.”
“Though our sole legal obligation is to Utah’s public school system, which is owner and beneficiary of the entire Book Cliffs block of land, we’ve listened to concerns from Congressman Bishop, Governor Herbert, and sporting interest groups, and have reached a satisfactory arrangement,” said SITLA Board Chair Steve Ostler. “We feel this agreement is advantageous to Utah’s public schools and the state, and retains SITLA’s commitment with Anadarko.”
The initial contract remains largely intact, allowing for oil and natural gas exploration on three large school trust parcels in the Book Cliffs area of Uintah and Grand counties. The modification discussed yesterday will only delay activities on the southern parcel known as Bogart Canyon, an area deemed most sensitive by wildlife groups, while keeping the balance of the exploration timelines of the original agreement in place.
This modification essentially aligns with Anadarko’s exploration plan, which calls for initial exploratory activities to begin in the northern part of the 96,000-acre option area and works southward over time.
The SITLA Board of Trustees intends to consider the proposed modification at its September 26 meeting in St. George. Public input will be taken at that meeting. The SITLA Board also intends to create an advisory committee to provide input on appropriate wildlife management and mitigation considerations associated with the exploratory lease activities.
The 27-month delay in exploration activities in the Bogart Canyon area will allow consideration by SITLA and Anadarko of potential alternatives for the lands in connection with a broader public lands initiative that would potentially consolidate trust lands in energy rich areas in exchange for protecting some of Utah’s iconic and sensitive landscapes.
SITLA manages 3.4 million acres of lands granted by Congress to Utah at statehood for the support of K-12 public schools and other public institutions. Revenue from school trust lands is deposited in the Permanent School Fund, a $1.64 billion perpetual endowment that distributes interest and dividend income annually to each K-12 school in Utah. In 2013, this distribution was $37.8 million.
Through SITLA’s business strategy, oversight and direction from its Board of Trustees, and investment by the State Treasurer, the Permanent School Fund has grown from $50 million to $1.64 billion in less than two decades, an increase of 3200%.
Anadarko is among the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies and has a strong record of environmental stewardship in Utah. For its Greater Natural Buttes natural gas project in the Uintah Basin, Anadarko has received several Utah Earth Day Awards from the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, and was commended by environmentalist groups, including the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, for its collaboration with land managers, the tribal community, and conservation groups.