This section includes links to Utah statutes, regulations, guidelines, and policies related to oil and gas surface operations.
Oil and gas development in Utah is governed mainly by the Utah Oil and Gas Conservation Act (Utah Code Ann. §§ 40-6-1 – 19). The Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining is the state agency responsible for overseeing oil and gas development in the state of Utah. The Board of Oil, Gas, and Mining is the policy-making body for the Division; it promulgates regulations and delegates duties to the Division (Utah Code Ann. § 40-6-4). The Air Conservation Act (Utah Code Ann. §§ 19-2-101 – 127) and the Water Quality Act (Utah Code Ann. §§ 19-5-101 – 124), both administered through the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), also play a key role in regulating the environmental impacts of oil and gas development. Finally, the DEQ issues guidance to oil and gas operators about how best to protect the environment during the course of their operations. See below for more information and links.
The Utah Constitution contains no provisions related to environmental protection or oil and gas development.
Utah Oil and Gas Statutes
General laws governing oil and gas development in Utah can be found in Title 40 Mines and Mining of the Utah Statutes (click on "Utah Code/Constitution," then click on "Utah Code – by Title, Chapter, and Section" then select "Title 40").
Utah Oil and Gas Conservation Act (Utah Code Ann. §§ 40-6-1 – 19) -- the Utah Oil and Gas Conservation Act governs many aspects of oil and gas drilling in Utah. The law prohibits waste of oil and gas, sets up procedures for obtaining a permit and paying royalties, and creates penalties for violations. Several provisions especially relevant to environmental protection are:
Utah Code Ann. § 40-6-1 – Declaration of Public Interest – describes the policy goals of the Act. These goals include promoting oil and gas development, maximizing discovery of oil and gas, creating exclusive state authority over oil and gas exploration and development, and creating voluntary agreements to promote practices that ensure the "greatest possible economic recovery of oil and gas[.]"
Utah Code Ann. § 40-6-5 – Jurisdiction of Board – Rules – describes the Board’s jurisdiction over various aspects of oil and gas development. The Board has the authority to regulate all oil and gas operations, including location and drilling of wells, producing and plugging wells, storage of products, disposal of waste and reclamation. The section also requires that rules enacted to administer it must be consistent with applicable federal requirements.
Utah Code Ann. § 40-6-14.5 – Oil and Gas Conservation Account – creates the Oil and Gas Conservation Account, which uses tax and penalty revenues from oil and gas development to finance reclamation of abandoned oil and gas development areas for which the developer did not pay a sufficient bond to cover the cost of reclamation, among other uses.
Utah Code Ann. § 40-6-18 – Lands subject to chapter – states that the Act applies to all lands subject to the power of the state of Utah, including federal lands and lands subject to federal jurisdiction.
Utah Oil and Gas Regulations
The Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining (DOGM) oversees oil and gas development in the state of Utah. DOGM performs the duties delegated to it by the Board of Oil, Gas, and Mining, which promulgates regulations governing oil and gas development in Utah. The DOGM regulations can be found in the Utah Administrative Code (click on "Natural Resources," then click on the link to the section you want to read). All rules are promulgated pursuant to Title 63G, Chapter 3 of the Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act.
Utah Admin. Code R649 – Oil, Gas and Mining; Oil and Gas – includes general provisions for oil and gas development; environmental protection requirements for drilling, processing, and waste disposal; and reporting requirements
Rules of particular interest include:
R649-2 – General Rules – includes general rules for oil and gas development
R649-2-1 – Scope of Rules – explains that the purpose of the rules is to conserve oil and gas, to protect human health and the environment, and to achieve the "greatest ultimate recovery of oil and gas," among other purposes. The section also discusses special rules and exceptions.
R649-2-2 – Application of Rules to Lands Owned or Controlled by the United States – states that the rules in R649-2 apply to all lands owned by, or subject to the jurisdiction of, the United States, to the extent that such lands are subject to Utah’s power.
R649-3 – Drilling and Operating Practices – describes required practices for drilling and well operation, including:
R649-3-1 – Bonding – requires oil and gas operators to post a bond to cover the cost of well plugging and restoration. Once well plugging and restoration are complete, the bond is released, or returned to the operator. If the operator is unwilling or unable to complete well plugging and restoration, the operator forfeits the bond, which is then used to complete these activities.
R649-3-14 – Fire Hazards on the Surface – requires disposal of trash that may constitute a fire hazard and requires flaring of all non-poisonous gas that escapes from a well.
R649-3-15 – Pollution and Surface Damage Control – requires that all oil and gas operators conduct operations in a way that emphasizes protection of the land and the protection of their employees. The section includes specific requirements for fire prevention, waste disposal, prevention of spills and leaks, and waste minimization and recycling. Finally, the section requires overall good housekeeping practices.
R649-3-16 – Reserve Pits and Other On-site Pits – discusses location and construction requirements, including liner requirements, for reserve pits and other on-site pits. The section also states that such pits shall not pollute the surrounding water and soil and requires that pit contents meet the state’s cleanup levels before they are buried.
R649-3-34 – Well Site Restoration – discusses restoration requirements for lands under federal, state, and private surface ownership. The section also describes the process for creating surface use agreements with private landowners. If well site restoration is not completed according to the applicable requirements, the operator forfeits the bond posted at the time of permitting.
R649-9 – Waste Management and Disposal – describes regulation of exploration and production waste not covered by RCRA in a manner that protects the environment, limits liability to producers, and minimizes the volume of waste. The section prohibits mixing RCRA-exempt waste with non-exempt waste. It also covers permitting requirements for waste disposal facilities, reporting and recordkeeping requirements, closure and cleanup requirements, variances, and bonding.
Utah Oil and Gas Policy and Guidance
Environmental Handbook: Environmental Regulations for the Oil & Gas Exploration and Production Industry (1996) – The Environmental Handbook summarizes federal environmental laws and Utah environmental laws and regulations. This document also provides the oil and gas industry with guidance on subjects such as reporting spills and other undesirable events, determining appropriate cleanup levels, determining the proper depth at which to set surface casing, closing reserve pits, and disposing of waste.
Utah Air Quality Statutes and Regulations
The Utah Air Conservation Act (UTAH CODE ANN. § § 19-2-101 - 127) governs air quality in Utah. Its purpose is to "achieve and maintain levels of air quality which will protect human health and safety," as well as to prevent injury to wildlife and property, promote economic and social development, promote the enjoyment of the state’s natural features, and "foster the comfort and convenience of the people." UTAH CODE ANN. § 19-2-101(2) (2008).
Most provisions in the Air Quality Act and regulations do not explicitly concern oil and gas exploration and development, but many apply generally to different industries, including oil and gas exploration and development. In addition to the Air Quality Board, the Division of Air Quality issues operation and construction permits; develops comprehensive plans to reduce air pollution; and ensures that Utah industries and residents comply with all Utah air quality requirements.
Relevant provisions of the Utah Air Conservation Act include:
UTAH CODE ANN. § 19-2-108 – New Installations – these provisions deal generally with new sources of air pollution.
UTAH CODE ANN. § 19-2-109.1 – Operating Permits – an "Operating permit"’ is required for any source of air pollution that is required to have a permit under the Federal Clean Air Act. The executive secretary of the Air Quality Board issues the permit. For the list of sources that require permist, see 42 U.S.C. § 7412(b) (2006).
UTAH CODE ANN. §§ 19-2-110 – 119 – Violations and Penalties – these provisions cover violations of the regulations promulgated by the Air Quality Board.
UTAH CODE ANN. § 19-2-121 – Ordinances of Political Subdivisions – any political subdivision of the state may enact and enforce ordinances to control air pollution that are consistent with this chapter.
UTAH CODE ANN. § 19-2-105.3 – Clean Fuel Requirements for Fleets – the Air Quality Board has the authority to require any fleet, including fleets owned and operated by the oil and gas industry, to use clean fuels if the Board decides that two statutorily defined criteria are met. The criteria are whether clean fuel use is "necessary to demonstrate attainment of the national ambient air quality standards in any area where they are required," and whether clean fuel use is "reasonably cost effective when compared to other similarly beneficial control strategies for demonstrating attainment of the national ambient air quality standards."
Current Utah air quality regulations interpreting the Utah air Conservation Act can be found in Title 307, of the Utah Administrative Code. These rules adopt many of the federal rules by reference. Rules of particular interest include:
R307-214-2(22) – National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Oil and Natural Gas Production – the Utah rule on hazardous air pollutants incorporates the federal rule by reference. For more information, see a summary of Clean Air Act rules on the LAWs page..
R307-415 – Permits: Operating Permit Requirements -- Title V of the Clean Air Act (the Act) requires states to develop and implement a comprehensive air quality permitting program. This section establishes the procedures and elements of the Utah permitting program.
Neither the Utah Division of Air Quality, the Air Quality Board, nor the Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining in the Department of Natural Resources has guidelines for the oil and gas industry specifically related to air quality. The Division of Air Quality does, however, maintain an Oil and Gas Industry Air Shed Management webpage with current information on air quality related to oil and gas development.
Utah Water Quality Statutes and Regulations
The Utah Water Quality Act (Utah Code Ann. §§ 19-5-101 – 124 (click on the link to the section you want to read)) established the Utah Water Quality Board and gave it authority to establish water quality standards and to develop programs for the prevention, control, and abatement of new or existing pollution of the waters of the state. The Act also makes it generally unlawful to discharge pollutants into waters of the state and creates a permit system to allow for specific discharges. The Utah Water Quality Board is responsible for promulgating regulations under the Water Quality Act and delegates many duties under the Act to the Utah Division of Water Quality.
Current water quality regulations can be found in the Utah Adminstrative Code or on the Commission's website via a link to the Code under "Division of Water Quality Rules – Title R317." Sections of the administrative code that are particularly relevant to oil and gas development include:
R317-8 – Utah Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (UPDES) – outlines Utah’s water pollution permit system, including terms and conditions of a discharge permit, the application procedure for a permit, and lists of regulated pollutants
Division of Water Quality’s Storm Water Program – the Utah Storm Water Program establishes permitting requirements for construction sites disturbing more than one acre and industrial sites including oil and gas facilities. Oil and gas industrial facilities are covered under a general industrial storm water permit. This general permit allows discharges with specific discharge point(s), effluent limitations, monitoring requirements, and other conditions. Because of an exemption in the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, Utah does not currently require discharge permits for non-contaminated storm water discharge from oil and gas related activities. If a facility is discovered to be discharging contaminated storm water, a permit will be required at that point.