Utah is looking for fewer roadblocks from the U.S. government to allow it to achieve its own brand of “energy independence,” Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday night in his state of the state address emphasizing his state’s growing economy, which has lowered unemployment to 6%.

Declaring that the state’s economic climate is ripe for energy development, Herbert said he refuses to let “the federal government halt responsible energy development in Utah.” He called for the creation of “a research triangle” in his state to launch “Utah into a new era of energy technology innovation.”

Utah and other western states like Wyoming have been sparring with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the federal agency’s slowness in granting leases to oil and gas companies. The BLM manages 264 million acres of public land and 700 million acres of federal mineral estate (see Daily GPI, April 4, 2011). Of those totals, Utah contains 23 million acres of land and 32 million acres of mineral estate, while about 18 million acres of land and 40 million acres of mineral estate are in Wyoming.

“We have demonstrated in the Uinta Basin and elsewhere that developing our energy resources and being good stewards of the environment are not mutually exclusive propositions,” said Herbert, adding that one of the state’s biggest challenges comes from the fact that most of Utah’s resources must be extracted from federally managed lands.

“While we have made progress in persuading the federal government to site and permit oil/gas wells, there remain great challenges ahead.”

Herbert wants private industry and universities in his state to take the lead in creating the energy technology innovation center, and he wants “industry and caring citizens” to tackle “one of the greatest challenges” of energy development: air quality. Herbert said he would partner with industry and citizens to establish “vital air quality goals,” noting he would be releasing details of his plan in coming weeks.

Herbert said Utah has some of the lowest energy costs in the nation. “In order to protect that advantage for the future, we must secure Utah’s supply of stable low-cost energy, and we must do it now,” he said.

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