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Lawmakers: Teach Utah Kids Petro Literacy

Published on November 18, 2010 at 10:54AM

(SALT LAKE CITY)-While Utah’s schoolchildren receive numerous environmentally-endued messages, they never learn of the importance of mining and petroleum drilling to their lives, a committee of state lawmakers determined Wednesday.

The Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee recommended a bill that would tap surpluses in a state gas, oil and mining reclamation fund to develop a curriculum for teaching the virtues of mineral industries.

Representative Jack Draxler of North Logan, sponsor of the proposed Mineral and Petroleum Literacy Act showed a segment of an educational film produced by Oklahoma officials concerning directional drilling practices meant to protect sensitive surface or groundwater areas.

Representative Mike Noel of Kanab recommended the video be sent to environmental groups dealing in “misinformation,” as he dismissed growing concerns about the chemical injection drilling known as “fracking,” which is usually done for natural gas production.

This has drawn national complaints over groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania.

Draxler said his video addresses fracking and Utah students should learn the practice is safe.

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining supports the educational effort, which would draw from the Oil and Gas Conservation account.

The fund stems from industry taxes rising and falling with mineral prices, while state law limits its annual surplus to $750,000.

Division policy coordinator Steve Schneider doubts most Utahns can understand how coal and petroleum operations disturb less than two-tenths of 1 percent of Utah’s surface area.

Schneider argued that an education program could help change this perception.

Draxler said his idea is to add balance to an educational system which already emphasizes conservation and recycling.