The Stegner Center’s Research Fellows Program was founded in 2012 to provide objective legal and policy analysis regarding the environmental and natural resource issues facing Utah and the West. During the 2014-15 academic year, Research Program faculty analyzed whether environmental impact statements result in reduced environmental impacts, finding statistically significant reductions in environmental impacts that could not be explained by other causal factors. We also found that impact reduction occurs without a statistically significant reduction in economic benefits. Our results will appear in the George Washington Journal of Energy & Environmental Law. Research Program faculty also authored three chapters for a forthcoming book on oil shale development in Utah, addressing legal concerns involving land, water, and air quality related values.
Research Program faculty also published two papers on Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act. These papers show that the federal government has the authority to retain public lands in federal ownership indefinitely, and that the federal government is not obligated to dispose of public lands within Utah — beyond the 18.7 million acres within Utah that have already been conveyed out of federal ownership. Arguments that the federal government is a poor manager do not change these legal realities or provide states with a legally cognizable right to demand land transfers. Furthermore, if states prevail in their takeover efforts, resource extraction would most likely increase dramatically because the states will face millions of dollars in new management costs.
A forthcoming paper will explain how a state public lands takeover would make Endangered Species Act compliance — and development project permitting — more difficult and expensive, thereby harming the state economy. A second paper concludes that the targeted public lands are subject to broad federal mineral reservations that would necessitate parcel-by-parcel litigation and severely limit a state’s ability to generate new revenue. Our final paper on the transfer of public lands recommends ways to improve resource stewardship while avoiding protracted litigation.
The Stegner Center’s Research Program is made possible by the generous support of:
The AHE/CI Trust
The ESRR Endowment Fund
The Turner Foundation
The 444S Foundation, the Comstock Foundation, the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation, the Kendeda Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Partnership Project, and the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation.