Carbon/Emery Economic Development Committee Looks at Economic Development Opportunities


By Julie Johansen

The Carbon/Emery Economic Development Committee Meeting on June 18 began with Emery Telcom CEO Brock Johansen asking the group, both online and in person, to introduce themselves. He then opened with a brief discussion about the area’s priorities. Gina Gagon of Gagon Family Medicine and a trustee of USU Eastern, proposed that a master plan and unifying documents be created to better achieve the goals for the area.

Next on the agenda was a Utah Interagency Working Group (U-IWG) Update. Dru Palmer of DRU Consulting stated that the formation of an IWG was off to a great start, with various federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of Energy, USDA, and EDA all participating on a monthly call to discuss federal funding opportunities that relate to the needs of the area. Clay Crozier will take the lead from the state side.

Dusty Monks, Interim Director of the Utah Department of Energy, spoke to the group about the transition of the San Rafael Energy Research Center to the State of Utah. He said that the current three employees at the center would be kept and two more employees added. He also stated that the board for the center is being established.

Commissioner Jordan Leonard then spoke briefly about the Inland Port Authority before Ty Gardiner, Director of Sales at Wolverine Fuels (Skyline, SufCo, and Fossil Rock Mines), introduced John Watterson. Watterson spoke to the group about the Oakland port in California and accompanying lawsuits. It is hopeful that in about six months, there will be a final decision.

Watterson also said that the port in the Gulf of Mexico is feasible but would have limited capacity. There is still a good market for coal in Japan. They are hoping that Fossil Rock Mine (old Trail Mt. Mine) will fill the gap of the loss of coal that came from Lila Canyon Mine. The Power Plants still use the majority of coal coming from these mines.

Kirt Tatton spoke about the new Fossil Rock Mine, formerly known as Trail Mountain Mine. Many employees from Lila Canyon Mine were moved to SUFCO and Skyline Mines. Fossil Rock Mine will eventually need over 350 employees, many of which will be move-ins to the Carbon and Emery County area, if they are unable to hire the needed employees from Emery and Carbon counties. Housing seems to be a problem for this number of employees.

Carbon County Commissioner Larry Jensen reported there is money available to help transport coal through the Community Impact Board (CIB), though the counties have to apply for it and they do not have applications from any companies.

Porter Henze, Environmental Scientist with the Utah Division of Water Quality, gave a screen presentation update on the Blackstone Minerals Lithium and Associated Brine Resource Mining Operations near Green River. This area is part of the Paradox Basin, which is found on the Eastern Side of the Colorado Plateau including Emery, Grand, Garfield counties and parts of Colorado. This company is mining lithium and extracting brine from the Paradox formation. The brine is re-injected into a porous geological formation in mines about 6,000 feet deep.

This is done through a Class V Well Permit. There is no underground drinking water in the Green River area. This area does contain gas/oil, potash, salts, lithium, uranium and copper. Henze added that the Department of Water Quality does not regulate the mining process, only the disposal of the brine.

Alan Hall, CEO of BlueSky Energy Advanced Manufacturing Process, gave a video presentation of their plan for positive economic developments to be of value in Carbon and Emery counties. Their operational plant in Wellington converts coal into high demand carbon products in three forms: liquid, solid, or gas. They are transforming coal into other substances that can be used for various applications such as shingles, tires, or asphalt.

In addition, BlueSky Energy also works with hydrogen gas for fertilizers, fuel for space travel, or for power plants. They are helping coal mines stay in business by using the coal for other products. He explained it was a multifaceted approach by leveraging the value of coal by rejuvenating coal amenities. Hall concluded by stating that this was a commercial opportunity as the business is for sale to someone in the area.

In conclusion, Kody Powell gave a brief update on the grant he has applied for and the study he hopes to complete focused on the area.

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