Posts Tagged ‘US Tar Sands’

(EnviroNews Utah) — Jan. 8, 2015, Salt Lake City, Utah — 25 activists from the group Utah Tar Sands Resistance (UTSR) were finally sentenced today in a Vernal courtroom in Uintah County, Utah. Most of the individuals sentenced were arrested on July 23, 2014 after chaining themselves to mining equipment inside of America’s first approved commercial tar sands mine operated by Canadian company U.S. Oil Sands.

Click here to watch the video interview…

Five more UTSR members were arrested in September of 2014 adding to the total of individuals being prosecuted, and these protestors had been waiting in the limbo of the criminal justice system for the last several months. Six of the 25 were slapped with felony rioting charges and were potentially facing long terms of incarceration.

Click here to read more…

We had prepared and arranged for one of the defendants to give a customary statement to the court on behalf of the defendants about why they did what we did, why we do what we do, and why we must continue.  The judge denied us his audience.  Instead this statement was read to the news media outside the courtroom.

The Moral Imperative to Halt Tar Sands Mining

Last summer, twenty-five people were arrested for participating in acts of civil disobedience to halt construction of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands mine. We felt we had no choice but to take such action because of the blatant human rights violations that tar sands mining causes.

Tar sands is essentially naturally occurring asphalt. Extracting a low-grade oil out of it demands a tremendous amount of energy and water, making it a massive contributor to climate change as well as water and air pollution. Separating the bitumen from the rock mobilizes dangerous toxins that are present in substantial amounts, like mercury and arsenic.

In Canada, where tar sands mining has destroyed an area the size of Florida, it has polluted the Athabasca River with substances causing cancer, birth defects, and mutations in parts per trillion.

Indigenous people in the community downriver are getting rare cancers at an alarming rate, with cases occurring at a 30% higher rate than expected. Marginalized communities typically face the most severe environmental injustices, and we fear that this will be the case for indigenous communities who rely on the Colorado River and live downstream from the tar sands mines.

These communities are already dealing with many violations of their human rights from uranium extraction, water depletion, and a multitude of other issues. Their right to health, along with that of the 40 million water drinkers who rely on the Colorado, is being sacrificed for corporate profit. The same will happen to those in the airshed of the mining area and the refineries in Salt Lake City where the bitumen is expected to be processed.

Tar sands mining also uses copious amounts of water. The state of Utah takes at face value U.S. Oil Sands’ claims that it will use minimal water, when every tar sands project in existence uses massive amounts of water. Meanwhile, U.S. Oil Sands is already using precious deep aquifer water for its operations—water that should be reserved for sustaining life in a drying world. It has been well-documented that the Colorado’s flow is steadily dwindling, due to catastrophic climate change, which tar sands mining itself exacerbates. We can’t allocate more water to industrial use when the river has less water to give every year. We need to think of all the people downriver who rely on that water for sustenance. Because 15% of our nation’s food is grown using Colorado River water, giving more of our water to industry would endanger our food security as well.

Further, catastrophic climate change is real. Virtually all of the scientific community accepts it, yet our government continues to permit and subsidize projects that send us further toward climate collapse. Tar sands has a more detrimental climate impact than just about any other project, producing three times as much greenhouse gas as regular crude. It doesn’t matter if the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) manages to raise 2% of the public school budget this year if we’re leaving our children with a doomed world.

Once the land is strip-mined, its complex ecosystems will take perhaps centuries to return. We believe we must not leave a vast area of the East Tavaputs Plateau a tar sands wasteland. Despite U.S. Oil Sands’ claims, there is no way they can bring the land back with anything close to the complexity of this diverse high desert and canyon ecosystem. We maintain that corporations have no right to destroy places like Utah’s Book Cliffs forever.

On June 12, 2014, the EPA issued a directive to U.S. Oil Sands saying that USOS needs additional permitting because the strip mine is on traditional Uintah and Ouray Reservation land.

Nobody has held U.S. Oil Sands to this requirement—on the contrary, the company has continued clear-cutting, blasting, and bulldozing the land without securing the required permits.

After careful consideration, we came to the conclusion that we have the moral imperative, as residents who rely on the air, water, and land of this region, to protect these resources when our government refuses to serve as steward of them on behalf of the people.

We believe we must protect this land and these resources for future generations. SITLA is entrusted with managing this land for the long-term benefit of the public schools, but instead is sacrificing it for short-term gains, which stands in diametrical opposition to its mission. Over the past several years, we and various other organizations have pursued legal solutions such as a challenge to U.S. Oil Sands’ wastewater dumping permit, discussions with SITLA, and public rallies, to no avail. Our government’s insistence on looking the other way as tar sands strip mining in Utah jeopardizes our future led us to take civil disobedience in order to persuade our government to protect human rights over corporate profits. Only after serious deliberation did we choose to jeopardize our own liberty by using the age-old tactic of nonviolent civil disobedience for the sake of our future and all the generations to come.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) An overlook in the Book Cliffs area in Uintah and Grand County, Thursday, October 28, 2010. The Book Cliffs are a relatively remote part of Utah that face increasing encroachments from oil, gas and tar sands developments.

Courts » The activists are among 21 who are expected to enter plea agreements resulting from protest in Uintah County.

By Michael McFall | The Salt Lake Tribune

Six of 21 protesters have been charged with felony-level rioting after protesting Utah’s first commercial fuel-producing tar sands mine, with more defendants to face trespassing charges.

All 21 protesters are expected to enter plea agreements as early as Thursday, said Uintah County Attorney Mark Thomas. Soon after the arrests, the protesters’ defense attorneys began negotiations about who would be charged with what, and how to resolve those cases.

Neither Thomas nor an attorney representing some of the defendants would say to what charge the defendants might plead guilty or whether any of them would spend time in jail or prison.

They were also charged with interference with an arresting officer, which is a class-A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Fourteen other protesters have also been charged with misdemeanors; their offenses are mostly related to trespassing. One other was charged with failure to stop at the command of law enforcement, which is a third-degree felony.

Eighty protesters associated with Utah Tar Sands Resistance on July 21 physically blocked access to the equipment being stored off Pope Well Ridge Road in Uintah County, near where U.S. Oil Sands was beginning work on the mine at PR Springs. Several protesters entered a fenced enclosure and locked themselves to equipment, protester spokeswoman Jessica Lee said at the time.

Deputies arrested 13 of them and loaded them into white county vans, according to activists’ social media posts.

But when one of the vans approached protesters who had retreated to the main road, those protesters sat down in the roadway and locked their arms, blocking the vans, according to the charges.

“They started chanting that they wanted us to let their people go,” a Uintah County sheriff’s deputy wrote in a jail document.

The officers warned the protesters several times and asked them to disperse, but the group “advanced on our location,” according to the charges. That’s when deputies arrested Frurwirth, Ibanez, Luzzo, Gottesdiener, Gruppo and Puertas, during which all of them became violent and resisted the officers, the charges add.

Among them, Frurwirth has made headlines before. The local blogger and activist has protested police brutality, other environmental issues, and was active with the local Occupy movement. The Huffington Post even profiled him in October 2013.

One deputy sustained a wrist injury during Puertas’ arrest, according to the charges.

A protester also twisted his ankle while fleeing from the officers, Thomas said.

Activists said at the time that police canine units were also on the scene, including one dog that was unleashed, chasing protesters.

According to Lee, the action was staged in response to a June 12 letter sent to Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands by the Environmental Protection Agency. That letter indicates that U.S. Oil Sands’ project, which targets state-owned minerals, includes land within the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation.

Activists had been camped nearby on public land in the Book Cliffs since May, hoping to bring attention to what they say is destructive strip mining that could spread around the Uinta Basin should U.S. Oil Sands succeed.

The six protesters’ first court appearances are scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday before Judge Edwin Peterson.

At least some of the 21 are expected to enter plea agreements then, said Greg Skordas, an attorney representing some of the defendants.

“Because there were 21 of them, we’ve had to look at each person individually and try to take into account their conduct and their history, and try to fashion a plea [for] each defendant,” Skordas said.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda

Uintah County Sheriff’s deputies stand watch as other law enforcement officials in the background remove and arrest activists who had chained themselves to heavy equipment at a U.S. Oil Sands construction site on Pope Well Ridge Road in Uintah County on July 21. The Grand County Sheriff’s Department is seeking a permit to establish a command center near the site of the protests. [Photo courtesy of Utah Tar Sands Resistance]

By Eric Trenbeath / Moab Sun News

The Grand County Sheriff’s Department is asking a state agency for a “Right of Entry” permit to establish a command center in the Book Cliffs area near the PR Spring tar sands strip mine about 60 miles north of Moab, Utah.

According to the project report posted on the Utah State Public Lands Policy Coordination Office website, the proposed command center “will allow law enforcement officials to have a presence on the Bookcliffs when needed.”

The report anticipates the need to level the ground at the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) site. It also calls for the development of a septic leach field and the construction of a security fence. Development of the project is scheduled to begin on June 15, 2015.

SITLA resource specialist Bryan Torgerson said that the main purpose of the command center is to respond to environmental activists who have been protesting the development of the first tar sands strip mine in the United States.

“The protesters are doing illegal activity up there and they have caused damage to private property,” he said.

In June of this year, environmental activists from the group Utah Tar Sands Resistance (UTSR) announced plans to establish a permanent “vigil” at the PR Spring tar strip mine site. They were joined by members of the Moab-based Canyon Country Rising Tide, and Peaceful Uprising.

In July, about 80 protesters clashed with the Uintah County Sheriff’s Department and 21 were arrested. The protesters blocked a road and locked themselves to earth-moving equipment in order to halt construction on the Canadian owned U.S. Oil Sands strip mine project.

Uintah County Undersheriff John Laursen said that approximately 10 deputies from his office and three agents from the Utah Attorney General’s Office made the arrests. Members of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office also arrived at the scene just after the confrontation between the protesters blocking the road and law enforcement.

Laursen described the scene as one that escalated quickly from a peaceful protest to one that suddenly became physical.

“The folks who had chained themselves to the equipment were very polite and cooperative,” he said.

“But as we were removing them, the six other protesters who tried to block the road created quite a melee. There were some fisticuffs.”

Denise Davis, a spokesperson for UTSR, said that climate change protesters were peaceful and that they had suffered under “selective enforcement of laws designed to make peaceful protest a felony.”

Davis also denied allegations of property destruction.

“The protests have been brave and sustained but peaceful and nondestructive,” she said.

Grand County Sheriff Steve White acknowledged that protesters are part of the reason for the command center, but he said that law enforcement just wants to establish a presence in the area.

“There have been some oil field thefts and other activities going on up there,” he said. “As a matter of fact, this is something we’ve been thinking about for years.”

White said that the project is a joint effort with Uintah County and SITLA. He said they want to establish a camp trailer and a place to park some ATVs so they can have a base of operations should law enforcement personnel be needed in the remote area.

Davis said that she is “perplexed” by the sheriff’s request to establish a remote police post in the Book Cliffs when none of the protests have occurred in the Grand County portion of the mine site.

“It is very unfortunate that Grand County Sheriff Steven White is proposing to further step up surveillance and intimidation of peaceful protesters while continuing to ignore the air and water pollution that is resulting from leaking wells, tanks and toxic ponds of oil and gas waste that continue to threaten Grand County residents and visitors,” she said.

U.S. Oil Sands holds a lease to strip mine up to 32,000 acres of land – an area equivalent to approximately half the size of Arches National Park. A portion of the lease is in Grand County.

Environmentalists claim that the operation will severely impact the environment by polluting groundwater, displacing wildlife and destroying large swaths of wilderness.

“The Book Cliffs have been called the Serengeti of Utah and they are of significance to all Americans,” Davis said.

Living Rivers executive director John Weisheit said that the Utah Division of Air Quality never should have issued permits for the tar sands mine. His organization waged a legal battle on the grounds that sufficient water wasn’t available for the tar sands mine, and that what groundwater did exist was at risk of contamination.

Weisheit wants to know why the citizens of Grand County are paying for security up on the Book Cliffs, particularly as it relates to U.S. Oil Sands and the PR Spring Mine.

“The job of the Grand County Sheriff is to protect its citizens,” Weisheit said. “This is a foreign corporation. Power companies and other industries hire security guards, why aren’t they (U.S. Oil Sands)?”

Canyon Country Rising Tide spokesperson Sarah Stock agreed.

“This is yet another example of public money being used to facilitate tar sands development,” she said.

“The real danger to our community is tar sands, oil shale, and unregulated oil and gas development, not peaceful protesters. If the Grand County Sheriff’s Department has extra time and money to burn, they should help the understaffed BLM inspect and enforce regulations on the thousands of potentially leaking oil and gas wells in the state.”

Torgerson said that he respects the rights of people and their views, and he fully expects protesters to return to the site when the weather improves.

“We welcome the right of free speech,” he said. “We just hope they will respect private property.”

Parts of U.S. Oil Sands mine site extend onto Ute tribal lands. The Environmental Protection Agency warned the company in June that it didn’t have permission to operate on Ute land. On July 21, 2014, fifteen people chained themselves to a fence and to machinery on the tar sands mine site operated by U.S. Oil Sands.

Parts of U.S. Oil Sands mine site extend onto Ute tribal lands. The Environmental Protection Agency warned the company in June that it didn’t have permission to operate on Ute land. On July 21, 2014, fifteen people chained themselves to a fence and to machinery on the tar sands mine site operated by U.S. Oil Sands.

By Anna Simonton, Oil Change International

Lauren Wood grew up in a family of river guides in the Uinta Basin region of Utah. She navigates tributaries of the Colorado River like her urban counterparts navigate subway systems. She learned to ride a horse, and then drive a car, on the Tavaputs Plateau. And she can name most any gorge or gully in the place she calls home.

After clear-cutting trees and sagebrush, U.S. Oil Sands digs open-pit mines to test their tar sands extraction process. If the company starts producing tar sands on a commercial scale, 32,000 acres in Utah’s Uintah Basin could be covered with these pits, along with tailings ponds that would store huge amounts of waste water and chemicals used in the extraction process. (Courtesy of Utah Tar Sands Resistance).

But this landscape so familiar to her has transformed over the past decade to one in which drill rigs are more common than cattle herds, and methane emissions have degraded the air quality in this wilderness region to rival that of Los Angeles.

New technologies like fracking––along with government subsidies––have ushered in an energy boom reliant on extreme extraction methods to produce oil and natural gas. Now the Uinta Basin is ground zero for what threatens to become the next phase in extreme energy extraction: strip mining for tar sands and oil shale.

Tar sands are a sticky mixture of sand, clay, water and bitumen that can be processed into fuel, but require more refining than conventional crude oil, releasing more greenhouse gases and toxins in the process. Despite the fact that Canadian tar sands mining is pushing the Earth toward disastrous climate change, some companies are moving forward with tar sands mining projects in the United States.

Oil shale, not to be confused with shale oil (which is oil released by fracking), is a solid mixture of chemical compounds––called kerogen––inside sedimentary rock. When heated at high enough temperatures, it’s possible to break the kerogen down into liquid hydrocarbons and release them from the rock. This requires a whole lot of fuel just to make more fuel, and also promises to drastically worsen the effects of climate change.

Part one of this article delved into the history of how, in the past, taxpayers have footed costly bills for government-sponsored tar sands and oil shale development that never turned out to be commercially viable. The last of these projects fizzled out in the 1980s. Now, thanks in large part to a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005––written by Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch––oil shale and tar sands are back on the table.

Red Leaf Resources and U.S. Oil Sands are two companies that have led the renewed crusade to develop oil shale and tar sands in the United States. Red Leaf leases Utah state land for its oil shale mine site near the Tavaputs Plateau in Uintah County. A few miles away, straddling the boundaries of the Uintah-Ouray Reservation, sits the tar sands mine site of Canadian-based U.S. Oil Sands.

In 2008, one of Red Leaf’s Vice Presidents, Laura Nelson, teamed up with a U.S. Oil Sands Executive to co-write a white paper for the Utah Mining Association (UMA), a lobbying group. In it, they spelled out the ways that state and federal governments should subsidize tar sands and oil shale development. Since then, several of their recommendations––including millions of dollars in tax breaks, leasing public land at rock-bottom prices, and government-funded infrastructure projects––have become reality.

(more…)

The Vigil Continues! The plateau needs us, and we will do our best to fulfill the commitment we have made to this land, which has already given us so much.

Video: Work stopped ALL WEEK at tar sands strip mine!

National Environmental Groups Stand With Utah Land Defenders

PRESS RELEASE: Opponents to enforce shutdown of tar sands mine today (July 21st)

UPDATE: ALL 21 LAND DEFENDERS HAVE BEEN RELEASED.

Utah Tar Sands

After a massive direct action protest today at the site of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mining site, a total of 21 were arrested and are currently awaiting charges at Uintah County Jail in Vernal, Utah. In addition to protestors, those acting as legal observers, independent media, and jail support were arrested, as well as several indigenous and trans individuals whose safety we are deeply concerned about.

Early this morning land defenders locked themselves to equipment being used to clear-cut and grade an area designated for the tar sands’ companies processing plant, as well as a fenced “cage” used to store the equipment. Others formed a physical blockade with their bodies to keep work from happening, and to protect those locked-down to the equipment. Banners were also hung off the cage that read: “You are trespassing on Ute land” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.”

13 people were arrested for locking to equipment. An additional six people were arrested after sitting in the road to prevent the removal of those being taken away in two police vans. Two of the protesters arrested were injured. One was taken a nearby hospital to be treated, while the other is being treated at the Uintah County Jail. The nature of their injuries is not being disclosed by the county sheriffs.

Two additional people were arrested when they arrived at Uintah Country Jail to provide support to the land defenders inside. An estimated 10 armed deputies with police dogs were standing outside the jail wearing bullet proof vests. Those at the jail to provide support were told that the deputies were there to “deter” any supporters from actually coming to the jail.

Currently all 21 individuals are still being processed and held.

Support these brave land defenders who put their hearts and bodies on the line by donating to their legal fund.

Rising Tide North America is handling donations through The Action Network. Donate to the land defenders’ legal support fund using this secure link

Canadian company U.S Oil Sands has paid their reclamation bond of $2.2 million and has now begun major construction at their second tar sands strip mine in the Book Cliffs of Utah.

U.S Oil Sands’ immediate plans are to clear cut 62 acres of forests and sagebrush land, according to their operations plan, but this spat of clearing may not end until 213 acres of Douglas firs, Pinyon pines, sagebrush and grasses are razed. Long-term plans by this one company threaten up to 32,000 acres of diverse wild lands.

U.S Oil Sands giant belly scrapers and bulldozers have already observably cleared an estimated 20 acres, or the size of a football stadium.

With grasses, shrubs and trees obliterated, the bulldozers are creating massive dust storms that are pummeling PR Canyon to the east, vital habitat for elk, deer, black bears and much more. The dangerously opaque dust clouds routinely cross Seep Ridge Road, substantially blocking drivers’ visibility, causing a major road hazard for which no signage has been posted. Our extensive monitoring of their operations reveal that absolutely no dust control efforts–like water sprinkling–are currently being used to protect the environment, wildlife or motorists.

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Utah Tar Sands Resistance is a grassroots organization of people determined to prevent the imminent threat of tar sands and tar shale mining in Utah, the Colorado Plateau region and, ultimately, the entire world.  Preparations for the first tar sands mine in the United States–like clear-cutting forests and scraping “overburden” from the land–is expected to begin in Eastern Utah in 2013. But we plan to stop it.  Tar sands and tar shale mining would make our rivers and aquifers toxic, poisoning the drinking water of the thirty million people who depend on the Colorado River basin. The Colorado River basin system is already over utilized.  Tar sands and tar shale mining are also the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet. Extracting and refining them produces three to five times as much CO2 as petroleum. This contributes dramatically to climate change. As a state and as a nation, we need to put our resources into developing cleaner energy solutions and, more importantly, ways to use far less energy in our lives. Tar sands and oil shale in Canada are already playing a large role in the destruction of our planet, and we must not allow this to happen in Utah.  Mining tar sands and tar shale also devastates ecosystems. At PR Springs, U.S. Oil Sands’ strip mining process would clear away lush forest of pine, spruce, and aspen; remove the soil; grade the land; and pulverize the earth to extract every possible ounce of oil-containing rock. After removing and crushing the rock and processing it to extract the oil, the company would  leaving a moonscape of rubble that looks, in the company’s own chilling words, “as clean as beach sand.”  It’s awful enough to imagine this happening to beautiful Main Canyon at PR Springs, a thriving wildlife habitat and hidden paradise to many outdoor rec enthusiasts. Imagine if it happened to hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness and Utah, leaving a vast expanse of nothing like in Alberta, Canada.  Safe drinking water, air, and land are human rights. Beautiful wilderness is our heritage. We deserve better, and so do all other species.  In our effort to stop tar sands and tar shale before it begins commercially in the U.S., we’re building coalitions with front-line communities, hosting community discussions in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding areas, and joining with local and national allies committed to protecting our planet and human rights.  We believe that direct action is a powerful tool, particularly when all other options have failed. We use creativity in strategic and inspirational ways to confront power.  We are an all-volunteer group, and we have much work to do in order to stop tar sands mining. Please join the Resistance now, and help ensure we all have a livable planet!

By Leslie MacMillan, Esquire

As we mentioned yesterday, Neil Young said Monday that tar sands production in Canada’s boreal forests — and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to transport the fuel across America’s heartland — threatens to pollute the earth, kill Native people and has already transformed the area into a wasteland that “looks like Hiroshima.”

While tar sands have become synonymous with Alberta, few know that the United States may soon see its own oil boom. Last March, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved more than 800,000 acres for tar sands and oil shale development over a vast stretch of land in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado known as the Green River Formation.

“With all eyes on Keystone, there’s an equally or even bigger GHG problem brewing right here on American soil — and on Obama’s watch,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Grand Canyon Trust, a nonprofit environmental group that has sued the federal government over the decision.

These lands may hold more recoverable oil than has been used so far in human history — 3 trillion barrels, according to a U.S. government report. They also contain two to seven times the oil — and potential green house gas emissions — as Alberta’s tar sands and could set off a “carbon bomb” that would hasten climate change, said McKinnon.

Vernal, Utah, a town perhaps best known to outsiders for its 40-foot tall pink dinosaur that greets travelers passing through, will be the epicenter of tar sands development. The U.S Department of Energy says there are nearly a billion barrels of oil contained at nearby Asphalt Ridge.

Here, mining projects are already set to go forward on state and private land. State permits in hand, Canada-based U.S. Oil Sands is set to launch America’s first commercial-scale tar sands mine next year.

Cameron Todd, CEO of U.S. Oil Sands, declared, “Ours will be the most environmentally responsible tar sands project ever put on the planet earth.” Bitumen, the sludgy hydrocarbon found in tar sands, must be separated from the rock using chemical solvents and water. Todd says his company will use very little water and a 98 percent biodegradable solvent derived from orange peels.

But environmentalists say such technology is speculative and unproven on American soil, and water is a concern in the arid West. Other major players in tar sands leasing in Utah include Red Leaf Resources, which was recently bought by Total, a big oil player from France, and Enefit, an Estonian company.

The BLM prepared an environmental analysis that passed its first public review period in July. Kent Hoffman, deputy state director for land and minerals for the Utah BLM acknowledged that it’s difficult to evaluate impacts such as emissions. “Greenhouse gasses are a nebulous issue to try to get a handle on,” he said, adding that that the BLM is not “required by the courts” to predict all the impacts, such as end use.

Hoffman said the agency is now reviewing comments and will issue a final analysis in the coming months that will open another public review period. He emphasized that once a parcel of land is leased, a second, site-specific, process-specific review is conducted. Until then, “it’s a speculative shot in the dark as to what the impacts are. To a certain extent, I can see why there’s some uncomfortableness.”

In the arid high country between Vernal and Moab, a ghostly tableau of pale rock formations littered with dinosaur fossils, conventional mining has long been the county’s mainstay. But recreation is also a burgeoning industry, and environmentalists warn that tar sands development — which often involves strip mining — will mar the red-rock country and send clouds of dust as far away as Utah’s big national parks.

Todd called such notions “absolutely ludicrous. You can’t see the mining area from Canyonlands or Arches. I challenge anyone to go to their window and tell me if you can see 50 miles away.”

But a letter dated 2008 from the Environmental Protection Agency to the BLM noted elevated levels of particulate matter and ozone recorded from monitoring stations as far away as Canyonlands, the largest roadless tract and one of the last few wilderness areas in the lower 48 states.

“We have problems with air quality in the Uintah Basin, there’s no question about that,” said Hoffman.

But mining brings money to state coffers and jobs in an area where the average non-mining wage is $26,000, according to statistics provided by the city of Moab. Thus Utah lawmakers are eager to capitalize on the oil boom. Already the state is literally paving the way for mining companies, including improving a highway that runs through one of last pieces of wilderness in the state at a cost of $85 million — most of it public funds. “It’s an amazing amount of money to spend to develop a fuel source whose energy density is about the same as a piece of horse dung,” says McKinnon.

Protests on the Seep Ridge Road have ramped up in recent weeks, with demonstrators duct-taping themselves to equipment and getting arrested.

Meanwhile, Todd says that Utah’s governor and “a long list of state and county officials are very supportive” of his tar sands project.

One of the names on his list is Ken Davey, an economic development specialist for the city of Moab. He estimated that only 10 to 15 percent of Moab residents strongly support tar sands development; another 15 percent oppose it. “Most are somewhere in the middle: we value the economic opportunities, but we don’t want to end up like Canada.”

Utah Tar Sands Resistance is a grassroots organization of people determined to prevent the imminent threat of tar sands and tar shale mining in Utah, the Colorado Plateau region and, ultimately, the entire world.  Preparations for the first tar sands mine in the United States–like clear-cutting forests and scraping “overburden” from the land–is expected to begin in Eastern Utah in 2013. But we plan to stop it.  Tar sands and tar shale mining would make our rivers and aquifers toxic, poisoning the drinking water of the thirty million people who depend on the Colorado River basin. The Colorado River basin system is already over utilized.  Tar sands and tar shale mining are also the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet. Extracting and refining them produces three to five times as much CO2 as petroleum. This contributes dramatically to climate change. As a state and as a nation, we need to put our resources into developing cleaner energy solutions and, more importantly, ways to use far less energy in our lives. Tar sands and oil shale in Canada are already playing a large role in the destruction of our planet, and we must not allow this to happen in Utah.  Mining tar sands and tar shale also devastates ecosystems. At PR Springs, U.S. Oil Sands’ strip mining process would clear away lush forest of pine, spruce, and aspen; remove the soil; grade the land; and pulverize the earth to extract every possible ounce of oil-containing rock. After removing and crushing the rock and processing it to extract the oil, the company would  leaving a moonscape of rubble that looks, in the company’s own chilling words, “as clean as beach sand.”  It’s awful enough to imagine this happening to beautiful Main Canyon at PR Springs, a thriving wildlife habitat and hidden paradise to many outdoor rec enthusiasts. Imagine if it happened to hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness and Utah, leaving a vast expanse of nothing like in Alberta, Canada.  Safe drinking water, air, and land are human rights. Beautiful wilderness is our heritage. We deserve better, and so do all other species.  In our effort to stop tar sands and tar shale before it begins commercially in the U.S., we’re building coalitions with front-line communities, hosting community discussions in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding areas, and joining with local and national allies committed to protecting our planet and human rights.  We believe that direct action is a powerful tool, particularly when all other options have failed. We use creativity in strategic and inspirational ways to confront power.  We are an all-volunteer group, and we have much work to do in order to stop tar sands mining. Please join the Resistance now, and help ensure we all have a livable planet!Imminent tar sands development threatens western US

By Jacob Chamberlain, Common Dreams

While rightful attention has been focused on Alberta’s tar sands development and its slated transport through the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, along with Utah lawmakers, have quietly pushed forward plans for a similarly massive tar sands project back in the U.S., an exposé in Esquire highlights Thursday.

Much like Alberta’s vast tar sands oil extraction that has devastated public and environmental health and the climate, the BLM’s recent approval of mining projects will exploit more than 800,000 acres of public and private land for tar sands development across several western states.

The massive Green River Formation, a stretch of land that runs through Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, would be dug up and excavated, and Utah lawmakers “are eager to capitalize” on the imminent oil boom, according to the article.

As Esquire writes, “Already the state is literally paving the way for mining companies, including improving a highway that runs through one of last pieces of wilderness in the state at a cost of $85 million — most of it public funds.”

“With all eyes on Keystone, there’s an equally or even bigger GHG problem brewing right here on American soil—and on Obama’s watch,” Taylor McKinnon of the Grand Canyon Trust told Esquire.

And Esquire adds:

These lands may hold more recoverable oil than has been used so far in human history — 3 trillion barrels, according to a U.S. government report. They also contain two to seven times the oil — and potential green house gas emissions — as Alberta’s tar sands and could set off a “carbon bomb” that would hasten climate change…

The Center for Biological Diversity reported this week that a minor victory was won against the tar sands project when Emery Refining was forced to redo permitting for a tar sands refinery in Utah —after its approved construction by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality was appealed by groups in July for violating the Utah Air Conservation Act.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has passed preliminary approvals for extraction projects, but a second public review period is expected within the next couple of months—meaning the battle is not over yet.

The BLM is also fighting a coalition of environmental organizations in court and faces a burgeoning anti-tar sands grassroots movement, with groups such as Utah Tar Sands Resistance who organize ongoing local protests against the plans.

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