Posts Tagged ‘Utah Tar Sands’

Join us this summer as we take direct action to stop tar sands mining in Utah and work to heal the land.

With seeds, shovels, and hands we will rewild a site that had been condemned to fossil fuel development. Come regrow the mine June 17-19!

We will be physically replanting land on the East Tavaputs Plateau that is part of an ongoing tar sands strip mine. In doing so, we will cultivate resistance, biodiversity, and beauty in a space that has been destroyed by strip mining. The gathering will celebrate life, water, and resistance on the Colorado Plateau through music, storytelling, art, and action. Each day we will share the skills and techniques needed to continue building the world we want to see. The events are being hosted by the Tavaputs Action Council, a regional alliance of grassroots activists.

Join us as we fight for an immediate start to PR Springs mine reclamation, an escalation of mine clean up efforts along the Colorado River watershed, and  a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Lace up your boots, bring your shovels, and let’s get to work this June.

Sign up HERE to help us in this great restoration effort.

Greetings!

The attached PDF file is an Action Camp Feedback Questionnaire for the last three years of action camps resisting tar sands mine development on the Tavaputs Plateau in southeastern Utah, which were organized, in varying capacities, by Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance. Autonomously crafted by camp participants to foster the growth of our movements and communities of resistance, this is a lengthy, information-dense survey created with a unique format that includes an Outline, Security Culture, Healing and Emotional Support, About, and Feedback Form. This format may be confusing with a few imperfections, so please ASK questions to minerals [at] riseup [dot] net and seek out another action camp participant to find clarity with.

Please seek out the full version before answering the feedback form. Within the full version please skip around based on your own unique personal needs.

From the many experiences shared we will create a summary presentation of the responses outlining patterns, major and minor accomplishments/areas of improvement, creating transparency of experiences, and help organizers create future focal points for their on-going efforts. The presentation will be open source and available to all interested in an effort to foster wider community growth.

This is an accountability and transparency process giving you the opportunity to express your honest personal experiences. This process seeks diversity of responses. Please include experiences of feeling safety/endangerment, uplift/hinder, compassion/anger, value/disdain, wisdom, and much more. Please understand that prioritized intentional space is needed to read, comprehend, reflect and then reply to the feedback form.

If you are interested in being emotional support FOR individuals engaging in this process and/or helping create a neutral factual examination of participant experiences, email minerals [at] riseup [dot] net

It is vital that you forward this survey on to anyone you know that has participated in a Utah tar sands action camp..

We are all wounded, we are all healing! To Shadow, the neglected or repressed parts of our being, which are both essential, consistent places of struggle, and our magnificent potential. Acknowledging and honoring Shadow as a guide for how to heal, move towards vulnerability, and compassion with insight as our ally. Giving visibility to Shadow we become mirrors for ourselves and for each other, energizing prayers for releasing those patterns and creating new neural pathways of our beings and our togetherness.

I want to Thank EVERYONE who helped and is helping in this process, We are awesome!

This accelerating journey is in need of more helpers!

Reply to minerals [at] riseup [dot] net for EVERYTHING regarding the Action Camp Feedback Questionnaire.

Action Camp Feedback Questionnaire [PDF]

For more information about this year’s action, click here…

(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.

tar sands ute landsToday 25 people arrested during 2014 protest actions resolved their criminal cases. No contest pleas to misdemeanor charges were received by the court from all defendants after lengthy negotiations between prosecutors and the land defenders’ attorneys. The heavy-handed and ridiculous felony charges mentioned below were all eliminated and reduced during plea negotiations. These 25 land defenders are now on probation but vow to continue the fight to protect the Colorado Plateau from extreme energy projects! Below are two personal statements regarding the persecution, from Victor Puertas and Camila Ibanez, two of the most fearless forces of nature that we’ve ever met. 

Victor Puertas:

Finally after so many months, tomorrow is our court date. 6 months after and the consequences are finally clear: A charge of third-degree felony riot punishable by up to five years in prison. I’m also charged with interference with an arresting officer, which is a class-A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. I’m on the watch-list of this corporation as a ”dangerous, radical environmentalist” (lol), lawyers of this corporation are telling the government that I should be deported out of the country.

I have been through a lot of BS, attacks and criticism from people that don’t have the same level of commitment, people that don’t understand our sacred duty as children of the PachaMama. People that talk a lot but at the end they will never risk their own safety or privileges. Some of them weren’t even there but of course as ”radicals” they feel qualified to criticize me, our actions and our event that day.

I truly believe that our three years campaign in defense of this land and against tar-sands on the Tavaputs Plateau, our events, actions and our strong commitment are crucial to the problems that US Oil Sands is having right now, their stocks are going down, they’re losing a lot of money.

In the end I’m just guilty of protecting this land and stand up for my people, my compas. I don’t regret not even a single second of that day. I took my chances, I face the consequences but I always keep my head up, for me this is a physical battle but also a spiritual one and the only important thing is to honor this land and to honor my ancestors, to be worthy of their warrior spirit.

So whatever happens, this struggle continues and we only just begun, we are here for the long run!!

Wañuylla, wañuy wañucha, amaraq aparuwaychu, karuraqmi puririnay, runaykunatan maskani, karuraqmi puririnay. No Tar-Sands on Indigenous Land!!!

Camila Ibanez: 

6 months later, today is my court day for the alleged actions against the first-ever tar sand mine in the United States. Alongside of 24 other land defenders, I am one of the six people being accused of third-degree riot felony, along with a class A misdemeanor. US Oil sands is quick to label us as criminals, and terrorist. They are saying whatever they can in attempt to get the community to see us as so. The legislators, CEOs, and other fat takers have no intention in seeing themselves as criminals, “domestic terrorists”, destroyers of the lands.

Utah is one of the states that oil corporations have lobbied hard for in order to pass legislation that heightens charges against protestors. Which makes sense when you look at how many tar sands deposits lie in Utah.

As we struggle for black liberation and indigenous resistance, we must also fight to free Pachamama, who is suffering from white supremacy and capitalism. Our communities hold wisdom and answers and we find them when we redefine wealth, value, love.

For all y’all that know. I’ll be headed back to the plateau in so called Utah in a few months to resume the work that needs to be done to stop the tar sands extraction.

So let’s take my sister Sabaah’s solid advice and let’s get free. Cause there is no justice on stolen lands for stolen bodies. We need to work together.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Utah tar sands opponents to be sentenced

VERNAL–Plea agreements reached between the Uintah County Attorney’s office and 25 tar sands opponents arrested in July and September, some charged with felonies, will be revealed in 8th District Court Thursday at 9 AM.

Can’t make it to Vernal?
A representative of the defendants will be available for interviews and on-camera comments at 2:30 pm Thursday, January 8 in front of the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City immediately following the hearing

Construction of the US Oil Sands tar sands strip mine in the Book Cliffs of Utah was halted for one week in July due to protesters’ efforts to stop the project. They say all levels of government and corporate investors have failed to stop the misguided project and so everyday people have had to step in.

“This tar sands mine isn’t safe for drinking water, it’s a huge contribution to climate catastrophe, it’s destroying vital animal habitat, it’s destroying Mother Earth seized from indigenous people, and will make the region’s air even more toxic for everyone,” said Raphael Cordray of Utah Tar Sands Resistance. “It’s not even safe for investors who are exposed to so much litigation risk attached to all those dangerous factors that violate the public trust.”

State and county government have strongly supported the development of tar sands and oil shale strip mines, in part by funding and building a 70-mile highway–named Seep Ridge Road–without which the tar sands project would be financially unfeasible. Court challenges were unsuccessful.

Protesters say the heavy-handed charges have drawn more attention to the campaign and attracted even more eager supporters. “The urgency to stop this project continues despite the repression from the state and police,” Cordray said. “This project is life-threatening and violent. As more people learn about, more people are inspired to do what they can to stop it. This project is so awful that resistance is inevitable.”

In the largest protest action, on July 21, about 80 protesters in pre-dawn hours swarmed a fenced equipment yard. Several locked their bodies to construction equipment and blocked entrance to the yard and hung a banner reading “U are Tresspassing on Ute Land.” After about 11 people were extracted and arrested there, a second segment of people sat in the roadway temporarily blocking police vehicles from leaving. In all, 21 people were arrested that day, seven of whom were charged with felonies including rioting.

On Septmeber 23, disguised in chipmunk masks, a group of just five people were able to shut down work at the sprawling 200-acre construction site.

In all during 2014, police arrested 26 people for various actions that disrupted the tar sands mine’s activity. Many disruptive actions occurred in which police were able to arrest no one. Thursday’s hearing will conclude the last of the court cases attached to 2014 actions against the tar sands mine construction.

Media Contact
Raphael Cordray
801-503-2149

A file photo of an anti-tar sands protests that took place in Utah in 2013 . (Photo: Geoff Liesik/KSL TV)

A file photo of an anti-tar sands protests that took place in Utah in 2013 . (Photo: Geoff Liesik/KSL TV)

Stemming from a protest last year, six of those arrested for trying to shut down tar sands operation now face the possibility of years in jail

By Jon Queally, Common Dreams

Of the 21 protesters arrested in July of last year in Utah for participating in a direct action aimed at stopping operations at the first tar sands mining operation in the United States, six have now been charged with ‘rioting’ by local prosecutors.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the six—Jesse J. Fruhwirth, Camila A. Ibanez, Damien T. Luzzo, Laura M. Gottesdiener, Daniel J. Gruppo and Victor E. Puertas— could face harsh punishments after being charged with interference with an arresting officer, a class-A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, and the crime of “rioting,” a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Fourteen others who were arrested at the protest were charged with the lesser count of criminal trespass, while one individual was charged with refusing to obey the command of a police officer.

Responding to the elevated charges of the six named, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, a group which helped organize the nonviolent protest, asked, “When did a peaceful sit-in become a felony riot?”

All of those charged are expected to enter pleas to the local district court later this week.

The July 2014 action, as Common Dreams reported at the time, involved roughly 80 climate justice activists who entered the construction site operated by the Calgary-based US Oils Sands corporation and unfurled a banner which read “You are trespassing on Ute land,” referring the project’s encroachment on native land, and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.” Later, some of the group locked themselves to equipment and others blocked a nearby road.

In a statement released on behalf of the protesters in the wake of their initial arrests last year, spokesperson Jessica Lee said the US Oil Sands project in Utah “perfectly demonstrates capitalism’s brazen disregard for the climate crisis, human and tribal rights and rights of the planet itself to be free of dangerous corporate parasites.”

Recounting the incident more recently, the Tribune reports:

Deputies arrested 13 of [the activists] 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 Fruhwirth, Ibanez, Luzzo, Gottesdiener, Gruppo and Puertas, during which all of them became violent and resisted the officers, the charges add.

And the local KSL News reports:

Officials with U.S. Oil Sands have said that 200 exploratory wells at the mine site show that 190 million barrels of oil can be successfully recovered. The company holds leases to nearly 6,000 acres of school trust lands in northeastern Utah.

Crews are currently doing site preparation work at the mine. U.S. Oil Sands expects to begin mining operations by the end of 2015.

Those charged in connection with July’s protest listed addresses in Utah, Arizona, California, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon and Wisconsin when they were booked into the Uintah County Jail. They are all scheduled to make their first court appearances Thursday.

(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…)