Honk if you ❤ Babies! Dirty Energy Kills!

Honk if you ❤ Babies In May, news erupted about a startling number of dying babies in Utah’s Uintah Basin, (what should be Ute territory, actually) where fossil fuel development is the center of the community’s economy and even its culture.

No one person better symbolizes the cultural centrality of the fossil fuel economy in the Uintah Basin than George Burnett, owner and operator of the I ❤ Drilling Juice shop in Vernal. It might seem unlikely, but a juice shop owner (he also sells camo truck seat covers) really is among the most prominent and well-known cheerleaders of the oil boom(-and-bust) economy here. He’s made himself and his businesses locally famous by standing on a street corner with a sign that says “Honk! If you ❤ Drilling!”

“They’ve asked him to be the mayor,” his son tells us.

Here in the UB, he’s kind of a Big Deal. A Big Deal who goes way over the top lionizing the fossil fuel economy and denying the merest existence of any downside or flaw.

Along comes a heroic whistleblower midwife who complicates the frack-fest party for a moment by daring to ask whether the Basin’s terrifyingly high infant mortality rate might be tied to environmental factors. The Basin has terrible ozone pollution, for example, due to leaking oil rigs and prevalent flare-offs at well sites.

Midwife Donna Young did a brave thing and is surviving a serious backlash now because of it. This is a community where virtually everyone–like really nearly everyone settler or indigenous—lost their jobs or home during parts of the 80s and 90s when the oil economy here slowed dramatically and then pretty much stopped for a bit.

In that context, Donna Young nevertheless asked her community to look at the darkest side of the decades-long oil boom-and-bust binge: dead babies. And that’s awesome.

Our support and thanks to Donna Young are endless and pure, but the issue for the community and for us is incredibly complicated. It feels for some people like it’s a choice between widespread economic uncertainty (and all the related health and social problems that brings) or a thriving oil economy that makes more people more money comfortable even if it poisons everyone in the Basin (and beyond!) and, well, might contribute to really high baby death rates where its toxic trail is found. Yikes.

The Uintah Basin’s oil primarily gets refined in and around Salt Lake City, so the people there are also poisoned by the toxins. The people of the world together have to deal with the climate chaos that these fuel products create.

So we wanted to remind people of Vernal–as the region begins a dangerous experiment with tar sands and oil shale strip mining–that these projects come at a serious cost. That doubling down and using fracking fortunes as an ante for a region-wide tar sands/oil shale/nuclear/fracking extravaganza will kill more people, especially vulnerable populations like old people and babies. We need to reject the fossil fuel economy that makes us sacrifice our air, land, water and even our vulnerable people in exchange for a fair living and demand safe environmental standards in our communities.

Capitalism creates the boom-and-bust cycle that exploits and poisons and kills and puts people over profit, and we must uproot it. We recognize that End Capitalism is not always a popular message in communities like the Uintah Basin–especially not during boom times like these–but you can’t just can’t escape the truth: Capitalism is unsafe for babies and other living things.

Utah Children say, “Oil Shale Puts Our Future on the Line.”

The weekend of June 20th, 2014, an intergenerational gathering brought together children, guardians, teachers and land defenders at PR Springs, site of the nation’s first commercial fuel tar sands strip mine, located in Eastern Utah. In addition to tar sands mining, the region is being threatened by oil shale strip mining, and after a weekend of hiking and exploring the land, fun art and science projects, and discussions with their peers, the children decided to take a field strip to Red Leaf Resources test site in order to see what was going on there, and to deliver a message.

Dear CEOs and Workers of Red Leaf Resources,

We are the children of Utah. We stand here today with our teachers, parents, and peers.

We are concerned about SITLA‘s dirty energy leasing for strip mining. Oil shale mining, and tar sands, destroys water, forests, and air, increases cancer and asthma risks, and these things take away animal homes that will never be the same.

SITLA funds 2% of the total school budget. We must think of the long term risks.

Is it really worth it to put children’s and animals’ lives in danger for strip mining?

Here in these places, they are destroying beautiful land, where it’s peaceful for wildlife and for people to enjoy and see.

The next time you’re planning to hurt an ecosystem, think of the animals and people you’re hurting and killing.

Thank you,
The Children of Utah


Read more about last year’s family gathering:
The Road to Hell is Paved with Tar Sands
Utah children visit PR Springs & speak out against tar sands
Families Camp Out in Protest to Save the Tavaputs Plateau from America’s First Approved Commercial Tar Sands Operation
Utah Tar Sands: Will The U.S. Join Canada In Tapping The ‘Bottom Of The Barrel’?

Read more about SITLA:
Lots for Tots: How one agency is selling off Utah in the name of the children


IT’S ON: Major Tar Sands Construction Underway in Utah

SONY DSCCanadian 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.

U.S Oil Sands’ mining plan entails almost complete destruction of the top soil. Their operations plan states they will collect and save 24 inches of top soil for restoration “unless there are rocks,” a deeply cynical loophole as there are rocks just below the surface.

We are well acquainted with the soil here. Utah Tar Sands Resistance and our allies have been camping in the East Tavaputs Plateau, in the lands leased to U.S Oil Sands, for three years. We dig holes to bury our waste and to build our tent structures and we have observed only 1-3 centimeters of top soil in these sage-brush soils before hitting large chunks of sandstone.

Top soil in such a high-altitude, dry expanse represents thousands of years of  ecological magic. As US Oil Sands continues its violent plan to make dirty and low-grade energy from tar sands, the truly valuable resource of top soil is swirling into the air like so many broken promises.

How could we expect anything else from these scam artists? These are the same folks arguing there is no ground water in PR Spring despite just one minor spring in PR Canyon spilling 1.3 gallons per minute for at least the last 90 years–that’s 61 million gallons of water that US Oil Sands wants to pretend does not exist. So far they’ve been successful in convincing the courts this water–which feeds giant aspen groves that form the backbone of habit for numerous animals–is insignificant.

Moab-based Living Rivers and Western Resource Advocates filed a lawsuit against the state of Utah for its . The recent supreme court decision ruled living water’s lawsuit invalid because it was not filed within the state’s 30 day comment period despite the fact no such comment period was issued. Given this ruling, we can already see U.S Oil Sands and the state are fighting any obligation for environmental protection and finding any loopholes they can (no matter how illegitimate) every step of the way.

Utah’s Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) has literally thousands of uninspected oil and gas wells peppered throughout the state, with a large concentration of them being in Eastern Utah. Both DOGM and SITLA (The School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration) have a long history of deceiving the public, violating the public trust, and letting fossil-fuel corporations run off with the toxic profits.

To support our work monitoring these projects, go to our donate page and join the fight to end extreme extraction on the Colorado Plateau! 

Women of Action Against Violent Extraction shuts down tar sands mine construction

Women of Action Against Violent Extraction (WAAVE) joined the fight against tar sands development on the Colorado Plateau. The group used direct action June 16 to stop the lone bulldozer beginning construction on the US Oil Sands project. Deliveries of more and larger construction equipment are imminent.

US Oil Sands has leased and intends to destroy 32,000 acres of the East Tavaputs Plateau starting at PR Springs where a permanent protest vigil has been established by Peaceful Uprising, Utah Tar Sands Resistance and Canyon Country Rising Tide.

WAAVE released the following statement regarding their action:

“Development of tar sands and oil shale on the Colorado Plateau is a violent and dangerous act requiring a bold defense. The Colorado River system, which provides water to 40 million people in the US, Mexico and many indigenous nations, is already over-tapped and tainted by numerous industrial poisons. Dirty energy kills millions world over at the site of mines, refineries, and in downsream communities. Moreover, extreme extraction like tar sands strip mining threatens our hope for a livable planet. That’s why we made a small but direct contribution to stop this violence against the Earth and its inhabitants. We invite all people to resist extreme extraction in their communities, defend life and fight for liberation.”

Help support the permanent protest vigil at PR Springs!

Dirty Energy Kills

VIDEO: Watching U.S. Oil Sands

This summer, as protestors gather at PR Springs, site of the first tar sands mine in the United States, for a permanent protest vigil, they are poised not only to observe the comings & goings of U.S. Oil Sands, the Canadian tar sands company setting up shop, but also to do something about it.

Donate money & supplies to the Resistance! Help us keep going!
Join us for the Intergenerational Campout, June 20-22
Tar Sands Healing Walk Solidarity Campout, June 27-29

Read the 1st dispatch from the front:
Red Leaf Resources scraping open a new strip mine

STAY TUNED! We’re just getting started, y’all.

Former President & CEO of Kennecott Copper Mine joins American Sands Energy Corp’s Board of Directors

Go Wrong 4

Read more »

Red Leaf Resources scraping open a new strip mine


October 2013 (left) and June 2014 (right). The white structure in the center is Red Leaf Resources.

Red Leaf Resources is an experimental strip mining company hoping to make a profit from low-grade oil shale. Wannabe oil shale barons have fumbled for generations in Utah’s Uintah Basin, but this Total-backed operation may destroy 17,000 acres of pristine wilderness before learning this lesson again.

Red Leaf’s expiremental plan involves packing low-grade oil shale into earthen underground ovens, heat the contents for 7 months at like 8,000 degrees (not the actual number, but it’s something ridiculously high). And what will they use to heat the ovens? Cheap, abundant and over-produced fracked natural gas, of course.

It’s not acknowledged outright, but we’ve often speculated that the nuclear generators proposed for Green River are necessary to fuel this next generation of dirty fuel production int he Uintah Basin. Tar sands and oil shale mining huge amounts of energy to convert those rocks into something of minimal value on today’s energy markets.  What a racket!

All the while the tricksters, fraudsters, egomaniacs and just plain dupes promoting tar sands and oil shale in Utah push for more state and federal aid–the only golden parachute that can make these boondoggles the least bit profitable. Luckily, Red Leaf is really good at buying politicians.

Red Leaf aerial photo circa 2013

This is what the property looked like at the end of 2013 before the recent round of scraping.

The new Seep Ridge Road highway–reviled by hunters, ranchers and land defenders alike–was constructed by the state of Utah with taxpayer dollars primarily to benefit Red Leaf Resources.

Power brokers in state government–who sell leases to companies like Red Leaf to destroy these lands–say they’re making these dangers deals “for the kids.”  Yeah, the ones that survive.

Join our Intergenerational Campout June 20 and meet the land defenders of the permanent protest vigil who brought you this update!

Donate here to keep updates coming from the Tavaputs Plateau where we’re staving off an energy colony under construction that’s threatening the entire Colorado Plateau!


Storm Brewing: Permanent protest setup at proposed tar sands strip mine


People hold a giant banner inside the tar sands mine. The banner reads: Climate Justice is Survival Now Or Never.

Last weekend, tar sands resisters new and old gathered in the Book Cliffs of so-called Eastern Utah, at PR Springs, site of the first proposed tar sands mine in the United States. This gathering marked nearly three years of observation, law suits, and direct action against the project, and signaled the beginning of a permanent protest vigil inside the boundaries of public lands leased for strip mining.

Check out our DONATIONS PAGE to make an online donation or check out our gear request list! 

U.S. Oil Sands, of Calgary, Alberta, has leased over 32,000 acres of land traditionally inhabited by Ute and Shoshone people. The land is now managed by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), and sits just outside the Northern Ute Ouray Reservation. The company has yet to begin full-scale production, and has spent the last year procuring their permits from the Department of Water Quality, wrangling $80 million from fly-by-night investors, and hiring Kellogg Brown & Root LLC (KBR) for project and construction management.

music: “Without Water,” KleeBenally.com

In March, Living Rivers brought U.S. Oil Sands (USOS) and the Department of Water Quality (DWQ) to the Utah Supreme Court, whose ruling we eagerly await, arguing that the permits given to USOS had failed to take into consideration the devastating impacts the strip-mining project would have on the precious groundwater in the region. DWQ stated that there was not enough groundwater to be of concern (though geologists from the University of Utah have found otherwise in their extensive study of the region’s groundwater systems) and is not requiring USOS to take any measures in their disposal of waste water used during their highly experimental and unproven new tar sands mining process. US Oil Sands is fond of stating that their project will use very little water, as it is completely dependent on a chemical called d-limonene (an expensive solvent, at $36/gallon), but their permit application itself states that they will still require 116 gallons of water per minute, which they have failed to procured in the five water wells they’ve drilled that tap into the Mesaverde Aquifer. In an interview published this week, the company stated that they’ve “hit on the idea of using a dryer” as part of the extraction process, though no data has been released about this, and it remains to be seen if the company has updated their permits to include this new technology.

SONY DSCIn the same interview, Cameron Todd, the CEO of U.S. Oil Sands, stated, “We’re fully permitted and we’ve actually started work in the field already although most of the work won’t be done until next summer.”

In a May 14th press release, the company stated that they would  be completing Phase 1 of their project, at a cost of nearly $60 million, though their current stock price has halved from their $0.24 high to a measly $0.12, and mentions commercial start-up date of 2015.

This proposed time-line remains consistent with the company’s history, as they have pushed back full production year after year, having had a difficult time finding investors for a very risky project, and having been fought, both in the courts and in the very mine itself, by groups and individuals who vow that they will see the project stopped.

Last weekend’s act of civil disobedience saw protestors walk onto a the company’s 10-acre test mine with a huge banner reading “Climate Justice is Survival: Now or Never.”

While the land itself, once stolen from the Ute tribe, is destroyed, as carcinogens such as arsenic, mercury and uranium are leeched into the watershed, as tar sands and oil shale strip-mining add to the criminally toxic air quality of the Uintah Basin, and as the tar sands are trucked nearly 200 miles each day to Salt Lake City to be refined in poor and predominantly Latino neighborhoods, the Utah tar sands themselves are but one small piece of the global extraction monster. The fossil fuels our society has made itself dependent on have caused a man-made climate change emergency, and it is up to us to take a stand a say, “no more.” Tar sands are the bottom of the barrel, one of the dirtiest forms of energy found, and one that required mass amounts of resources to extract while proving very little usable energy. The Utah tar sands must remain in the ground if we have any hope of a livable future, and a coalition of passionate and dedicated people have taken a stand, saying “no tar sands!”

This summer, land defenders stand in vigil and protest, observing the actions and movement of U.S. Oil Sands, as well as several other tar sands and oil shale companies with greedy claims on the region, determining what areas are to be clear-cut or tested, and what infrastructure is built, as they prepare to stop them.


Press Release: Permanent protest setup at proposed tar sands strip mine

Press Release: 


Permanent protest setup at proposed tar sands strip mine

PR SPRINGS, UTAH–Land defenders have established a permanent protest vigil inside the boundaries of a planned tar sands strip mine in the Book Cliffs of Utah. The Canadian company behind the controversial plan intended to begin construction of the mine this summer, but people have vowed to stop it.

U.S. Oil Sands, of Calgary, Alberta, holds leases on 32,000 acres of land traditionally inhabited by Ute people but now controlled by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.


Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Peaceful Uprising and Canyon Country Rising Tide–as well as supporters from throughout the Colorado Plateau–have endorsed the protest vigil.

“These beautiful lands that US Oil Sands plans to destroy have been enjoyed by Utahns for decades and were the home for Ute people for hundreds of generations,” said Jessica Lee, on behalf of the land defenders. “This tar sands strip mine would cause swift obliteration of multiple ecosystems and severe contributions to climate-change related disasters.”

The company’s immediate plans include spending $60 million dollars on preliminary construction. Read more »

Apply today for the Summer for Climate Justice Camp – July 15-22



All eyes on Utah as the Eastern Tavaputs Plateau becomes the first tar sand extraction site in the U.S. Join the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) from July 15-22, 2014 to build relationships with activists and organizers throughout the Western region, and learn about direct action resistance, all while cultivating and consistently honoring an analysis based in climate justice principles.

In response to the imminent threat of tar sands extraction, a Utah-based coalition comprised of Peaceful Uprising, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, and Canyon Country Rising Tide is organizing the Campaign Field School, which will be stationed next to the ‘point-of-extraction’: near U.S. Oil Sands’ Tar Sands test-pit on the Eastern Tavaputs Plateau in Utah.

The Campaign Field School will serve as a training hub for people from the refinery communities of Salt Lake City, rural Utahns, indigenous allies, students, and other self-selected interest groups from throughout the region. By hosting the field school near the point of extraction, we are able to illustrate the visceral realities of an extractive economy, and show–not tell–the destructive forces our current fossil fuel economy is having on ecosystems, land and people.

SacredWatersIn addition to training people on campaign tactics and critical skills such as site monitoring—thereby building our capacity to maintain a long-term resistance movement—the Field School will deepen participants’ climate justice analysis and collective liberation framework, which will foster community building between people from diverse backgrounds. This school will include both workshops and ongoing mentoring.

The California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) will be teaming up with these groups to help recruit students from the Western U.S. to attend the Campaign Field School during the 3rd week of July: July 15-22.

If you are interested in attending, please fill out the application form, and the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) will contact you with more details!