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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.

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PRESS RELEASE: Opponents to enforce shutdown of tar sands mine today

July 21, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Opponents to enforce shutdown of tar sands mine today

PR SPRINGS, Utah–About 80 climate justice land defenders right now are using their bodies to halt construction of a tar sands strip mine in the Book Cliffs of Utah.

The action is the culmination of a week-long direct action training camp within 2 miles of the mine. Participants of Climate Justice Summer Camp travelled from numerous organizations, states and sovereign tribal nations to learn direct action skills and build networks.

In recent weeks, Calgary, Canada-based US Oil Sands began a new and devastating phase in construction of the first tar sands mine in the United States. Nearly 80 acres of forest and sage land have been leveled.

US Oil sands has construction permits on 212 acres of pristine wilderness and strip mine land leases on 32,000 acres. Opponents say the traditional Ute hunting lands leased by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Land Administration are too fragile and damage would be irreversible.

Numerous states and local governments question the wisdom of tar sands and oil shale projects in the Colorado River Basin. That system—which provides drinking water to 40 million people in the US, Mexico and native communities—is already severely over-tapped and endangered by industrial waste contaminants.

“Indigenous people’s sacred lands for hundreds of generations here would be destroyed after a few generations of American settler colonialism,” says Jessica Lee, on behalf of the land defenders. “US Oil Sands 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.”

The United States Environmental Protection Agency this month joined the crowd demanding answers from the tar sands company. EPA’s letter indicates US Oil Sands may need tribal authorization for their project due to lease acres bordering and sometimes occurring in “Indian country.”

EPA also has concerns about toxic and hazardous waste from the project. The construction site is immediately upstream of one of the major river systems of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation, the stunning Willow Creek Canyon area. The company has never sought Ute Tribal Government approval.

What is Climate Justice?

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Grass Roots On-Site Protests Actually Work! (So Come and Join Us)

by Jill Jones

Grass roots on-site protests actually work, according to blogger Jason Koebler in a recent post on MOTHERBOARD. This is good news for Utah Tar Sand Resistance, Peaceful Uprising, and Canyon Country Rising Tide who together have organized a summer-long, non-violent direct action public protest against tar sands mining at PR Springs on the Tavaputs Plateau in Eastern Utah.

In the blog, a research study -“Local Protesters are Killing Big Mining Projects Worldwide” – is featured. Several encouraging findings related to the effectiveness of on-site environmental activism are described. The bottom line is that direct action has had a costly effect on fossil fuel extraction industries. Among the fifty international projects studied (4% in North American), fully half were met with public protests – one, a major, world-class mining project with capital expenditures of between 3 million and 5 million US dollars, lost roughly 20 million dollars per week on delayed production due to a “project blockade” launched by the local community – and fifteen of the projects were suspended or abandoned altogether. “There is a popular misconception that local communities are powerless in the face of large corporations and governments,” Dr. Daniel Frank, the study’s director, has noted. “Our findings show that community mobilization can be very effective at raising the costs to companies.”

Protests during the early feasibility and construction phases of a project were found to be most successful. During later stages, projects are usually larger in scale, have more capital investment, and are more likely to have generated revenue. Thus, there are increased incentives for companies and governments to “defend’ their projects.” This provides further evidence of why the mobilization of nonviolent resistance during the beginning stages of the Utah tar sands mine’s development is so critical.

It was also determined that delayed projects are especially expensive to the extraction industry; $20 million per week loss in revenues and investments is not uncommon. According to study results, $750 million a day was lost in a nine-month delay at a Latin American mine and $750,000 a day at another extraction operation due to a power lines shut down. Even before extraction has started, lost wages and startup delays can be extremely costly if projects are stalled by on-site direct actions and protests.

On a more sobering note, in 40 percent of the 50 projects studied, someone died as a result of a physical protest. So there are costs to grass roots activists as well. But it’s not as if this hasn’t been carefully considered. For many activists, when compared to the imminent environmental destruction of our planet, it is a risk they are willing to take.

So join us at beautiful PR Springs in the pristine Book Cliffs of Eastern Utah for a summer of non-violent direct action against tar sands mining. Grass roots protests are not new to US Oil Sands – the Canada corporation that is developing the Utah tar sands mine, the first in the nation. In July 2013, climate justice activists shut down construction of the PR Springs test mine and of nearby Seep Ride Road for a full day, resulting in a 13 percent drop in US Oil Sands’ stock. This shows – like the study results described above – that our actions can have substantial and far-reaching environment-saving outcomes.

Next up on the PR Springs protest schedule is the Campaign Field School camp-out from July 15 to July 22. For this event, California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) will join Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Peaceful Uprising, and Canyon Country Rising Tide to create a context for building relationships with like-minded activists and organizers and for learning the strategies of direct action resistance, all within a ever-deepening climate and collective justice framework. The Campaign Field School will serve as a training hub for people from the refinery communities of Salt Lake City, as well as for rural Utahans, indigenous allies, students, and other interested groups from throughout the region. By hosting the field school near the point of actual tar sands extraction, we are able to experience first hand the visceral realities of the relentless extractive economy, and show–not simply tell – the destructive forces our current fossil fuel economy is unleashing on ecosystems, land, water, and people.

See Also:
Why A Protest Vigil?
IT’S ON: Major Tar Sands Construction Underway in Utah
Storm Brewing: Permanent protest setup at proposed tar sands strip mine

The Violence of Tar Sands Extraction: WAAVE Speaks

By Sassy-Frass

On June 16, five women marched onto the site where U.S. Oil Sands, a tar sands mining company, was bulldozing a forested ridgeline into a flat parking lot. Dressed in orange vests and hard hats, we waved flags as we approached the worker in his machine. “Work has to stop. We cannot let this violence continue,” one of us said. At first the worker argued, but as we moved in front of the machine, he shut it down and left.

We are WAAVE: Women in Action Against Violent Extraction. And we are not backing down. We are mothers who have seen our own bodies depleted and poisoned by nonconsentual pollution, sisters who have seen our own sisters driven to the edge of self-destruction by the broken society in which we live. We are young women who have chosen never to bring children into this world, yet are fighting for the children of our friends and siblings so they might have a chance at a liveable future. We are non-gender-conforming people who have fought for the right to identify and live in a way that befits our true spirit. We are our male supporters, because separation is an illusion we refuse to adopt. And we will fight tooth and nail for our collective future.

Throughout our bioregion, women are on the frontlines of the effort to protect our earth, air, water, and climate. We are guiding the environmental justice movement and taking bold action together. Why women? There are at least a couple major reasons. First, as women in a patriarchal culture, we’ve had to deal with oppression — often in intersecting forms, like racism and sexism — throughout our lives, which makes us especially attuned to and impaced by environmental injustice. Women’s lower earning potential — particularly women of color — makes us more likely to end up closer to sources of pollution. Second, the nature of our bodies often makes us particularly attuned to how harm to ourselves harms the future, as the toxins we absorb would poison the children we might bear. Our bodies are also ecosystems of their own, harboring life when we choose to bring it to fruition. Even if we never wish to have children, that awareness is often part of our being — and by we, I am inclusive of the many trans-women who may feel this awareness. Moreover, this awareness of course is not limited to women, though our bodies and identity often act metaphorically to bring it to our attention.

The rape and exploitation of the earth is inextricably linked with the rape and exploitation of women’s bodies. Nonconsentual poisoning of our bodies and offspring via the poisoning of rivers, lakes, air is violence. Slow violence is killing not just the future, but the present as well. Those women most likely to be raped, kidnapped for sex trafficking, or killed — primarily by white male abusers — are overwhelmingly the same women whose bodies are most poisoned by toxic industries, like the Lakota women of the Great Plains.

Let’s call it what it is. Tar sands is violent to an extreme, just as the uranium mining on Lakota and Diné lands is incredibly violent. Tar sands miming drains rivers of water, making it a ludicrous proposal in the arid west where climate chaos is drying our rivers year by year. It releases toxins into the watershed that nature keeps immobilized in the earth. And it emits three times the greenhouse gases of regular crude, contributing dramatically to the violence of climate chaos.

Among the many victims of tar sands violence in the west would be the Cucupa, an indigenous people who live in the delta of the Colorado River. Robbed of their water by industry and frivolous extravagances like golf courses, they were forced to flee their homeland by catastrophic storms likely influenced by climate chaos. The forced exodus of a people from their lush homeland is violence. Turning people who had everything — abundant fish, fertile land in which to grow squash, melons, beans — into an impoverished people relying on bottled water and storebought food is violence. And if tar sands and oil shale strip mining happens on the Colorado Plateau, that violence will impact more and more people down the river.

The refineries of Salt Lake City are already inflicting tar sands violence on people, particularly those of poorer communities in industrial areas. Chevron is already processing tar sands brought in from Canada, which emits high concentrations of some of the worst stuff we could put into our air, like sulfur dioxide and VOCs. Systemic violence, including lack of access to healthcare and forced reliance on unhealthy, nutrient-depleted food, exacerbates the violence of pollution for people of color, immigrants, and low-income residents. Hauling in tar sands from the Colorado Plateau and processing them in Salt Lake would enact further violence on these communities, not to mention those in eastern Utah, where a spike in infant deaths is occuring due to the prevalence of dirty industries.

That indigenous women’s bodies are some of the most likely to be poisoned is just one more parallel between rape of the earth and women’s bodies. And settler women — myself included — are obligated to stand together with them as we fight for environmental justice. Our presence on the land where we live — even if we aren’t from the first generation of colonizers — means we are benefiting from and continuing the legacy of oppression that birthed us. Fighting for a liveable future is not a way to redeem ourselves, as there is no redemption for complicity in such a system, but it is a duty. We live on stolen land, have access to stolen resources, and benefit every day of our lives from the color of our skin and our heritage. When Mormon settlers came to Utah deadset on forcing the original inhabitants, the Utes, to farm, they forced them to eek out their subsistence on the most arid tracks of land. They then began even seizing pockets of that, running cattle over it, draining the water via irrigation ditches, all while the Ute people were starving, and to this day even those of us settlers who came over later are benefiting from access to land and resources that this land’s original inhabitants were forced off of and away from. Yes, the outright battles happened in the past, but setters still have the things we took, and the gravely unfair distribution of resources is a severe form of violence.The seizure of resources is a violent legacy here, as it is virtually everywhere, and we have the duty to halt it as it procedes to consume the land, air, and water we all depend on.

Being a settler yet defender of land is relatively new terrain — not to mention a terrain that’s still being negotiated — and it’s a role we must take on with humility. It’s not about ego, about our descendents looking at us as some kind of heros. It’s about necessity. Finding that humbleness, for me, means becoming rooted in the land by spending long periods of time in it, which allows me to experience myself as a fragile part of a much greater whole. Sitting in the sagebrush on a hillside acrossf rom one of the watering holes, I see elk, turkey, coyotes emerge from the aspen-covered canyonside. Each one does much for the whole without demanding recognition or honors, and that is the spirit in which we should act: purpose-driven, but humble.

That’s not to imply that WAAVE or tar sands resistance work is comprised only of settlers, because of course that’s far from the case. People of many backgrounds are bravely taking a stand for a liveable bioregion and planet. I simply hope these words will inspire more reflection in other settlers about our role in this movement and how to approach our work.

It doesn’t take a superhero to shut down a bulldozer. But we do need more folks like us out here—more women, transpeople, queers, men, committed to spending a day or a week or a month or a season taking a stand against the violent extraction that is harming your children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren before they even take a breath of life on this planet.

Dirty Energy Kills

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.

GET INVOLVED:
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 »