(Reposted with permission from EnviroNews)
(EnviroNews Utah) – Tar sands, oil sands, asphalt, and bituminous sands. These names all represent the same type of fossil fuel, a fossil fuel so difficult and energy intensive to mine and process that past attempts to harness it’s dirty energy in the United States have resulted in bankrupt companies and abandoned test sites that have scarred the land with barren eyesores without a plan for recovery or restoration.
The massive Athabasca strip mine in Alberta, Canada has put tar sands on the map in the last few years via the mounting pressure surrounding President Obama’s upcoming decision on the 4th and final leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline that, if approved, will serve to open the flood gates for poisonous and carbon-loaded bitumen crude on an unprecedented scale. It is also known that much, if not all of the product moved through KXL is set to be sold abroad to countries such as China, leaving the U.S. holding the bag in what is now being called the “All Risk, No Reward campaign”.
Despite all of the recent heat surrounding the simply massive Alberta oil sands conundrum, plans to strip the land of all life in pursuit of even more of these deadly bituminous sands quietly continue, largely under the radar of the mainstream media. But this isn’t the everyday yukky stuff from Canada that you’re used to, rather, these burnable rocks are set to be plundered right from your backyard. At least if you live in the Western United States.
In a stunning move the BLM has opened approximately 850,000 acres for exploration and development of the technique, a technique that is so riddled with carbon emissions that world-leading climate scientist James Hansen, formerly of NASA, has been sounding the alarm, warning that it will be “game over for the climate” if these dirty extraction plans are realized.
A little known tar scar in Eastern Utah is set to add fuel to the global warming fire, benefitting a few fat cats at the expense of all living things.
This is the PR Springs tar sands test site of a Canada-based company that carries the sneaky little name of U.S. Oil Sands. The fiscally troubled company is doing everything in it’s power to strip mine bitumen from a pristine and diverse high desert eco-system, but the company will not tell you that.
When I first heard of this project at a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) meeting in Salt Lake City, company officials claimed that there was “NOTHING” at PR Springs, not even water, despite its name.
At first, on the way up to the extremely remote location, that seems to be true. There is little besides sage brush to encourage an outing to this wilderness area. However, as one continues up the road, a purported $3 million per mile project that is not guaranteed to provide any economic benefit to the state, one begins to notice that the landscape gradually transforms with elevation to majestic and beautiful high desert plateaus, with pines, aspen, and wildflowers all around.
The wildlife that can be experienced here includes deer, elk, woodpeckers, turkeys, flickers, countless small and colorful birds, and much, much more.
Ranchers use the land for cattle grazing during the summer months. The cattle roam free without fear of water poisoning and are rounded up before winter starts. How will these two traditionally Republican constituencies, that is, the oil industry and ranchers be able to coexist? And yes, there IS water at PR Springs.
As part of the Utah Tar Sands Resistance family outing during the solstice weekend, children, parents and friends gathered at the BLM campsite just a stone’s throw away from the U.S. Oil Sands experiment, with the intention of educating their children from top to bottom about squeezing oil out of rocks, while awakening them to the beauty and life truly at stake in the Utah tar pit battles.
One thing that oil and oil-waste operations have said repeatedly in cases of on-site surface and groundwater contamination is: “The water was bad when we got here.” Well, 7 year old Sam and 9 year old Isaac were on site to make sure that that never happens at PR Springs.
With water test kit in hand, these two youngsters took several samples and tested for many different pollutants, as well as taking samples to send off to a 3rd party testing laboratory. Sam did a majority of the testing while Isaac wrote down the results.
Contaminated ground water isn’t the only concern of those opposed to the already-approved tar sands mine on the Tavaputs Plateau. Irreparable damage to the landscape, eco-system, and environment is a grave matter that is still being insufficiently addressed.
At the new test site, Raphael Courdray, who is among those leading the charge against the development of Utah tar sands, helped the families present to understand what dirty fossil fuels are all about and why, in her view, they should be discontinued immediately.
During the weekend, the children also participated in a direct action training workshop where they learned the basics of peaceful protesting.
They were able to put their new skills to use after the class when they visited the newly installed man camp, where they asked the lone U.S. Oil Sands employee on site to come to dinner.
The PR Springs situation isn’t the first time that companies have tried to strip mine for bitumen in the United States. Behind me is the Leonard-Murphy “83″ mine, an oil sands project that came online in the early ’80s.
Well, that little strip mining experiment didn’t go so well. The company is long gone and bankrupt, and thirty years later, it has undergone very little in the way of environmental reclamation as black goo continually oozes forth from the abandoned mess, killing chipmunks, mice, birds and more, slowly making it’s way down the canyon toward precious water supplies that provide for thousands of people, in several sizable oilfield communities in the Uintah Basin.
The Leonard Murphy site is so hazardous and vile, that upon walking into the ravine, I was forced to leave the area after less than 15 minutes. The horrendous fumes from the exposed black mess gave me a stuffy nose and caused my eyes to water and burn in pain.
Nature is known for its resiliency, yet in the absence of precious top-soil that once contained a microbial web of life that had evolved over thousands of years, this site still appears unable to support even rudimentary grasses and native vegetation.
Situated less than a mile from the U.S. Oil Sands test site, the Leonard Murphy project seems like an ancient energy play, but fast-forward 30 years with today’s 4 dollar per gallon gas prices, and U.S. Oil Sands is attempting a play-by-play rerun of the same speculative and ecologically dangerous activities employed by those who took the same gamble many years ago.
Something that I personally, and others have heard repeatedly from U.S. Oil Sands representatives is: “There’s just NOTHING up there”.
With this assertion, it’s as if the villain from The Neverending Story has taken over the entire area and that there is no foliage, wildlife, or water at all. (Neverending story)
Some people have questioned the validity of the permitting process that requires a company to hire a supposedly neutral third party to perform an environmental impact assessment. Has anyone from the DEQ actually visited this already approved mining site? This is something that we and many others here in PR Springs have been wondering.
Companies have tried to develop tar sands in the past. Thirty years later, there are still environmental consequences and no one seems to be doing anything about it. We only have to look to our neighbors to the North in Canada, the same place where U.S. Oil Sands is from, to see an area nearly the size of Florida turned into a place that resembles the likes of Mordor from Middle Earth.
Considering the multitude of failed tar sands experiments in the ’70s and ’80s where test sites were largely abandoned and left in ruins, people here are wondering just what a bond would look like on the U.S. Oil Sands operation, and just what it would cover. All too often in the past, bankrupt oil-patch cowboys have ridden out of town as quickly as possible when they discovered that there was no pot of gold at the end of their black gooey rainbows.
The tenacious activists here in the state of Utah seem willing and ready to go to almost any non-violent extreme necessary to achieve their mission. This could be clearly witnessed last month in a meeting when Utah state BLM director Juan Palma, was disrupted by some of these same activists in a direct action protest for record books.
Considering the overall history of bitumen extraction on U.S. soil, and going up against a company who has failed to land major investment dollars, and who’s stock has been hovering somewhere around 10 cents with very low trading volume, it would seem that this group of committed activists will stand a good chance of achieving their goal of protecting the majestic lands of the Tavaputs Plateau for generations to come.
Now, U.S. Oil Sands claims that they can process these Utah oil sands with 1.7 barrels of water per 1 barrel of oil, a statement that that remains completely cloaked under the veil of “proprietary technology”, and is so far totally unproven to the public. Considering the past history of U.S. bitumen mining are we, the people, just to take their word for it?
U.S. Oil Sands also claims to possess techniques of “immediate reclamation” of the land here, which seems almost magical to people possessing even a basic understanding of soil science and microbiology. However, to date, we have seen only bitumen strip mining tests at this site, and have seen no top soil replenishment, tree planting, or any other environmental restoration tests of any kind.
If there is one thing that most of us can understand, it is that man is incredibly skillful in the art of destruction, and can easily demolish nearly anything in a fraction of the time that it takes for it to be created.
Take for example Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel built by men over the course of many years. How long would it take to bulldoze it to the ground? A day? A week?
And just how long would it take to rebuild the magnificent Sistine Chapel?Would it ever be what it once was, or would it be just a cheap imitation?
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that it would be easier to rebuild even the great Sistine Chappel, created by man, than it would be to rebuild an entire ecosystem, built by Mother Nature herself, over the course of millions of years.
– See more at: http://environews.tv/children-and-families-camp-out-in-protest-to-save-the-pristine-tavaputs-plateau-from-americas-first-approved-tar-sands-operation/#sthash.G4EcxkS4.dpuf