May 30, 2014 | FOR IMMEDIATE 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.
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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.
US Oil Sands’ chemical solvent has never been used for tar sands processing anywhere on the planet. Toxins from the mine pose risks to the Colorado River Basin, which provides drinking water for at least 20 million—including the people of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix—as well as 15 percent of the nation’s produce.
Tar sands development in Alberta has poisoned the drinking water for downstream people and wildlife, which indigenous communities there rely upon for food. Tar sands critics have accused the megaproject of continuing genocide against native peoples and spewing more greenhouse-gas emissions than any other project on Earth.
The newly established protest vigil at the Utah tar sands project is the latest in a string of persistent setbacks dogging US Oil Sands’ fortunes.
The company has routinely missed construction goals.
US Oil Sands stock price on the Toronto Stock Exchange had dropped 50 percent from its 2013 peak, representing a $100 million loss in value.
Worse yet, US Oil Sands lacks a refinery contract, so despite big promises, it’s unclear how the company intends to bring its product to market. Utah’s five oil refineries—including two in Salt Lake City that currently process Alberta tar sands—remain the most likely candidates.
But that does’t mean a deal is likely. In reaction to public protest in 2013, which saw people breech the Salt Lake City refinery’s gates, Chevron said it would not process Utah tar sands. The other Utah tar sands refinery—Tesoro–is currently seeking regulatory approval to switch off of Alberta tar sands in favor of Uintah Basin crude.
Direct action has hurt US Oil Sands before. In July 2013, people shut down construction of the PR Springs test mine and construction of nearby Seep Ride Road for a full day, delivering US Oil Sands a 13 percent stock dip.
The company still lacks a go-ahead from the Utah Supreme Court. Living Rivers’ lawsuit against US Oil Sands and the Division of Water Quality was heard by the court in March. Despite several pristine springs and ponds—water routinely pools even in the company’s 10-acre test mine—DWQ ruled there was not sufficient water to require the company to monitor water pollutants caused by the mine.
Journalists and supporters are welcome to contact organizers for tours of the remote and beautiful PR Springs. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org