Press release: Utah tar sands opponents to be sentenced

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

Protester “chipmunks” obstruct work at Utah tar sands mine; 5 arrested

A masked person gives a double thumbs up in front of stopped machine. (hi res)

Press Contact:
Raphael Cordray
801-554-0171

Sept. 30, 2014 | For Immediate Release

PR SPRINGS, Utah–Protesters again stopped work at the construction site of the first tar sands mine in the US.  Five people were later arrested and jailed but the campaign to stop the mine said the resistance will not relent until all tar sands plans are canceled.

By moving quickly through the site to obstruct numerous construction vehicles, just a handful of speedy protesters were able to shut down the enormous construction project on a sprawling 213 acres in Utah’s Book Cliffs.

The action took place Sept. 23.

“Direct, physical intervention is necessary to halt the completion of this toxic project,” said one protester. “If just five percent of those people at the People’s Climate March in New York City came to Utah, we could shut down tar sands construction for good–and probably get away with it.”

Two masked people sit with several large construction vehicles halted in the background. (hi res)

A playful video of the action released by Utah Tar Sands Resistance shows protesters donning chipmunk masks, running, dancing and posing for pictures among the many halted machines.

Despite the humor, protesters say Utah tar sands development threatens the safety of drinking water for 40 million people and would cause irreparable damage to the land, including clear-cutting of old-growth juniper, fir and pine forest.

US Oil Sands began major construction of their strip mine in 2014 and hopes for commercial sales beginning sometime in 2015. Hundreds of people have participated in actions disrupting construction work this year, vowing to prevent functioning of the mine. Including the new five defendants, 27 people from Utah and throughout the Americas are facing criminal charges in connection with protest actions.

Construction of the mine is scheduled to end this month due to oncoming winter conditions. Protesters have vowed to return in the spring.

###

Utah Tar Sands Resistance received the following communique from the “chipmunks”:

The tar sands industry is not threatened by symbolic media actions. Direct physical intervention is necessary to halt the completion of this toxic project. What we did was necessary, but it was not enough. We need more people to intervene to roll back US Oil Sands’ assault on land, water, plants, animals and indigenous sovereignty. We encourage everyone to act to halt construction and note that it is no one’s duty to hand themselves over to the state each time they disrupt dangerous projects. We knew we were risking arrest of ourselves or nearby friends who weren’t even involved in this action, and we do not regret our actions. But please, anyone who is able: disrupt the tar sands industry, halt construction and operations and get away with it! Hundreds of thousands of people Sept. 21 marched in New York City just to have a parade for the media. If just 5 percent of those people came to Utah and engaged in direct action, we could shut down tar sands construction for good–and probably get away with it. Our friends who were arrested were subjected to abuse and trasmisogyny from police and jailers that left all of us in a state of terror regarding the welfare of our trans woman friend who was kept in solitary confinement–where the jailers had ample access to abuse her without witnesses, a regular occurrence for incarcerated trans people. No justice seeker should feel compelled to subject themselves or their friends to this kind of state-sponsored abuse that comes with arrest and jail just to live up to some class-privileged individuals’ problematic views on what types of protest deserve respect. Lastly, the video of the chipmunk work stoppage on US Oil Sands’ strip mine project–occurring on stolen Ute land–demonstrates this company’s blatant disregard for the life and safety of people on the work site. US Oil Sands CEO Cameron Todd made claims in the media that workers stop work immediately if anyone is present on the worksite–a requirement of federal safety regulations. But the video shows what we’ve seen again and again: rampant deviation from this guidance and thus rampant violations of safety regulations. KBR-contracted Stubbs and Stubbs’ reaction to our presence echoes their disregard for the amazing ecosystems of the Book Cliffs and beyond, and the lives that they are systematically poisoning and destroying. 

Help support these brave land defenders by donating to the Utah Tar Sands legal solidarity fund.

Faces of the grassroots climate movement: rowdy and rowdier

Marches around the country this week show ideological diversity among a new cohort of activists.

by Cally Carswell

(This article has been re-posted from High Country News)

Protesters march toward U.S. Oil Sands’ test pit, on the East Tavaputs Plateau in Utah’s Book Cliffs. The company is moving toward opening the first commercial tar sands mine in the U.S., and began clearing a site for a processing facility down the road this summer.

Last Sunday, under a pocket of blue sky, some 30 people spilled out of vehicles onto Seep Ridge Road, a wide thoroughfare that traverses a remote spine of eastern Utah’s Book Cliffs, and is in the process of being paved. Many in the group wore hats or wrapped their heads with scarves, then tied bandanas over their noses and mouths. They looked tough, hard-edged, but not without a sense of humor. One woman carried a shepherd’s cane, one man wore a clown mask, and another played tunes like “This Land is Our Land” on a saxophone. The wind whipped them energetically.

The guises were defenses not against the weather, but against the cops and a security camera trained on a test pit for what could soon become the first commercial tar sands mine in the U.S. Tar sands contain an unconventional crude called bitumen, that with a great deal of water and energy can be extracted from sand and rock, and refined into fuel. The industry is big business in Alberta, Canada, and one of the most carbon-intense fossil fuels. U.S. environmentalists have fiercely opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian tar sands crude to U.S. refineries, in a bid to influence further development to the north. Less known, and less opposed nationally, is the push to develop Utah’s own tar sands deposits.

The protesters were here to say “no” to the development, because as one explained earlier in the day, “These days, if you’re not saying ‘no,’ you’re saying ‘yes’.” It felt good to say “no,” another told me, and to do so publicly.

After all, the politer approaches to solving the climate crisis, the attempts by big environmental groups to work inside the halls of Congress, to compromise, and to wield science to compel action, had failed. It was time, the protesters believed, to confront the problem at its source – carbon spewing projects like this one – and to do so loudly. A few among them unfurled a banner declaring “Together and Everywhere We Rise Up for Climate Justice.” The group began to march toward the test pit. Continue reading

Five Land Defenders Arrested at Utah Tar Sands Protest

reflection

BREAKING: Five Land defenders were arrested yesterday morning at the construction site of US Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mine in Utah. The Canadian company’s 32,000 acre lease-holding are on state-managed land in the Book Cliffs, on the East Tavaputs Plateau, though the land is traditional Ute land, and lays within Indian country, with sections of the tar sands project straddling the boundary of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation.

Currently, the land defenders (including the media team) are being held on Class A Trespassing charges, with a total bail estimated at $10,500.

One of those arrested is a trans woman, and at this time we are unsure if she is being held in solitary, or if she is being housed with the male population. Neither situation is acceptable, we are extremely concerned about the dangers she may be facing.

We will provide updates and media here as they become available.

Donate to the land defenders’ legal support fund using this secure link or with the form below:

 

(PHOTOS) Fall Campout in the Book Cliffs: “We rise up for Climate Justice!”

From Utah to NY: Together & Everywhere We Rise Up For Climate Justice!

Over the weekend of Sept. 19th, folks from all over Utah, Colorado, and even as far away as Brooklyn & England, gathered at our permanent protest camp to share stories of Resistance, and tour the the East Tavaputs Plateau: specifically US Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mine.

Together with our friends from Canyon Country Rising Tide, we marched down Seep Ridge Road, along the football-sized area being clear-cut for US Oil Sands’ construction site, and into the 10-acre test pit that gives us a glimpse of the future if 32,000 acres are strip-mined in the Book Cliffs.

We stand & resist in solidarity with communities everywhere rising up to protect lands, water & our very future.

Shutting down the Uintah Basin Energy Summit: “A message to all of you short-sighted killers”

“Disorderly Conduct” by Sidhe, a message to US Oil Sands and other killers

 

 

On Sept. 4th, Utah Tar Sands Resistance interrupted the 2014 Uintah Basin Energy Summit, a yearly conference where tar sands and oil shale speculators are exalted and anyone “not excited” about the destruction of the Book Cliffs is shut out and silenced.

Land defender Sidhe had planned to share her entire poem with the 700 conference goers, but police–already aware of the conference organizers’ insecurities and impatience–would not cede a moment to their dissenters. Sidhe was booked into the Uintah County Jail on suspicion of “disorderly conduct,” an exceedingly fitting charge police could level against the tar sands speculators destroying the planet who were in the room, but alas, the police work for the capitalists, not the people.

“Disorderly Conduct” by Sidhe

A message to all of you short-sighted killers
What kind of world will you leave behind for your children
When you’ve squeezed every last drop of life from the land
With your greed and your murder you’ve wrought with your plans

I’d like to remind you your money means nothing
When the water’s been blackened and the creatures are starving
You toy with a force you do not understand
Your chemicals won’t wash all that blood off your hands

First Nations fight cancer up in Athabasca
Your oil trains are time bombs impending disaster
Your pipelines will leak and your cesspools will sprawl
And your babies are left with the brunt of it all

What of the animals caught in the tar?
What of the forests left clear cut and scarred?
What of those atrocities I didn’t witness?
Like Serafino in Columbia sending assassins
To murder union organizers who stood up and spoke out
In the back of my mind I can still hear them shout
I am made of this land you are made of the same
The planet is dying and you are to blame

Are you proud of yourselves? Look at what you’ve become
Heartless machines, so frigid and numb
So reluctant to think that you may just be wrong
That you hear the dissent and you send in the guns.

WE’RE SUING COPS AND A TAR SANDS REFINERY!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Journalist sues Utah tar sands refinery for illegal “terrorism” police detention

SALT LAKE CITY—An award-winning independent journalist filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tesoro and the Salt Lake City Police Department for illegally detaining him and accusing him of terrorism for taking photographs of a refinery.

Jesse Fruhwirth posted a video on the Internet (see below) of December 16, 2013, when an ice storm and power outage prompted a major pollution event at Tesoro’s tar sands refinery in the Rose Park neighborhood.

“I was in bed reading and through my window suddenly I could see that the night sky was ablaze as if all of Rose Park was on fire,” says Fruhwirth. “Only the refinery was on fire, but I knew that such huge flare offs were extra dangerous events for babies, old people and sick people and I thought it was important to film the fire that might severely sicken or kill some of my neighbors that night.”

Fruhwirth also filmed the interaction he had with a police officer who ordered him to stop filming. In the video, Salt Lake officer Yvette Zayas tells Fruhwirth that she detained him for taking pictures of “critical infrastructure,” that she would refer her report to a “Joint Terrorism Task Force” to protect “homeland security.”

Zayas is simultaneously a paid employee of Tesoro and SLCPD, but that night she was working directly on Tesoro’s payroll.

Zayas nevertheless was wearing her city-issued police uniform, carrying her city firearm, driving the city’s squad car, and accessing the public dispatch system. The Rent-a-Real-Cop program, Fruhwirth says, is blatant corporate welfare and has been gaining more critics as harmful corporations like Tesoro and controversial political organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council have hired real city police to work exclusively for them.

“Police are given virtually perfect immunity to arrest and sometimes even to kill people supposedly because cops work for the public interest to ‘keep the peace,’” Fruhwirth says. “So it’s incredibly dangerous and dishonest for the city to rent policing power to powerful corporations so that cops completely ignore the refinery’s deadly crimes and meanwhile shut down the law-abiding journalists trying to expose them.”

The civil rights lawsuit filed in federal district court Wednesday (attached) names as defendants police chief Chris Burbank, mayor Ralph Becker, Tesoro as well as Zayas.

Others have faced similar intimidation. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment’s Dr. Brian Moench faced off with officer Zayas at Tesoro as well. “The exact same thing happened to me back in July [2013],” he says.

Fruhwirth aims for a ruling declaring such detentions illegal as well as exposure of the Rent-a-Real-Cop program. But he also hopes to bring attention to the story that enticed him to film the refinery in the first place.

“Tesoro’s use of tar sands as a feed stock brings some of the poisons killing multitudes of indigenous people in Alberta down to Rose Park, a neighborhood that’s home to many people of color and recent immigrants,” Fruhwirth says. “It’s a journalist’s obligation to document an especially poisonous night, at an especially poisonous facility that uses especially poisonous products like tar sands. It’s classic environmental racism and it’s killing my neighbors and Athabascans alike.”

Fruhwirth was twice a finalist for the Reporter of the Year by the Utah Society of Professional Journalists and has worked to expose police murders and police brutality.

He is represented by Stewart Gollan of the Utah Legal Clinic.

To read the complaint, click here.

 

Frogs in Action Against Tar Sands!

frog meme copy

Inspired by friends taking a halt to tar sands mining in Utah for years, we frogs sprung into action this morning. At 8AM, just before the work crew arrived, we hopped out of the woods and helped a comrade u-lock their neck to the front gate of the area where machinery is stored.

Our friend had also covered themselves with tar sands to symbolize how millions of frogs and other animals downriver—humans included—would be impacted by tar sands mining. Today we take a stand for all the living beings down the Colorado River who would be poisoned by tar sands toxins and who’s water would be stolen by industry.

We come from various downriver habitats that would be severely impacted. Our journey here symbolized the mass migrations that so many species have been forced to endure. Braving the desert dryness and heat helped us to realize more deeply what it is like to be an endangered or threatened species with nowhere left to go.

Our action followed on the heels of a human-lead action that halted work for most of an afternoon last Wednesday. (insert hyperlink)

When workers approached the gate, they were clearly confused. Our comrade told them we would not allow work to happen today, to which  they replied, “But you’re a frog.” They debated among themselves about calling the cops, but ultimately decided against it. We imagined the 911 call: “Officer, we have a frog situation…”

Work began late that morning after they decided to extract our friends on their own, but we all felt it was a win. Tar sands resistance happens not just in big, high-profile action camps, but in repeated daily acts that challenge the powerful and take a stand for all living beings. Maybe next time it will be the chipmunks or the rabbits rising up, and when they do, we will be right there, on the front-lines, with them.

Ribbits and Solidarity,
The Frogs

Colorado Plateau Resistance shuts down tar sands mine construction


Utah Tar Sands Resistance received information regarding a direct action that took place at the US Oil Sands strip mine construction site. These folks are bad ass!

The group released the following video and below the video, a communique:

The Colorado Plateau and its inhabitants are under invasion on multiple fronts of the energy industry. This tar sands mine is a bloody blip in a bigger scheme threatening this land, including the reopening of uranium mines that have poisoned indigenous communities for generations; the planned construction of a nuclear generator in Green River, Utah; violent and vast scraping of the land and squandering of sacred water in pursuit of lowest-grade fuel sources like tar sands and oil shale; a new “oil” refinery in Green River perhaps to centralize production and distribution of those super-toxic tar sands and oil shale fuels; and all of this paid for and made possible by the dangerous fracking boom, which is poisoning our air and water and killing the most vulnerable members of our communities, our babies and old people. This second Big Buildup of the Colorado Plateau is similar to the first Big Buildup of the 20th Century, which fostered disastrous projects like the Glen Canyon Dam, the Navajo Generating station, and the Peabody coal mine at Black Mesa; this second Big Buildup of the Colorado plateau also resembles the initial conquering and genocide of this land by the American government and white settlers. In those prior historical times and today, masters of industry and thus colonialism must control the land and subjugate its people in order to consolidate the wealth of the land in the hands of very few white elites. Their most powerful weapons are and always have been racism and patriarchy and their value system is heartless capitalism. We are forever in contempt of their scheme. This energy industry is a murderous syndicate whose business plans for the future entail the destruction of life on the planet via climate-change catastrophes and crises. Now is the time for all who have something to contribute to give all that you can to the final shut-down of projects like the US Oil Sands tar sands mine and all the many tentacles sucking the life of the Colorado Plateau and Grand Mother Earth herself.

National Environmental Groups Stand With Utah Land Defenders

This week, twenty-one people were arrested while engaging in peaceful civil disobedience in protest of a controversial proposed tar sands mine in northeastern Utah, which would threaten local land and water, as well as contributing to the global climate crisis. As they await charges, national environmental organizations expressed their solidarity with the protesters who stood for our freedom from dirty fossil fuels and devastating climate impacts.

“This could be the first large-scale tar sands strip mining in the Unites States, and this filthy industry threatens our air, water and wildlife,” said Valerie Love, No Tar Sands Campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, who was one of the 21 arrested at the site.  “We staged our protest on behalf of the millions of people who will be affected by this dirty fossil fuel mining. Over 40 million people and many wildlife species depend on this watershed. We need to say no to tar sands mining.”

SONY DSCRainforest Action Network stands in solidarity with the Utah anti-tar sands protestors whose commitment to protecting our air, water and climate—at the expense of their own freedom—is inspiring,” said Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network. “Our movement is already working hard to prevent the Keystone XL from delivering tar sands oil across our borders; we can’t allow the practice itself to be imported to our cherished wild places. We applaud the local Utah campaigners for fighting to stop the first-ever tar sands mine in the United States.”

“Tar sands are the dirtiest fuel on the planet. By shining a spotlight on these dangerous projects, protestors in Utah are doing the world a service–they deserve our support, not jail time. If the government won’t act to keep tar sands in the ground, then the people will. The power of nonviolent direct action has helped block tar sands pipelines and mines from Nebraska to Maine to Alberta. This resistance is strategic, it’s effective, and it’s ultimately going to carry the day,” said May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave people in Utah who are risking themselves to protect us all,” said Luísa Abbott Galvão, of Friends of the Earth. “We’ve seen from Canada that tar sands production is incompatible with environmental sustainability, land rights, and the public health.”

SONY DSC“Mining tar sands in Utah would be disastrous for local communities and the water, and would be a major setback for the country’s efforts to stop climate change,” said Kendall Mackey, National Tar Sands Organizer for Energy Action Coalition. “Youth activists across the country stand with those opposing tar sands mining in Utah and stand ready to use our political and financial power to stop it.”

“Tar sands is the dirtiest source of oil on the planet.  We’ve seen the destruction being caused by tar sands everywhere–from the strip mines in Canada to the ruptured pipelines that dump tar sands crude into American waterways and neighborhoods,” said Marion Klaus, a Sierra Club volunteer leader who lives in Utah. “The Sierra Club stands with citizens everywhere who are fighting dirty fossil fuels and getting to work creating the clean energy prosperity this country needs.”

SONY DSC“The Utah 21 are not alone.  These brave and principled nonviolent activists are only the most recent to take their turns on the front lines against extreme energy extraction and for a safe climate and clean energy future. Many have preceded them and more will surely follow.  Our movement is already winning as we have effectively limited tar sands production by blocking its export out of North America.  The oil industry and the Obama and Harper governments should expect more protests, marches, and civil disobedience until energy policy is brought in line with what climate science demands – anything less is climate denial which we, and activists around the country, will not tolerate” said Steve Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International.

“Greenpeace stands in solidarity with the brave activists who have put their freedom on the line to prevent the construction of the first-ever US tar sands mine. We can’t hope to solve the climate crisis if we continue to extract and burn the dirtiest fuels on the planet. In the face of devastating droughts, floods, and fires, non-violent direct action is a necessary tool to confront injustices where governments and corporations have failed to act,” said Gabriel Wisniewski of Greenpeace.

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT BY DONATING TO THE UTAH LAND DEFENDERS LEGAL SUPPORT.