Hey Cameron Todd, will you define “exceptional” for us?

Hey, Cameron Todd, CEO of US Oil Sands, we’ve got a question about your latest press release. When you say: “Our first quarter (Jan-March 2014) has been an exceptional period for our Company, as we transitioned the PR Spring Project from the design stage to the execution and build stage,” what exactly are you talking about?

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US Oil Sands’ PR Springs “test” tar sands strip-mine (April, 2014)

Because this doesn’t look like an “exceptional period” of “execution” and growth to us. This looks like a mine site that was abandoned over the winter, when it was covered in snow and the roads were impassable. This looks like a strip-mine where no construction happened for months, all the equipment was removed, and absolutely no work was done.

So Cameron, buddy, just so we’re clear: when you say “exceptional period” you’re basically lying to make things look good for your investors, right?

Good. Glad we had this talk.

American Sands Energy Corp. To Become Third Company to Mine Tar Sands in Utah

by Anne Landman (Reposted from DesmogBlog)

7859173000_057ed273db_b_0U.S. Oil Sands and MCW Enterprises, move over.

Yet another company is poised to start grinding up and spitting out eastern Utah’s wilderness for its tar sands.

Until now, the biggest threat to eastern Utah’s wilderness has been the Canadian company U.S. Oil Sands, which amid protests in 2013 succeeded in starting a strip mining operation for tar sands at PR Spring, in eastern Utah’s Bookcliffs range, about 35 miles west of the Colorado border.

In what’s shaping up to be a new rush to riches by producing dirty oil from unconventional sources in the western U.S., now another company, American Sands Energy Corporation (ASEC), has obtained the rights to mine tar sands and bitumen (asphalt) on 1,800 acres of private property in an area called Sunnyside, about 150 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

The company calls the project the “Sunnyside Project” or the “Gibbs Project,” after the Gibbs family, which owned the property 30 years ago. William Gibbs is the chairman of the board and CEO of American Sands Energy Corporation.

ASEC couldn’t possibly have found a friendlier place in the U.S. for its fossil fuel extraction project.

Sunnyside, population 274 in 2012, is a former coal town in Carbon County, and is so friendly to energy interests that up until 1994, it never had an elected mayor. Before that time, the town’s mayor was the superintendent of mines for the Utah Fuel Coal Company. After Kaiser Steel took over the local mines in 1950, Sunnyside’s mayor was the head of Kaiser Steel.

Sunnyside’s citizens have long depended on extractive energy interests to put meals on the table. After the coal companies left, the Chevron Corporation leased the Sunnyside property in the 1980s, but pulled out after government subsidies for its activities ended. Then Amoco took over the leases and continued mining and energy development until the price of oil collapsed in the 1990s. ASEC was the next company to acquire leases on the property, in 2005 and 2009. In its investor materials, ASEC boasts (pdf) that “Utah is ranked 2nd in the U.S. and 9th in the world for best places for mining operations.” Continue reading

Tell the BLM “STOP Ambre Energy!” #NoOilShale in the Book Cliffs

Attention Resisters! There’s a new oil shale company with their dirty extraction loving eyes on the Book Cliffs of Utah. Ambre Energy wants to start exploratory mining about 50 miles south of Vernal, along Seep Ridge.

Oh hey, do you remember when the BLM was drafting their Environmental Impact Statement on tar sands and oil shale in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, and we delivered the People’s Environmental Impact Statement telling them why tar sands & oil shale development are a bad idea? And the lawsuit that challenged the 800,000-acres being proposed? The BLM paid some lip-service to the fact that they were going to make tar sands and oil shale speculators PROVE that their projects were economically viable AND would have minimal impact on the environment. That they’d allow this “exploratory mining” seems pretty shady.

TELL THE BLM: NO OIL SHALE IN UTAH’S BOOK CLIFFS! Continue reading

Estonian journalist speaks at Enefit / Eesti Energia oil shale test mine in Utah

In January 2014, Estonian journalist Andres Raid of Talinna TV travelled to Utah to investigate his nation’s energy company’s Utah project. What he found was barely a sham test pit and nothing more going on, a scandal of great proportions for his Estonian people.

Estonian’s utility prices have soared under Eesti Energia’s current leadership, debt has gone from €300m in 2011 to €600m today, a balance that credit agencies have noticed. Criticizing Enefit/Eesti Energia’s foolish investments overseas and the expansive debt growth, credit agencies have lower Enefit’s credit rating.

Moreever, Enefit’s test plant in Estonia of turning oil shale into liquid fuel has been a complete waste of time effort and money. So-called Enefit 280–the technology the company claims it will use in Utah, Jordan and elsewhere–isn’t working. A huge plant in Estonia is built but not operational.

Since Raid’s reporting these last two months, sources inside Enefit have told journalists that the Utah oil shale project is on hold indefinitely. But then a Utahn employed by Enefit as a PR flack says that is untrue.

So what is the truth, Enefit? Why don’t you start giving people some answers about Enefit 280, about your soaring debt, about your complete lack of experience turning oil shale into liquid fuel, about the completely disappointing German test results regarding Utah oil shale. Tell us the truth, Enefit–Utahns and Estonians both deserve to hear it.

(You can watch Andres Raid’s story about Enefit’s Utah oil shale project here).

US’s first tar sands mine facing opposition in Utah (KPFK Earth Watch)

Melanie Martin discusses growing opposition to tar sands mining in eastern Utah, and the disproportionate impact of Salt Lake City’s oil refineries on communities of color and low-income neighborhoods on KPFK’s Sojourner Truth Radio.

Canadian Company Called U.S. Oil Sands Will Soon Start Extracting Utah’s Tar Sands

by Anne Landman (reposted from DesmogBlog)

Grand_Junction_Trip_92007_012Think only Canadians need to worry about tar sands extraction? Think again.

In October, U.S. Oil Sands, Inc. joined Kentucky-based Arrakis Oil Recovery as the second company to receive a permit to produce U.S. tar sands. The Utah Water Quality Board gave U.S. Oil Sands a permit to extract 2,000 barrels of oil per day from Utah’s tar sands reserves.

Despite its name, U.S. Oil Sands is actually a Canadian outfit based in Calgary, Alberta. The company currently holds leases on just over 32,000 acres in Utah’s Uintah Basin. U.S. Oil Sands’ mining will take place at PR Spring on the Colorado Plateau in an area called the Bookcliffs, which straddles the Utah/Colorado border.

U.S. Oil Sands’ water-and-energy-intensive extraction process involves first digging up congealed tar sands, then crushing them to reduce their size. The company then mixes the crushed sand with large amounts of hot water (at a temperature of 122-176°F) to loosen up and liquefy the tarry, oil-containing residue and separating it from the sand.

Next, coarse solids sink, are subsequently removed and considered waste tailings. Air is then bubbled through the remaining water-oil mixture, which makes the oil float to the top in what’s referred to as “bitumen froth,” in industry lingo. The froth is then deaerated, meaning all the air molecules are removed.

When it finally gets to this point in the production process, the mixture is still so thick it can’t be pumped through pipelines.

Thus, it undergoes even more treatment with a hydrocarbon solvent to reduce the viscosity and density of the sludge. Wastes from the process — which contain water contaminated with chemicals and unrecoverable oils — are called “middlings” and will be disposed of in surface tailings ponds and kept long-term.

Commercial Viability, Few Jobs, Utah Water Crisis

U.S. Oil Sands received the Utah Water Quality Board permit despite questions raised about its potential commercial viability and an ongoing water crisis in Utah and the U.S. southwest at-large.

According to a press release on the U.S. Oil Sands website, the company managed to obtain $81 million in financing in October 2013, and says the project is “fully funded.” U.S. Oil Sands makes this claim even though a March 2013 Record of Decision by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management cautioned investors that “this resource is not, at present, a proven commercially viable energy source.”

Additionally, as part of its PR offensive, U.S. Oil Sands is touting that the project will create 75 to 100 high-paying, steady jobs. But given the destruction inherent in tar sands mining, not to mention the climate impacts of this dirty oil, many are likely to view this corporate pitch of several dozen jobs as offensive on its face.

Further, excessive water usage in a drought-stricken west is another concern that citizens have with the project.

A letter written by the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining said, “It is expected that the mine will use 116 gallons of water per minute on a 24-hour basis, which equates to approximately 180 acre-feet per year” and that a production rate of 2,000 barrels of crude a day will consume approximately 4,000 barrels of water per day.

Opposition to US Tar Sands Building

An organized citizens alliance has sprung up to try to block the U.S. tar sands project.

Members of Utah Tar Sands Resistance and Peaceful Uprising, Utah-based activist groups, crashed an annual gathering of U.S. Oil Sands’ investors in May 2013, disrupting the meeting with protests. The activists promised stiff opposition to the project.

Additionally, Peaceful Uprising went to the PR Springs demonstration site last year to conduct a nonviolent protest to disrupt the project. They walked onto the site carrying protest signs and banners, climbed on actively working track hoes, sat and stood in front of dump trucks and mining equipment and linked arms in a human chain to block the movement of graders and scrapers.

Co-founded by “Bidder 70,” Tim DeChristopher, Peaceful Uprising is considering organizing a “spring break” grassroots protest of the Utah tar sands project this year, inviting people to join them to learn community organizing and direct action skills first-hand. They will do the trip if enough people sign up.

Before it Starts is another group concerned that the project amounts to an environmental and climate disaster slated to irreversibly impact the Tavaputs Plateau area of eastern Utah. They did a “Tar Sands Roadshow” last spring, an educational presentation in which members will travel around Utah and western Colorado explaining the impacts of the tar sands project and how it will affect the nearby lands.

While much is yet to be clarified about U.S. Oil Sands intentions in Utah, one thing is for certain: U.S. tar sands development faces stiff grassroots opposition before the prospective developers even get started.

Frank Giustra, President Bill Clinton’s Close Colleague, Joins US Oil Sands Board

UPDATE 10/18/2013: “Due to other commitments, Frank Giustra will not be appointed to the Board.” (Perhaps due the risky nature of tar sands investing).

by Steve Horn (reposted from DesmogBlog)

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 1.11.43 PMFrank Giustra – key power broker and close colleague of former President Bill Clinton – has taken a seat on the Board of Directors of U.S. Oil Sands, an Alberta-based company aiming to develop tar sands deposits in Utah’s Uintah Basin. **UPDATE: Although he was named a prospective appointee to the Board, Mr. Giustra ultimately declined the position, citing “other commitments.”**

U.S. Oil Sands – in naming several new members to its Board – also announced it has received $80 million in “strategic financing” from Blue Pacific Investments Group Ltd., Anchorage Capital Group, L.L.C. and Spitfire Ventures, LLC.

The funding will help get the ball rolling on “tar sands south,” a miniature but increasingly controversial version of its big brother to the north, the Alberta tar sands. Giustra will likely help in opening the right doors for tar sands industry interests in the United States.

Giusta is best known for his work in the worlds of uranium mining and minerals mining, though he has dabbled in the Alberta tar sands finance world once before, lending upwards of $20 million in capital to Excelsior Energy. He serves as CEO and President of Fiore Financial Corporation.

Founder and Director of the Radcliffe Foundation and Co-Director of the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (formerly known as the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative), Frank Giustra has maintained close ties with Bill Clinton since 2005.

The Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative is an arm of the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation (the Clinton Foundation). Giustra sits on the Clinton Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

Clinton_familyGiustra also sits on the Board of Directors of Petromanas Energy Inc., an oil and gas company with assets including 1.1 million acres in Albania, 170,000 acres in France and 1.6 million acres in Australia.

Clinton and Giustra have been instrumental in forging a major oil deal in Colombia and a major nuclear uranium mining deal in Kazakhstan, among other things.

Opening Doors in Colombia

In a February 2008 article, ”Clinton Used Giustra’s Plane, Opened Doors for Deals,” Bloomberg mapped out the close relationship between Clinton and Giustra that began in 2005. 

“Clinton was borrowing [Giustra’s private jet] to begin a four-day speaking tour of Latin America that would pay him $800,000,” Bloomberg detailed. “Frank Giustra…was forming a friendship that would make him part of the former president’s inner circle and gain him introductions to presidents of Kazakhstan and Colombia.”

Clinton’s effort to connect Giustra to former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was related to oil developments.

Álvaro_Uribe_Vélez“Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp., spent more than $250 million to purchase control of a company that operated Colombian oil fields in conjunction with Ecopetrol S.A., the national oil company,” explained The Wall Street Journal. “Pacific Rubiales has also signed a pipeline deal with Ecopetrol and been invited by the Colombian national petroleum agency to do further oil-development work in the country.”

Giustra’s Endeavor Financial Corporation provided the money for the Pacific Rubiales buyout, where he served as Chairman from 2001-2007. Giustra’s Fiore Financial Corporation maintains an “exclusive strategic alliance” with Endeavor Financial, which “provide[s] Endeavour with unique deal making and investment capabilities.”

Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership lists Pacific Rubiales, the Colombian government and Endeavor Mining (the mining wing of Endeavor Financial Corporation) among its current PartnersThe Wall Street Journal explained that Pacific Rubiales gave over $3 million to the Partnership, and Giustra put over $100 million of his own cash into the pot.

From Kazakhstani Uranium Shell Company to Clinton Foundation Trustee

Giustra’s self-serving philantrophy also took him and Clinton to Kazakhstan in September 2007, as documented in a January 2008 New York Times investigation.

Paralleling their Colombia activities, Clinton played the role of “doorman,” opening doors for Giustra to meet key leaders in the giant Central Asian state.

Kazakhstan-CIA_WFB_Map“Within two days [of the beginning of the trip], corporate records show that Mr. Giustra also came up a winner when his company [UrAsia Energy Ltd.] signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom,” wrote The Times.

“The monster deal stunned the mining industry, turning an unknown shell company into one of the world’s largest uranium producers in a transaction ultimately worth tens of millions of dollars to Mr. Giustra.”

Like in Colombia, the deal was a win-win for Clinton and Giustra.

“Just months after the Kazakh pact was finalized, Mr. Clinton’s charitable foundation received its own windfall: a $31.3 million donation from Mr. Giustra,” The Times further explained.

“The gift, combined with Mr. Giustra’s more recent and public pledge to give the William J. Clinton Foundation an additional $100 million, secured Mr. Giustra a place in Mr. Clinton’s inner circle…Giustra [also] co-produced a gala 60th birthday for Mr. Clinton that featured stars like Jon Bon Jovi and raised about $21 million for the Clinton Foundation.”

Bon_Jovi_O2_Arena_Circle_TourWithin a year and a half, Giustra sold off his stake in the Kazatomprom joint venture for $3.1 billion, which he had originally purchased for $450 million.

Giustra, Clinton Opening Doors for US Tar Sands Development?

With their history of partnering up on business deals worldwide, front-line Utah environmental activists fear the Uintah Basin could be next on the list for Frank Giustra and Bill Clinton.

“There have been efforts to squeeze oil from the tar sands and oil shale along the Colorado Plateau for decades, and ultimately these projects fail due to their experimental, energy intensive, and risky nature,” Jessica Lee, an activist with Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance said in an interview with DeSmogBlog.

Giustra’s presence on the Board, Lee believes, may give U.S. tar sands the credibility they currently lack in the eyes of capital investors.

“The real risk here is that investors will view Giustra and the other board members involvement as attractive, and will throw their own money away into a speculative investment,” she said. “Frank Giustra will not stay behind to clean up the mess U.S. Oil Sands leaves, pocketing whatever money he can and leaving Utah with a wasteland.”

Utah children visit PR Springs & speak out against tar sands

On June 22nd, 2013, as part of the 4th Annual Global Earth Exchange, and #FearlessSummer, a group of Utah children traveled to PR Springs, the site of the first proposed Tar Sands mining project in the United States.

They created a work of art in appreciation for Mother Earth, made entirely of objects found around the mine, and spoke in opposition to the Tar Sands.

UTSR Global Earth Exchange

(Photo by Steve Liptay)

UTSR Danger Mine Site

(photo by Steve Liptay)

EnviroNews (VIDEO): Families Camp Out in Protest to Save the Pristine Tavaputs Plateau From America’s First Approved Tar Sands Operation

(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.

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