New Film, “The East Tavaputs Plateau: A Land Fighting for Survival”

 

This newly-released short film lets you see for yourself the incredible beauty of the East Tavaputs Plateau, slated for tar sands strip mining. Get up close to the natural wonders hiding throughout this enchanting land, and ask yourself what you would do to defend it.

On the East Tavaputs Plateau of so-called Utah, which is Uintah Ute territory, US Oil Sands is trying to start up the first massive strip mine to produce fuel from tar sands in the U.S. Meanwhile, grassroots groups like Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Peaceful Uprising, and Canyon Country Rising Tide are battling to defend this lush and diverse land. 

Witness the amazing beings and ecosystems fighting for life alongside incredible destruction. While they don’t get the attention of Canyonlands or the San Raphael, these places are near and dear to us and many other folks in Utah. From the sandstone cliffs of Main Canyon with their hidden bat caves, to the sweeping vistas of the Book Cliffs, this land deserves protection as much as any national park. And as part of the headwaters of the Colorado River as well as a massive source of carbon, our future is intertwined with its own.

We’ve Moved Our Vigil to SITLA!

BREAKING: Utah Tar Sands Resistance has moved our protest vigil to SITLA, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, located in downtown Salt Lake City!

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That’s right, we rolled in with our water barrels, tents, and banners, and set up shop at high noon today.

Join us if you can. Bring food or coffee, and it will be a party.

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SITLA's dirty work banner

Read the press release:

Utah Tar Sands Resistance
Stages 24-Hour Vigil on Lawn of SITLA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY, UT: On October 21 at noon, members of Utah Tar Sands Resistance and supporters launched a 24-hour vigil in front of SITLA (School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration) in Salt Lake City. This summer and fall, beginning in mid-May, they have been holding an ongoing protest encampment in the Book Cliffs of eastern Utah, at the site where US Oil Sands is attempting to start the first commercial tar sands mine in the U.S. Now, they have brought their protest to the front doors of the agency responsible for leasing the lands, SITLA, located at 500 S/700 E, Salt Lake City.

The group chose to launch their vigil the day before SITLA’s next board meeting, which will take place at 9 a.m. on October 22. SITLA’s board is stacked with developers chosen by the governor, and its decisions to lease land for the world’s dirtiest energy sources—like tar sands and oil shale—stand in stark contrast to its mandate to never sacrifice short-term gains for the long-term wellbeing of Utah’s children.

In reality, SITLA contributes just 1–2% of the public schools’ budget. What do SITLA’s choices actually give the residents of Utah? The high rate of infant mortality in the Uintah Basin and the red air days in the Salt Lake Valley during which children and pregnant women are told to stay indoors, for starters. Human health will be jeopardized even more if the world’s dirtiest projects are allowed to take root in Utah. Along with decimated ecosystems, dwindling watersheds, and climate chaos, these realities show that SITLA’s choices are giving our children a toxic and frightening future, leaving them to cope with previous generations’ mistakes.

Jill Merritt, a mother of four and a grandmother, says, “SITLA’s choices put my grandchildren and future generations in grave danger, leaving them with a world torn apart by climate chaos, poisoned rivers, and toxic air. We call on SITLA to immediately rescind their leases for tar sands and oil shale, and start focusing on the long-term wellbeing of our children.”

Utah Tar Sands Resistance encourages all concerned members of the public to join them in standing up for a livable future. Their vigil is a family-friendly environment that they hope will serve as a public forum in which people can discuss their concerns about the management of public lands and resources. They will be recording stories on the site for a video project on this issue, and they invite kids, parents, and other members of the public to come share about their concerns for the environment and their love of Utah’s public lands.

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.

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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! 

Red Leaf Resources scraping open a new strip mine

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October 2013 (left) and June 2014 (right). The white structure in the center is Red Leaf Resources.

Red Leaf Resources is an experimental strip mining company hoping to make a profit from low-grade oil shale. Wannabe oil shale barons have fumbled for generations in Utah’s Uintah Basin, but this Total-backed operation may destroy 17,000 acres of pristine wilderness before learning this lesson again.

Red Leaf’s expiremental plan involves packing low-grade oil shale into earthen underground ovens, heat the contents for 7 months at like 8,000 degrees (not the actual number, but it’s something ridiculously high). And what will they use to heat the ovens? Cheap, abundant and over-produced fracked natural gas, of course.

It’s not acknowledged outright, but we’ve often speculated that the nuclear generators proposed for Green River are necessary to fuel this next generation of dirty fuel production int he Uintah Basin. Tar sands and oil shale mining huge amounts of energy to convert those rocks into something of minimal value on today’s energy markets.  What a racket!

All the while the tricksters, fraudsters, egomaniacs and just plain dupes promoting tar sands and oil shale in Utah push for more state and federal aid–the only golden parachute that can make these boondoggles the least bit profitable. Luckily, Red Leaf is really good at buying politicians.

Red Leaf aerial photo circa 2013

This is what the property looked like at the end of 2013 before the recent round of scraping.

The new Seep Ridge Road highway–reviled by hunters, ranchers and land defenders alike–was constructed by the state of Utah with taxpayer dollars primarily to benefit Red Leaf Resources.

Power brokers in state government–who sell leases to companies like Red Leaf to destroy these lands–say they’re making these dangers deals “for the kids.”  Yeah, the ones that survive.

Join our Intergenerational Campout June 20 and meet the land defenders of the permanent protest vigil who brought you this update!

Donate here to keep updates coming from the Tavaputs Plateau where we’re staving off an energy colony under construction that’s threatening the entire Colorado Plateau!

 

Red Leaf’s Controversial Utah Oil Shale Project Challenged

(Reposted from the Grand Canyon Trust)

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An aerial view of Red Leaf Resources’ Utah oil shale facility. | Photo courtesy Taylor McKinnon (Grand Canyon Trust) and Bruce Gordon (Ecoflight)

For Immediate Release, January 22, 2014

Contact:
Rob Dubuc, Western Resource Advocate, (801) 487-9911
John Weisheit, Living Rivers, (435) 259-1063
Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust, (801) 300-2414
Shelley Silbert, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, (970) 385-9577
Tim Wagner, Sierra Club, (801) 502-5450

Controversial Utah Oil Shale Project Challenged

38,000 Public Comments Opposed Plan Threatening Aquifers, Seeps and Springs

SALT LAKE CITY— Oil shale strip mining atop Utah’s Book Cliffs is being challenged by conservation groups. The challenge is a “request for agency action” filed Tuesday, over the ground water discharge permit approved by the Utah Department of Water Quality. The permit, which authorizes Red Leaf Resources to test an oil shale mining facility, lacks measures to prevent or detect surface or groundwater pollution, in violation of state law. More than 38,000 public comments were sent to the Department opposing an earlier draft of the flawed plan.

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Photo tour: Join us to visit what Enefit oil shale mining would destroy first

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Tar sands and oil shale development are crucial accelerants to climate catastrophe and the severe harm brought to so many, but a threat of harm to every living thing on the planet. The chain of destruction starts at the extraction process on precious and beautiful land south of Vernal.

On October 25-27, we will be visiting the land that the state-owned corporation of Estonia plans to destroy for a few hours fuel.

Sign up for our newsletter to get all the updates on the camping trip as details finalize.

See a photo tour of the area after the jump, so click more here –> Continue reading

Enefit: A Half-Baked Nightmare for Utah

(The BLM is seeking public input on Enefit’s planned utility corridor project. All comments must be submitted by Aug. 1, 2012. Visit our Facebook page for more information on how to submit a comment).

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Tell the BLM to STOP ENEFIT!

Enefit, an Estonia oil shale company, aims to start mining oil shale in Utah in the coming years. But the odds are stacked against it—and if allowed to proceed, it would wreak havoc on the resources we all depend on. Utah Tar Sands Resistance is working to protect our lands and waters from oil shale and tar sands mining, for the sake of our own health and the wellbeing of all generations to come.

Human Health Violations:

v    Oil shale requires massive amounts of water, and in the west, we don’t have water rights to give away. The Colorado is the most endangered river in America.

v    Water rights would have to be seized from farmers and communities.

v    The Colorado would likely become polluted with dangerous compounds that seep into the watershed.

v    Toxic substances would be carried by pipes, threatening our water sources and farmland.

Devastation of Our Wilderness Heritage:

v    Oil shale mining would utterly devastate huge tracts of wilderness. Hundreds of thousands of acres of BLM and state lands are at risk.

v    This would jeopardize the livelihoods of people in communities throughout south and eastern Utah who rely on tourism for their regional economy.

A History of Failure:

v    Oil shale has a hundred-year track record of failure in the U.S. It has never come close to becoming commercially viable.

v    Oil shale is an entirely different resource from shale oil and shale gas, which are pockets of oil or gas trapped within shale rock. Oil shale is not even oil—the word “oil” is a misnomer. It’s an “immature precursor to oil and gas,” as the Colorado School of Mines says.

v    This low-grade, waxy material, called kerogen, requires energy-intensive upgrading to turn it into fuel.

v    Enefit only produces energy used for electricity in Estonia, not transportation fuel. Enefit must create an entirely new technology to mine oil shale in Utah—and experts from Estonia say commercial production would not be feasible for at least several decades out, if ever.

v    “The test results are not promising,” the company said in an internal document.

v    A wave of bad press in Estonia is barraging Enefit’s plans in Utah, saying it requires tremendous governmental subsidies to even make it viable—just like oil shale mining in Estonia. Enefit’s foolhardy attempt to make oil shale viable would devastate our lands and health, and we refuse to bear the financial and human health expenses.

Join the effort to stop dangerous oil shale and tar sands mining!

Read More:

Estonian Public Broadcasting, “PM Backs Minister as Skepticism Emerges Over Utah Oil Shale Venture”

Checks and Balances Project, “Eyes on Enefit: Financially Unstable and Unprofitable, and Not Ready for Prime Time”

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, “The Public Health Consequences of Utah’s Energy Policies

Western Resource Advocates, “The Basic Facts of Oil Shale and Tar Sands”

Tar Sands eco-terrorists can’t hide from the resistance–climate justice WILL be served!

Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Peaceful Uprising and Deep Green Resistance Great Basin May 7 stormed the Unconventional Fuels Conference in Salt Lake City, piercing fossil fuel lies by speaking truth to power. The Conference was put on by the University of Utah’s Institute for Dirty and Dangerous Energy, otherwise known by it’s double-speak Orwellian name, the Institute for Clean and Secure Energy. The conference this year placed special focus on tar sands development.

THE CLIMATE JUSTICE MOVEMENT NEEDS SUPPORT!  To make a donation, CLICK HERE!

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Tar Sands South: First US Tar Sands Mine Approved in Utah

by Steve Horn (reposted from DesmogBlog)

shutterstock_27219172 (1)The race is on for the up-and-coming U.S. tar sands industry. To date, the tar sands industry is most well-known for the havoc it continues to wreak in Alberta, Canada – but its neighbor and fellow petrostate to the south may soon join in on the fun.

On Oct. 24, the Utah Water Quality Board (UWQBapproved the first ever tar sands mine on U.S. soil, handing a permit to U.S. Oil Sands, a company whose headquarters are based in Alberta, despite it’s name.

In a 9-2 vote, the UWQB gave U.S. Oil Sands the green light to begin extracting bitumen from its PR Spring Oil Sands Project, located in the Uinta Basin in eastern Utah. The UWQB concluded that there’s no risk of groundwater pollution from tar sands extraction for the prospective mining project.

Members of the public were allowed to attend the hearing but “were not permitted to provide input,” according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

“The PR Spring project remains on track for commercial startup late in 2013, and the decision ultimately illustrates the merits that our responsible approach to oil sands development has for the environment and local communities,” Cameron Todd, CEO of U.S. Oil Sands stated in a press release in response to the decision.

Living Rivers, the Moab, Utah-based offshoot of Colorado Riverkeeper says it will likely appeal the decision to the state’s court system, “arguing that tar sands mining will contaminate groundwater in a largely undeveloped area of Utah’s Book Cliffs region that drains into the Colorado River,” explained the Associated Press.

In an Oct. 9 interview on Democracy Now!, John Weisheit, Conservation Director of Living Rivers said the harms associated with looming tar sands extraction in the Uinta Basin aren’t merely limited to groundwater contimination. Rather, the entire surrounding ecosystem would be endangered. He told Amy Goodman:

Well, we’re concerned because this particular locality is in a high-elevation place called the Tavaputs Plateau, and it’s one of the last wild places in Utah. It’s a huge refuge for elk and deer. It’s also a beautiful watershed. It not only would affect the Colorado River, but it also—at this particular site, it’s at the top of the drainage, so it would also affect the White River and the Green River.

The PR Spring mining site is 5,930 contiguous acres with a “land position totalling 32,005 acres of bitumen extraction rights on leases in the State of Utah,” according to U.S. Oil Sands’ financial statement for the first half of 2012. AP explained that U.S. Oil Sands plans to extract 2,000 barrels of tar sands crude in Utah in 2012, “in the start of what could grow into a much larger operation.”

Two main grassroots activist groups are currently battling Utah’s upstart tar sands industry: Utah Tar Sands Resistance and Before It Starts. “The Utah Water Quality Board is an entirely inappropriate authority for determining the safety of both water safety and water availability for the 30 million people who depend on the Colorado RIver, most of which do not live in Utah,” Kate Finneran, Co-Director of Before It Starts told DeSmogBlog in an interview.

Though Living Rivers will appeal the decision, U.S. Oil Sands isn’t wasting any time in forging ahead, and according to the AP is already “looking to take on a partner, ordering equipment, hiring Utah contractors and preparing the site” for extraction.

5,900+ acres is a drop in the bucket for an industry sitting on some 232,065 acres of land open for tar sands extraction in the state of Utah, according to a Sept. 2012 story by Inside Climate News.

The U.S. tar sands are deemed a “strategically important domestic resource that should be developed to reduce the growing dependence of the United States on politically and economically unstable sources of foreign oil imports” in Sec. 369 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Most well-known for the “Halliburton Loophole,” the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts oil and gas corporations from complying with the dictates of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, making the chemicals injected into the ground (and into groundwater) while hydraulic fractruing (“fracking”) for unconventional gas a “trade secret.” The law was written with the helping hand of oil and gas executives via then Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force in 2001.

By legal mandate, it appears, the race to extract bitumen from “Tar Sands South” has just begun. It’s a race that, like the one being run by its Canadian neighbor to the north, can’t possibly end well for the ecosystem, public health, water quality and the global climate.

Utah Tar Sands Resistance Back-country Hike to Protest Proposed Tar Sands Strip Mine

US Oil Sands is beginning its tar sands strip mining operations at PR Springs, Utah. This is the proposed first site of tar sands mining in the USA. Utah Tar Sands Resistance was there on October 14, 2012 as part of a campaign to prevent further destruction. This is a few of us hiking there by back-country routes. This type of mining is senseless and has destroyed an area the size of Florida in Alberta, Canada. Help Utah Tar Sands Resistance to prevent US Oil Sands from getting a permit to mine tar sands in Utah.