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Utah Tar Sands

UPDATE: ALL 21 LAND DEFENDERS HAVE BEEN RELEASED.

After a massive direct action protest today at the site of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mining site, a total of 21 were arrested and are currently awaiting charges at Uintah County Jail in Vernal, Utah. In addition to protestors, those acting as legal observers, independent media, and jail support were arrested, as well as several indigenous and trans individuals whose safety we are deeply concerned about.

Early this morning land defenders locked themselves to equipment being used to clear-cut and grade an area designated for the tar sands’ companies processing plant, as well as a fenced “cage” used to store the equipment. Others formed a physical blockade with their bodies to keep work from happening, and to protect those locked-down to the equipment. Banners were also hung off the cage that read: “You are trespassing on Ute land” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.”

13 people were arrested for locking to equipment. An additional six people were arrested after sitting in the road to prevent the removal of those being taken away in two police vans. Two of the protesters arrested were injured. One was taken a nearby hospital to be treated, while the other is being treated at the Uintah County Jail. The nature of their injuries is not being disclosed by the county sheriffs.

Two additional people were arrested when they arrived at Uintah Country Jail to provide support to the land defenders inside. An estimated 10 armed deputies with police dogs were standing outside the jail wearing bullet proof vests. Those at the jail to provide support were told that the deputies were there to “deter” any supporters from actually coming to the jail.

Currently all 21 individuals are still being processed and held.

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PRESS RELEASE: Opponents to enforce shutdown of tar sands mine today

July 21, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Opponents to enforce shutdown of tar sands mine today

PR SPRINGS, Utah–About 80 climate justice land defenders right now are using their bodies to halt construction of a tar sands strip mine in the Book Cliffs of Utah.

The action is the culmination of a week-long direct action training camp within 2 miles of the mine. Participants of Climate Justice Summer Camp travelled from numerous organizations, states and sovereign tribal nations to learn direct action skills and build networks.

In recent weeks, Calgary, Canada-based US Oil Sands began a new and devastating phase in construction of the first tar sands mine in the United States. Nearly 80 acres of forest and sage land have been leveled.

US Oil sands has construction permits on 212 acres of pristine wilderness and strip mine land leases on 32,000 acres. Opponents say the traditional Ute hunting lands leased by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Land Administration are too fragile and damage would be irreversible.

Numerous states and local governments question the wisdom of tar sands and oil shale projects in the Colorado River Basin. That system—which provides drinking water to 40 million people in the US, Mexico and native communities—is already severely over-tapped and endangered by industrial waste contaminants.

“Indigenous people’s sacred lands for hundreds of generations here would be destroyed after a few generations of American settler colonialism,” says Jessica Lee, on behalf of the land defenders. “US Oil Sands perfectly demonstrates capitalism’s brazen disregard for the climate crisis, human and tribal rights and rights of the planet itself to be free of dangerous corporate parasites.”

The United States Environmental Protection Agency this month joined the crowd demanding answers from the tar sands company. EPA’s letter indicates US Oil Sands may need tribal authorization for their project due to lease acres bordering and sometimes occurring in “Indian country.”

EPA also has concerns about toxic and hazardous waste from the project. The construction site is immediately upstream of one of the major river systems of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation, the stunning Willow Creek Canyon area. The company has never sought Ute Tribal Government approval.

What is Climate Justice?

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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! 

VIDEO: Watching U.S. Oil Sands

This summer, as protestors gather at PR Springs, site of the first tar sands mine in the United States, for a permanent protest vigil, they are poised not only to observe the comings & goings of U.S. Oil Sands, the Canadian tar sands company setting up shop, but also to do something about it.

GET INVOLVED:
Donate money & supplies to the Resistance! Help us keep going!
Join us for the Intergenerational Campout, June 20-22
Tar Sands Healing Walk Solidarity Campout, June 27-29

Read the 1st dispatch from the front:
Red Leaf Resources scraping open a new strip mine

STAY TUNED! We’re just getting started, y’all.

Storm Brewing: Permanent protest setup at proposed tar sands strip mine

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People hold a giant banner inside the tar sands mine. The banner reads: Climate Justice is Survival Now Or Never.

Last weekend, tar sands resisters new and old gathered in the Book Cliffs of so-called Eastern Utah, at PR Springs, site of the first proposed tar sands mine in the United States. This gathering marked nearly three years of observation, law suits, and direct action against the project, and signaled the beginning of a permanent protest vigil inside the boundaries of public lands leased for strip mining.

Check out our DONATIONS PAGE to make an online donation or check out our gear request list! 

U.S. Oil Sands, of Calgary, Alberta, has leased over 32,000 acres of land traditionally inhabited by Ute and Shoshone people. The land is now managed by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), and sits just outside the Northern Ute Ouray Reservation. The company has yet to begin full-scale production, and has spent the last year procuring their permits from the Department of Water Quality, wrangling $80 million from fly-by-night investors, and hiring Kellogg Brown & Root LLC (KBR) for project and construction management.

music: “Without Water,” KleeBenally.com

In March, Living Rivers brought U.S. Oil Sands (USOS) and the Department of Water Quality (DWQ) to the Utah Supreme Court, whose ruling we eagerly await, arguing that the permits given to USOS had failed to take into consideration the devastating impacts the strip-mining project would have on the precious groundwater in the region. DWQ stated that there was not enough groundwater to be of concern (though geologists from the University of Utah have found otherwise in their extensive study of the region’s groundwater systems) and is not requiring USOS to take any measures in their disposal of waste water used during their highly experimental and unproven new tar sands mining process. US Oil Sands is fond of stating that their project will use very little water, as it is completely dependent on a chemical called d-limonene (an expensive solvent, at $36/gallon), but their permit application itself states that they will still require 116 gallons of water per minute, which they have failed to procured in the five water wells they’ve drilled that tap into the Mesaverde Aquifer. In an interview published this week, the company stated that they’ve “hit on the idea of using a dryer” as part of the extraction process, though no data has been released about this, and it remains to be seen if the company has updated their permits to include this new technology.

SONY DSCIn the same interview, Cameron Todd, the CEO of U.S. Oil Sands, stated, “We’re fully permitted and we’ve actually started work in the field already although most of the work won’t be done until next summer.”

In a May 14th press release, the company stated that they would  be completing Phase 1 of their project, at a cost of nearly $60 million, though their current stock price has halved from their $0.24 high to a measly $0.12, and mentions commercial start-up date of 2015.

This proposed time-line remains consistent with the company’s history, as they have pushed back full production year after year, having had a difficult time finding investors for a very risky project, and having been fought, both in the courts and in the very mine itself, by groups and individuals who vow that they will see the project stopped.

Last weekend’s act of civil disobedience saw protestors walk onto a the company’s 10-acre test mine with a huge banner reading “Climate Justice is Survival: Now or Never.”

While the land itself, once stolen from the Ute tribe, is destroyed, as carcinogens such as arsenic, mercury and uranium are leeched into the watershed, as tar sands and oil shale strip-mining add to the criminally toxic air quality of the Uintah Basin, and as the tar sands are trucked nearly 200 miles each day to Salt Lake City to be refined in poor and predominantly Latino neighborhoods, the Utah tar sands themselves are but one small piece of the global extraction monster. The fossil fuels our society has made itself dependent on have caused a man-made climate change emergency, and it is up to us to take a stand a say, “no more.” Tar sands are the bottom of the barrel, one of the dirtiest forms of energy found, and one that required mass amounts of resources to extract while proving very little usable energy. The Utah tar sands must remain in the ground if we have any hope of a livable future, and a coalition of passionate and dedicated people have taken a stand, saying “no tar sands!”

This summer, land defenders stand in vigil and protest, observing the actions and movement of U.S. Oil Sands, as well as several other tar sands and oil shale companies with greedy claims on the region, determining what areas are to be clear-cut or tested, and what infrastructure is built, as they prepare to stop them.

READ THE PRESS RELEASE.

Press Release: Permanent protest setup at proposed tar sands strip mine

Press Release: 

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.

FOR PHOTOS AND EMBED VIDEO/B-ROLL, GO TO:
TarSandsResist.org/storm-brewing

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. Continue reading

In Solidarity with the Tar Sands Healing Walk in Fort McMurray, Alberta

HealingWalk

Join the Utah Tar Sands Resistance and our friends at PR Springs June 27-29th, at the site of the first tar sands mining in the United States, as we gather in solidarity with those on the Tar Sands Healing Walk in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tar sands and oil shale mining in the Book Cliffs are one part of a pervasive and destructive system that effects lands, air, water, animals and peoples all over the world. Multinational corporations are mining all over Turtle Island, and from the tar sands of Athabasca, to the first tar sands mine in the United States, to every pipeline being put into the ground, every megaload passing through communities and sacred lands, and every ounce of tar sands being refined, piped, trucked, railed, and shipped, we want to draw the connections between these projects, and stand in solidarity with all those who take a stand and say “No tar sands!”

For those able to travel, we ask that you please join those in Fort McMurray, Alberta as they perform the fifth and final Tar Sands Healing Walk.

Those of you who are unable to travel that far, please consider joining the Tar Sands Resistance at PR Springs for a community camping trip. We’ll be talking about the destruction and devastation in the Athabasca region, seeing first hand the destruction of the Book Cliffs, and drawing the connections between all of these projects.

Email us at tarsandsresist@riseup.net if you’ll be joining us, so that we can better coordinate carpooling, camping sites, and food for the gathering.

Visit our Connect with Land page for camping tips and directions.

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

Spend Memorial Day Weekend with the Resistance!

Memorial

Join the Utah Tar Sands Resistance and our friends on Memorial Day Weekend for a tar sands camping trip at PR Springs!

***TO HELP US PLAN CARPOOLS, CAMPING SITES & FOOD, EMAIL US AT TARSANDSRESIST@RISEUP.NET IF YOU WILL BE ATTENDING***

PR Springs is the site of the first proposed tar sands mine in the United States, being run by a company called US Oil Sands (a Canadian company based out of Calgary). They have a lease on state land for over 36,000 acres, and are busy getting their permits, funding, and infrastructure into place. And we’re busy getting ready to stop them!

Come visit the land & see what’s at risk, before it’s too late!

Join the Facebook event, and invite your friends!

(Check out our “Connect with the Land” page for more information on what to expect while you’re there, directions, and camping tips).