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.

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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.

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.

 

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.

Utah Children say, “Oil Shale Puts Our Future on the Line.”

The weekend of June 20th, 2014, an intergenerational gathering brought together children, guardians, teachers and land defenders at PR Springs, site of the nation’s first commercial fuel tar sands strip mine, located in Eastern Utah. In addition to tar sands mining, the region is being threatened by oil shale strip mining, and after a weekend of hiking and exploring the land, fun art and science projects, and discussions with their peers, the children decided to take a field strip to Red Leaf Resources test site in order to see what was going on there, and to deliver a message.

Dear CEOs and Workers of Red Leaf Resources,

We are the children of Utah. We stand here today with our teachers, parents, and peers.

We are concerned about SITLA‘s dirty energy leasing for strip mining. Oil shale mining, and tar sands, destroys water, forests, and air, increases cancer and asthma risks, and these things take away animal homes that will never be the same.

SITLA funds 2% of the total school budget. We must think of the long term risks.

Is it really worth it to put children’s and animals’ lives in danger for strip mining?

Here in these places, they are destroying beautiful land, where it’s peaceful for wildlife and for people to enjoy and see.

The next time you’re planning to hurt an ecosystem, think of the animals and people you’re hurting and killing.

Thank you,
The Children of Utah

 

Read more about last year’s family gathering:
The Road to Hell is Paved with Tar Sands
Utah children visit PR Springs & speak out against tar sands
Families Camp Out in Protest to Save the Tavaputs Plateau from America’s First Approved Commercial Tar Sands Operation
Utah Tar Sands: Will The U.S. Join Canada In Tapping The ‘Bottom Of The Barrel’?

Read more about SITLA:
Lots for Tots: How one agency is selling off Utah in the name of the children

 

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.

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

SONY DSC

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.

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).

January 18: “Film-In” at Tesoro Refinery – We Are Not Afraid!

stop flare final fbcover

Join us on January 18th for a “Film-In” at the Tesoro Refinery in Salt Lake City, and show the corporate polluters that WE ARE NOT AFRAID!

On Dec. 18, 2013, movement journalist Jesse Fruhwirth was illegally detained by off-duty Salt Lake City police officer “Kilo 85″ who was being paid by Tesoro oil refinery. Fruhwirth was filming a major pollution event at the refinery–a huge flaring that released large amounts of pollutants and toxins into the Wasatch Front’s already diry airshed (and on one of Salt Lake’s infamous Red Air Quality Days).

(Video of the flare & Fruhwirth’s interaction with Kilo 85):

Intimidation techniques such as these used by the SLCPD are meant to keep the public from observing and questioning the atrocities regularly committed by corporate interests.

WE ARE NOT AFRAID!

Bring your cameras, video recorders and smart phones, and join us as we hold a “Film-In” on public land outside the Tesoro Refinery, and legally document the continuous releasing of toxic fumes during Utah’s winter Inversion season (including the toxic output from tar sands being shipped by rail from Canada).

The State of Utah, and the Department of Air Quality, refuse to hold the refineries accountable, and public resources such as the Salt Lake police force are being used to protect the polluters, and harming the public. It’s time to take a stand and say “No More!”

(Join the Facebook event).

And on Saturday, January 25th at noon, join the Utah Clean Air Coalition for the “Clean Air, No Excuses” Rally on the steps of the Utah Capitol.