Land defenders shut down work for a full week at U.S. Oil Sands tar sands strip-mine in Utah last month, after learning that the project is actually located on land straddling the boundary of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. As such, the EPA has jurisdiction to require further permitting, and even shut the project down all together. Call the EPA at 1-800-227-8917 and tell them “no tar sands in Indian country!”
We’d like to highlight this part of the letter, as it does not bode well for the future of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mine:
“Regarding your question concerning jurisdiction, the U.S. Oil Sands proposed project is located on land straddling the boundary of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. Portions of the proposed project in Township 15S, Range 23E, Sections 35 and 36 are on the north side of the boundary and are within the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, while the parts in Township 15S, Range 24E, Sections 31 and 32 would be outside of the reservation. Land located within Uintah and Ouray Reservation is Indian country, as that term is defined at 18 U.S.C. 1151 and as held in Ute Indian Tribe v. Utah 114 F.3d 1513 (10th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1107 (1998). Please note that as defined by 18 U.S.C. 1151, Indian country includes all reservation lands, including lands owned by non-members of the relevant tribes. The EPA implements federal environmental programs in Indian country, unless it has explicitly approved a tribe or a state to do so. The EPA has not approved the Ute Indian Tribe or the state of Utah to implement any federal environmental regulatory program on Indian country within the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.”
On July 22nd, John Andrews, chief general counsel for SITLA (the state agency that leased the land to U.S. Oil Sands in the first place), even confirmed that part of the project is within the boundaries of the historic Uncompahgre Indian Reservation.