14 people unreasonably detained for several hours and 10 adults arrested after a nature walk with children

Some content Originally posted on Canyon Country Rising tide
June 11, 2016 3:45PM

Seepridge Road, Uintah County, UT – Ten participants of Utah Tar Sands Resistance’s 4th annual family camp out on the Tavaputs Plateau have been arrested after completing biodiversity studies close to the country’s first tar sands strip-mine. A group of children and adults walked to the wooded area next to the Children’s Legacy camp site to count plants and identify different species, in an area that several members of the group had camped at freely in previous years.

Upon returning to their vehicles they were met by Ronald Barton, Special Agent for the Utah Attorney General’s office who told everyone they could not leave stating he was detaining the group for trespassing on state trust lands.  and even threatened parents with reckless child endangerment. He also instructed a news reporter who had wanted to follow the group that she would be arrested if she attempted to do so.

Near Children’s Legacy camp site, a Canadian company, US Oil Sands is hoping to extract tar sands. They are leasing SITLA land (which is public land).

Shea Wickelson, who led the biodiversity lesson, is a science teacher in Salt Lake City: “I have been camping here with my family for the past four years. Last year, we took some biodiversity data with my son and others. This year we wanted to see how the mining expansion has impacted the area and take new data. We were surprised to see the area so razed because we had read that US Oil Sands was ending development, but it looks like a significant expansion to us. I am disappointed to find out that my family and I are no longer allowed to be on the public land that we have been visiting for the past four years.”

Natascha Deininger of Wasatch Rising Tide: “It’s ironic that local law enforcement is so concerned with protecting industry interests, when the land in question is actually public, and was ultimately stolen from the first nations of this area. It is outrageous that a science teacher is being detained for teaching kids about biodiversity on public land, while US Oil Sands is destroying hopes of a livable future.”

Raphael Cordray of Utah Tar Sands Resistance: “We have a responsibility to the public to document and witness the damage to the area. We are investigating a crime scene and making records of what is happening here, as the decision makers and regulators are ignoring the real concerns about this project.”

for another account of these events see:

Activism

 

 

Formal Complaint and Request for Action Against MCW Energy Group

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I submitted this complaint to the following agencies yesterday afternoon.

Utah Division of Air Quality, Utah Division of Water Quality, Utah Department of Environmental Quality, and Utah DOGM Minerals Regulatory Program.

I will post an update when I get some responses.

COMPLAINT:

This letter is a formal complaint and request for action by Raphael Cordray, personally, and behalf, Utah tar Sands Resistance (UTSR).

This complaint alleges that MCW Energy is operating a tar sands processing plant near Vernal in violation of State and Federal environmental laws and regulations. MCW Energy is performing unlawful activity by building and operating a tar processing facility without environmental permits.

My search of public records reveals that no current permits are existing as required by law and for public safety. This Tar Processing facility is adjacent a residential area putting homes and families at risk.

MCW has no Air pollution control permit.

MCW has no Storm Water discharge permit

MCW has no NPDES Process Water discharge permit

MCW has no permit for RCRA Waste Streams yet appears to create RCRA waste streams

There are chemicals and processes on site that require permitting and regulation yet the MCW facilities and tar processing operations are currently unpermitted and unregulated.

MCW stands to gain a huge financial benefit from this illegal activity by placing human health and the environment at risk.  MCW is defrauding investors by making numerous false claims on their website.

MCW has used public leaders including, Kevin Van Tassel and Governor Herbert to create an illusion of legitimacy for this illegal project.

I am aware that a Right Of Entry (ROE) permit 6166 was issued to MCW on February 2nd by SITLA.  I also reviewed the related “Final Agency Action” letter from Kevin Carter of SITLA to MCW dated Nov. 17 2015.

ROE 6166 executed contract

I am concerned about the content of the ROE.  The ROE claims to authorize the dumping of process water by MCW tar processing facility in unlined pits on the site.  Where is the public process and proper environmental impact research in an ROE?  A tar sands factory needs more than an ROE to operate yet state of Utah records indicate that MCW has been operating illegally on this site for years.

The ROE permit 6166 states:

“SITLA authorizes and approves Permittee’s use, storage and disposal of Produced Water on the Permitted Property.”

SITLA does not regulate produced water. How & Why are they “authorizing” it?

We request that you take immediate action and close this illegal operation.  We demand that the environmental impacts to our air, water and the land from this toxic experiment be disclosed and addressed. We formally request that  ALL relevant laws and rules be effectively applied and enforced to this project.

Please contact me if you need any further information.

I look forward to your responses.

Sincerely,

Raphael Cordray, personally and for,

Utah Tar Sands Resistance

US Oil Sands announces slow down and lack of funding! USOS STOCKS plummet!

PR Springs mine may NEVER open.

Utah Tar Sands Resistance is hopeful about the real impact of the recent announcement by US Oil Sands of the scale down of their plans for tar sands strip mining at PR Springs Utah. All beings will continue to gain from the existence of this remote ecosystem and the preservation of this historic source of spring water.

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news links about USOS slow down:

US Oil Sands slows Utah project, Salt Lake Tribune

US Oil Sands slows $60-million Utah project as prices tank, contractors close

article US Oil Sands announces decision to slow construction at PR Springs mine Moab Sun Times.

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.

Site Report: USOS seems far behind on schedule!

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From the looks of it, no one’s going to be processing bitumen on the Tavaputs Plateau this year.

US Oil Sands has promised investors they’d achieve commercial production by the final quarter of 2015.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening out there.

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Though there’s personnel on the production site, it seems impossible to run graders and other machinery in all this muck.

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The entrance to Children’s Legacy Camp (the area they’ve been clearcutting and grading) is a slushpile.

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The processing site has a nice layer of snow on the ground. There’s been no paving work so far, meaning it’s awfully hard to run machines over this slushy ground too. Paving site roads (a goal outlined in the mine plan) sure seemed like one of the crucial stepping stones to building capacity to work all winter and achieve commercial production.

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New conveyors are in, but kind of just sitting there in the snowy field.
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The Legacy area has been quiet. At 8,000 feet, it seems awfully hard to dig up this frozen tundra in the winter.
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Seems like a whole lot of investor dollars being spent on worker salaries, with the potential for very minimal results.

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If seeing all this destruction moves you, now is the time to jump in! Together we can win this fight.

 

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.

Our 2015 Permanent Protest Vigil Has Launched!

Two weeks ago, tar sands resisters returned to the East Tavaputs Plateau to set up an ongoing protest vigil on the land leased for tar sands extraction. We came to witness, to document, to show people the land and inspire them to stand against tar sands, oil shale, and all extreme extraction.

We are now excited to tell the world that we’re back, and we’re not leaving until US Oil Sands gives up and goes home.

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In this remote area of the Book Cliffs, a start-up company called US Oil Sands has leased 32,000 acres of land managed by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) for tar sands mining. Based in Alberta, Canada, US Oil Sands is a striking example of how corporations pay no mind to the same borders through which regular people are so often denied access. The company says it plans to begin commercial production in late 2015.

Tar sands mining would turn this lush wilderness into a bleak moonscape of gray rubble. It would level the canyons teeming with life, and send toxins into the waterways that feed the Colorado River, which 40 million people rely on for survival. And because tar sands refining is an incredibly dirty process–even compared to refining of regular crude–it would also pump toxins into the air of people in Salt Lake City. All this would support the production of a low-grade fuel that would never even be feasible without heavy subsidies, because it takes much more energy to extract than regular crude.

UTSR Vigil 2Last year, our ongoing protest vigil lasted through US Oil Sands’ work season, from mid-May through late October. We hosted numerous groups and individuals at our public gatherings, giving people tours of the land and inviting them to become part of the popular resistance against tar sands mining and for a livable future.

We’re thrilled to be returning to the land we love so deeply. It’s a land with a rich history, part of the Uintah Ute Band’s homeland and their traditional hunting grounds. It’s a land filled with bears, cougars, coyotes, and countless other species. So far this year, we’ve seen deer, elk, turkeys, and a coyote. And lately, it’s been a land of rolling thunder and sudden downpours, but fortunately we spent last summer practicing our tarping skills. 

Please DONATE to this effort to help make our protest vigil a huge success!

Things seemed quiet on US Oil Sands’ work site at first, though we witnessed some activity this week. We know it’s awfully hard for those big machines to work on muddy ground–the East Tavaputs Plateau has been holding her own against the ongoing violence enacted against her.

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This vigil–and the many direct actions that various groups and individuals have taken against the tar sands mine–are necessary because we don’t seem likely to win this battle through the court system. On June 12, 2014, the EPA issued an order to US Oil Sands demanding that they gain additional permitting to deal with stormwater runoff before continuing with their project, because they are operating on an area deemed “Indian Country” under federal law. The company continued bulldozing, and nobody made them stop–that is, until 80 folks took direct action in July, shutting them down for a week. But during that action, the police worked to arrest the folks taking action and protect the company, paying no mind to the fact that they were operating illegally.

Living Rivers is pursuing a legal challenge to the mine. Their first case was dismissed on a technicality by the Utah Supreme Court in June 2014, but they recently filed another suit that cites more recent evidence of how US Oil Sands would pollute the watershed of the Green and Colorado Rivers. We fully support Living Rivers and believe this is necessary work, but we aren’t banking on the court system–and we hope you aren’t either.

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Back at the home front, we’ve been preparing for upcoming gatherings like the June 19-21 Intergeneration Campout. We look forward to sharing this summer and fall with new and old friends, witnessing all the plateau’s seasons along with the growth of our vibrant community of resistance. We hope to see you soon on the East Tavaputs Plateau!

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Please DONATE to this effort! Thank you for all of your help and support.

 

A message to potential MCW Energy investors: #NOTARSANDS

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Turns out MCW Energy, another Canadian tar sands strip-mining company, was “unveiling its proprietary, oil sands extraction technology near Vernal, Utah” today.

According to MCW’s press release: “The occasion will be marked with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a demonstration of MCW’s extraction plant on MCW’s lease site at Asphalt Ridge, near Vernal, Utah. Many local dignitaries, Utah State officials and the corporate MCW team are scheduled to be in attendance at this benchmark resource development event.”

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Come chipmunks and land defenders marked the occasion by greeting all of those dignitaries, officials and corporate tools to boos & hisses as they arrived at the company’s processing plant.

“We will continue to stand against all tar sands mining in the region,” one chipmunk stated.

A message to MCW and their potential investors: you are investing in death, and we will not allow your project to move forward.

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Faces of the grassroots climate movement: rowdy and rowdier

Marches around the country this week show ideological diversity among a new cohort of activists.

by Cally Carswell

(This article has been re-posted from High Country News)

Protesters march toward U.S. Oil Sands’ test pit, on the East Tavaputs Plateau in Utah’s Book Cliffs. The company is moving toward opening the first commercial tar sands mine in the U.S., and began clearing a site for a processing facility down the road this summer.

Last Sunday, under a pocket of blue sky, some 30 people spilled out of vehicles onto Seep Ridge Road, a wide thoroughfare that traverses a remote spine of eastern Utah’s Book Cliffs, and is in the process of being paved. Many in the group wore hats or wrapped their heads with scarves, then tied bandanas over their noses and mouths. They looked tough, hard-edged, but not without a sense of humor. One woman carried a shepherd’s cane, one man wore a clown mask, and another played tunes like “This Land is Our Land” on a saxophone. The wind whipped them energetically.

The guises were defenses not against the weather, but against the cops and a security camera trained on a test pit for what could soon become the first commercial tar sands mine in the U.S. Tar sands contain an unconventional crude called bitumen, that with a great deal of water and energy can be extracted from sand and rock, and refined into fuel. The industry is big business in Alberta, Canada, and one of the most carbon-intense fossil fuels. U.S. environmentalists have fiercely opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian tar sands crude to U.S. refineries, in a bid to influence further development to the north. Less known, and less opposed nationally, is the push to develop Utah’s own tar sands deposits.

The protesters were here to say “no” to the development, because as one explained earlier in the day, “These days, if you’re not saying ‘no,’ you’re saying ‘yes’.” It felt good to say “no,” another told me, and to do so publicly.

After all, the politer approaches to solving the climate crisis, the attempts by big environmental groups to work inside the halls of Congress, to compromise, and to wield science to compel action, had failed. It was time, the protesters believed, to confront the problem at its source – carbon spewing projects like this one – and to do so loudly. A few among them unfurled a banner declaring “Together and Everywhere We Rise Up for Climate Justice.” The group began to march toward the test pit. Continue reading

Five Land Defenders Arrested at Utah Tar Sands Protest

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BREAKING: Five Land defenders were arrested yesterday morning at the construction site of US Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mine in Utah. The Canadian company’s 32,000 acre lease-holding are on state-managed land in the Book Cliffs, on the East Tavaputs Plateau, though the land is traditional Ute land, and lays within Indian country, with sections of the tar sands project straddling the boundary of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation.

Currently, the land defenders (including the media team) are being held on Class A Trespassing charges, with a total bail estimated at $10,500.

One of those arrested is a trans woman, and at this time we are unsure if she is being held in solitary, or if she is being housed with the male population. Neither situation is acceptable, we are extremely concerned about the dangers she may be facing.

We will provide updates and media here as they become available.

Donate to the land defenders’ legal support fund using this secure link or with the form below: