In Utah there are currently two explorations into producing oil from tar sands that stand out and we should keep some eyes on: Petroteq, near Vernal on the Asphalt Ridge site and U.S. Oil Sands (USO Utah) operating at the P.R. Springs site.
Petroteq (was MCW):
Operating an old tar sands mine outside of Vernal, at Asphalt Ridge, that was previously used to mine road material. They’ve built a processing plant on site with what they say will have a 1,000 barrels per day production capacity, and are actively encouraging investment.
March 28, 2019: The company announced that it had been producing 500 barrels of oil per day for two weeks. They say they will scale up production to full capacity by the end of May.
February 8, 2019: Petroteq aquires 50% share in federal leases.
Petroteq Energy announced the execution of a definitive agreement with Momentum Asset Partners I, LLC for the acquisition of 50% of the operating rights of six U.S. Federal oil and gas leases: one located in P.R. Springs (encompassing approximately 8,480 gross acres) and five located in the Tar Sands Triangle. Total consideration for the transaction is US$10.8 million comprised of US$1.8 million in cash and US$9.0 million payable in Petroteq Energy shares (approximately 15 million common shares). (Raiston, Steven 2019)
“Biggest Breakthrough in Energy: Investor Warning” March, 2018: Here is a report debunking some of the propaganda that Petroteq has put out in the last few months.
2015-2018: The company constructed and operated a 250 bpd pilot plant on Temple Mountain. The company acquired the leases to oil sands to provide feedstock to the pilot plant. The pilot plant were relocated, upgraded and expanded to a 1,000 bpd facility on Asphalt Ridge right off of Highway 45 near the Green River.
USO Utah (was US Oil Sands):
Pre 2017: Built a $80+ Million experimental processing facility and began strip mining.
Went into bankruptcy proceedings right after completing the plant (though it is unclear if the plant was ever operational).
2017-2018: USOS declared bankruptcy and put the processing plant at PR Springs Utah up for sale but got no offers. Now USOS is called USO Utah and the major share holder, AMCO, remains the same.
US Oil Sands owed SITLA $265,000 in outstanding leasing and minimum royalty payments that were never paid.
USO Utah has reduced their SITLA lease holdings from 32,005 acres down to 5,930 acres.
Since 2008, USOS has made regular claims that oil production from tar sands was just around the corner. As it turns out, USOS never produced oil from tar commercially. Now USO Utah continues to keep up the charade.
UDOGM files on USO Utah-Including a recently revised Notice of Intent for Large Scale Mining (Feb 2019)
The Book Cliffs Highway, a massive proposed public subsidy to the fossil fuel industry, connecting the Seep Ridge Road (at P.R. Spring Tar Sands Mine) to I-70, has come up again. We’ve fought it off before, once in ’92 when Grand County restructured it’s governance structure, and again in 2015 when the Grand County Council pulled out of the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (SCIC) in order to avoid being outvoted over support for this project in our county. Now the SCIC is pursuing this project in Grand Country regardless of public opposition.
- The SCIC is in the process of submitting a Right-of-Way Application to the BLM for construction through BLM administered lands.
- The Grand County Council has been asked to abandon County rights-of-way along the route by the SCIC. If Grand County does not abandon these rights of way, the SCIC will have to re-engineer the route.
It is very important to stop this project, which I think we can do through loud and sustained public pressure. Industry in the Book Cliffs area includes fracking for oil and gas, tar sands mining and oil shale mining. For these forms of extreme energy production to expand, they need a transportation connection to a refineries and markets. Truck traffic in the Uintah Basin to the North is at it’s maximum, refineries in Salt Lake City are at capacity, and plans for a heated pipeline out of the region have been thwarted. Meanwhile, plans for a publicly funded rail line out of the Uintah Basin are also in the works. It is our job, as folks who care about this area, to get involved to stop this Tar Sands Highway from ever being completed.
Book Cliffs Highway Fact Sheet  w/ talking points, history of opposition, and facts highlighted from the 1992 EIS done on the project.
Estimated Project Cost:*
Construction for East Canyon Route: $157 Million
Maintenance Estimate (20 years): $27 Million
Yearly Maintenance: $1.35 million
* These estimates are from the Book Cliffs Transportation Corridor Study, others have ranged as high as $418 million in construction costs with annual maintenance and operating costs as high as $3.89 million.
The Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (SCIC):
The SCIC is the state entity pushing the Book Cliffs Highway (Eastern Regional Connection) and the Uinta Rail Line forward. It is a coalition of eastern Utah counties including: Carbon, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, San Juan, Sevier, and Uintah.
The SCIC and their projects are financed almost entirely through Community Impact Board (CIB) Grants, which would otherwise be available to rural communities to help alleviate the impacts of oil and gas production. This demonstrates a shift in how CIB money is being used in the State of Utah. Rather than being available to support rural communities with fire stations, road work, water projects, and healthcare facilities, this public money is now being granted in much larger sums to build infrastructure that benefits private corporations and promotes the development of oil, gas, tar sands, and oil shale in the state. For example, in December 2018, the SCIC agreed to grant $27.9 million to the SCIC Uinta Rail Line in three phases. The previous maximum grant/loan combination to rural entities for public services was capped at $5 million and rarely totaled that.
The executive director of the SCIC is Mike McKee, you may remember him as a Uintah County Commissioner. He now makes an annual salary of $160,000 that comes directly from CIB funds.
“The coalition is unlike any other entity that comes before this board. That can’t be ignored Mr. McKee. We pay your salary, we pay your administrative expenses entirely. You have no other significant sources of income. We pay your counsel, we pay everything. You’re a child of the CIB board, you’re a child of the state.” CIB Board Member November 2018
The Utah Permanent Community Impact Board (CIB):
- Oil shale reserves in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming are estimated to contain 800 billion barrels of oil.
- Oil shale is among the dirtiest feedstock for oil on the planet in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.
- Enefit holds a research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) lease in the Uintah Basin of Utah adjacent to the Colorado border. If they prove commercial viability, the stage is set to expand operations to encompass thousands of acres for mountaintop removal style strip mining and onsite processing.
- The immense amounts of water needed for processing oil shale would come from the already drought stressed and overused Colorado River Basin.
We can’t let this industry take hold in Utah.
Enefit’s South Project:
Enefit’s “South Project”, as proposed, would involve the strip mining of over 9,000 acres of land and the construction and operation of a 50,000 barrel per day oil shale retort facility. Enefit intends to strip-mine about 28 million tons of rock a year over thousands of acres of high-desert habitat. It will also construct a major production facility to bake the rock at high temperatures. The half-square-mile processing plant, about 45 miles south of Dinosaur National Monument, will turn pre-petroleum stones into refinery-ready oil. This project requires, among other things, a right-of-way (ROW) across BLM land for utilities, including a water pipeline that will pipe over 10,000 acre-feet per year out of the Green River.
2018: Enefit requests a right-of-way (ROW) from the BLM for utilities to service the “South Project”—19 miles of water supply pipeline, 8 miles of natural gas supply pipeline, 10 miles of oil product line, 29 miles of power lines, and 5 miles of upgrading to Dragon Road.
2018: The BLM issued a decision to permit the right of way. This right of way through public land is in effect a subsidy to the oil shale industry, decreasing expenses tremendously and making the likelihood of demonstrating commercial viability greater.
February 2019: Conservation groups issued a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for approving rights-of-way for pipelines and power lines that pave the way for the nation’s first commercial oil shale development. See the press release here.
In the news:
Groups Plan to Sue Feds Over Utah Oil-Shale Project– Mark Richardson, Public News Service – UT, Feb 28 2019.
Decision on shale project right of way may be made in early July– Dennis Webb, The Daily Sentinel, May 22 2018.
For more on the project and how to comment, visit go.usa.gov/csa9j.
Help stop the Lake Powell Pipeline Project today!
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is beginning the public process and environmental analysis for the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline Project, which would pump water from the endangered Colorado River from Lake Powell 140 miles west to St. George, UT. Please take a moment to comment to this agency about your opposition to the project.
Comment to FERC by going to:
Docket # P-12966-001
Potential Talking Points: (Comments have much more clout if you use your own words and ideas as much as possible, even if they’re short).
MONEY – This project has a price tag of $1.2-$1.8 Billion dollars. Washington and Kane County water users are responsible for 76%, which will mean increased rates and connection fees for years to come. The taxpayers of Utah will finance the rest. Thus far, the State of Utah has not disclosed a clear plan towards repayment. With a price tag that high, we have the right to know the economic impact to the public.
WATER- The Utah Division of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation refuse to factor the impacts of climate change, drought, and near certain predictions of future decreases in Colorado River water into their calculation of how much water Utah can allocate. Scientists predict that Colorado River flows will decrease 20%-30% by mid century, just 30 years from now. If we continue to develop water projects to our full allotment on paper, it will cause shortages and conflict in the near future.
In all likelihood, the Lake Powell Pipeline will not be able to deliver the full 86,000 acre feet per year to Southwestern Utah, making it a colossal waste of tax payer money and a huge burden on the water users of that district.
CONSERVATION IS KEY- Water conservation measures should be fully explored in St. George and surrounding areas before investing billions of dollars taxpayer money into an unnecessary pipeline. St. George residents use 294 gallons of water per person per day, roughly twice what people in Phoenix, Albuquerque, and Denver use.
This could include potential damage to any area you might be familiar with along the route, archeological sites, overhead power transmission lines, hydro-power facilities, water treatment plants or otherwise.
For more information on this issue check out https://canyoncountryrisingtide.org/lake-powell-pipeline/
Thanks so much everyone,
This paves the way for strategic direct action if it comes to that!
It appears as if the bankruptcy is over as of April 2018. The court appointed receiver asked the court to authorize the sale of the Purchased Assets (US Oil Sands) conveying entitlement to USO Utah LLC. all of US Oil Sands’ right, title, and interest in the purchased assets. Basically the original company, US Oil Sands, Inc., has been handed over to a new company USO Utah LLC. It appears as if ACMO, the major share holder in the orginial US Oil Sands is the only member of USO Utah. under the name ACMO USO LLC..
The story of how this all fell apart can be found here: “US Oil Sands enters into receivership”
The new company has applied to transfer the Notice of Intent to Commence Large Scale Mining Operations with the Division of Oil Gas and Mining in Utah.
What remains to be seen:
Who is the on the Board of Directors for USO Utah LLC. (or ACMO USO LLC.)?
Intertrust Corporate Services serves as their registered agent in Delaware and Paracorp Incorporated serves as their registered agent in Utah.
Will they continue to invest money to try to make the process work?
US Oil Sands files for bankruptcy. It’s assets have gone into receivership in order to pay off outstanding debts. It is unclear what that means for the future of mining on the PR Spring Site. It is possible that the equipment will be pieced out and sold and then the mine reclaimed, or another company could by it and continue mining. We will try to keep you updated.
April 10th, 2017
We visited the mine this weekend. There was no work actually happening, probably because it was the weekend, but here is what we saw:
- Mining of ore had been happening on what folks were calling the Children’s Legacy Camp. The land was stripped, overburden moved, and ore being scraped up.
- The ore has been crushed and piled near the processing facility (as pictured above)
- There is a constant sound of machinery coming from the plant, perhaps they are starting to process the ore. The sound could be described as a constant whirring, “woosh wooosh woosh….” Day and night.
- At night there are well over 50 giant super bright lights in the processing facility. They are on all major machinery and ringing the perimeter. These lights can be seen from the bottom of the valley down at PR Spring.
SUNDAY JUNE 19, PR SPRINGS, UT: Thirty people walked onto the country’s first tar sands mine and sowed seeds to regrow land destroyed by tar sands – a fossil fuel more polluting than coal and oil. With butterfly puppets, songs, and banners, protesters trespassed onto the mine site and took the remediation of the stripped land into their own hands with shovels, pick axes and seed balls.
Evidently displeased with the sowing of native grasses and flowers, law enforcement intervened to arrest 20 of the planters, who banded together and sang until arrest. The action was planned by the Tavaputs Action Council, a coalition of grass roots social justice groups of the Colorado Plateau, and came as the conclusion to a 3-day event dedicated to celebrating land and biodiversity. Over 100 people participated, camping on public land next to the tar sands mine and attending workshops, panels, and music shows. People came together to hear about indigenous resistance to fossil fuels and colonialism, and to imagine a more equitable future together.
Canadian mining company US Oil Sands has leased 32,005 acres of public lands for oil shale development. In the future, 830,000 acres of public land could be at risk of irreversible tar sands strip mining in the western United States. Tar sands requites large quantities of water for processing into crude oil, putting extra pressure on a water system already under threat of running dry.
Kate Savage, Tavaputs Action Council: “By taking action today, we are creating in the present the future we are dreaming of. This means trespassing against US Oil Sands and other fossil fuel companies that want to make our future unlivable.”
Raphael Cordray, Tavaputs Action Council: “We took action today to tell US Oil Sands that we are here to stay and will not be intimidated by oppressive law enforcement and corrupt companies. Tar sands spells disaster for people and planet, and today we said: not in our name.”
Kim, Nihigaal Bei Iina: “We must remember that if we do not fight we cannot win, we don’t even have a chance of winning. By planting seeds we have a chance of winning another round for mother earth, we still have more battles to fight within us. These seeds planted will harvest another generation of fighters and warriors.”
“The boom and bust failures of coal, tar sands, and oil shale show that we cannot rely on the fossil fuel industry to provide long-term jobs and a steady economy. We are demanding a “just transition” away from subsidizing dirty energy and towards a stable and sustainable way of living,” says Moab resident and CCRT member Melissa Gracia. “That is an enormous task and yet people all over the world are rising to the occasion. We need policies and institutions to support a just transition and we are building the people power to make it happen.”
According to Will Munger, “All across the region people are facing a similar situation. Take for example the recent bankruptcy of Peabody Coal. They must be held accountable for their destruction of indigenous land on Black Mesa and we must ensure that the CEO’s don’t bail with bonuses while workers and local communities suffer. We must take the money generated by the fossil fuel industry to repair the land and water while supporting local communities’ transition away from a fossil fuel-dependent economy.”
The Tavaputs Action Council supporting the Reclamation Action includes Canyon Country Rising Tide, Peaceful Uprising, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Climate Disobedience Center and Wasatch Rising Tide.
Media Contact : Melissa Graciosa, Canyon Country Rising Tide; Tel: 503-409-7710 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Secondary Contact: Natascha Deininger, Wasatch Rising Tide, Tavaputs Action Council; Tel: 435-414- 9299; Email: email@example.com
All donations will go directly to the legal fund of the Tavaputs Action Council and will be used to support legal expenses of those arrested at the Family Campout nature walk as well as potential legal expenses that may result from the upcoming reclamation action. Thank you for your support!
Update June 12th, 8AM:
All ten individuals were released from the Uintah County Jail at roughly 4:45AM this morning on bail. They are tired but fine and the parents are eager to reunite with their children.
Update June 11th, 9:00 PM:
Ten people Have been taken to Vernal County jail on charges of Criminal Trespass, a class B Misdemeanor
June 11, 2016 3:45PM
Seepridge Road, Uintah County, UT – Ten participants of Utah Tar Sands Resistance’s
family camp out on the Tavaputs Plateau have been arrested after completing
biodiversity studies close to the country’s first tar sands mine. A number of children
and adults walked to the wooded area next to the Children’s Legacy Mine to count
plants and identify different species, returning to 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, police officer salaried on the public buck to police
the area for fossil fuel companies. Mr. Barton proceeded to detain the group for
trespassing 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.
Canadian company US Oil Sands is hoping to extract tar sands – a fossil fuel even
more polluting than oil and coal – at the Children’s Legacy Mine, and leasing SITLA
land (which is public land). Protesters have been holding a vigil by the mine for
several years, and documenting the ongoing destruction to land and wildlife.
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, when US Oil Sands is destroying hopes of a livable
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 Media, Please call: Natascha Deininger (385) 414-9299
SALT LAKE CITY—Dozens of people disrupted another Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas lease sale in Salt Lake City. This action is on the heels of other large “Keep It in the Ground” protests and disruptions calling for an immediate end to all fossil fuel development on public land. As soon as the auction began, many members of the audience erupted into song. The police quickly told everyone that they would be asked to leave if they continued to sing. The audience continued, and the police started removing people by force. A small group linked arms and sat down. Wave after wave of people continued the song in rounds. Eventually everyone singing was hauled out by police and the auction continued.
The BLM’s “climate auction,” as protesters dubbed it, allowed industry to bid on oil and gas leases for more than 6,000 acres of publicly owned land in Utah. Some of the protesters entered the auction venue and were removed by authorities.
“In his 2016 State of the Union, President Obama spoke about fossil fuels, saying, ‘Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future.’ The future he is talking about is the future of my grandchildren, and their grandchildren and the grandchildren of all the species on this planet,” said Kathy Albury of Elders Rising. “The energy we invest in must ensure clean air, clean water and a stable climate. To do that, we have to quickly phase out fossil fuels. Keep it in the ground!”
“Global warming is getting scary fast. Every month since we called on President Obama to end federal leasing last September has been an all-time global temperature record-breaker,” said Tim Ream, climate and energy campaign director with WildEarth Guardians. “With his signature climate policy languishing in the federal courts till the next president, Obama needs to move boldly and immediately to stop leasing fossil fuels on public lands and waters.”
Federal coal, oil and gas leasing are responsible for a stunning one-quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. By ending new leasing on public lands and waters, the president could lock nearly one-half of all U.S. fossil fuels safely in the ground. The message to markets and to other nations from such an action would be unmistakable. Instead the president has leased millions of acres of public lands to dirty energy companies, with oil production on federal lands up 62 percent since he took office.
“The climate movement is reaching a critical mass,” said Lauren Wood of Wasatch Rising Tide. “Scientists talk about ‘tipping points,’ well, this movement is at a tipping point. We are not going to stop, so the BLM must change.”
“The ‘Keep It in the Ground’ movement is growing stronger every day,” said Valerie Love of the Center for Biological Diversity. “President Obama needs to listen to the voices and permanently end federal fossil fuel auctions like this one.”
The rally is part of a rapidly growing national movement calling on President Obama to halt new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands and waters. Since November protested lease sales have been postponed in Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.
Groups participating in today’s rally include Elders Rising, Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN), WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, Wasatch Rising Tide, Canyon Country Rising Tide, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Fossil Free Natural History Museum of Utah, SLC350 and BreakFree2016.org.
Some 67 million acres of U.S. public lands are already leased to dirty fossil fuel industries, an area 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park, and containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. Nearly one-quarter of all U.S. climate pollution already comes from burning fossil fuels from public lands. Remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry represent half of all U.S. carbon pollution.
In September more than 400 organizations called on President Obama to end federal fossil fuel leasing. In November Senators Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel nonproducing federal fossil fuel leases. Last month the Obama administration placed a moratorium on federal coal leasing while the Department of the Interior studies its impacts on taxpayers and the planet. Since November 2015, in response to protests, the BLM has postponed oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.
Download the September “Keep It in the Ground” letter to President Obama.
Download Grounded: The President’s Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground (this report details the legal authorities with which a president can halt new federal fossil fuel leases).
Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels).
Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet.
Download Public Lands, Private Profits (this report details the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands).
The next Federal BLM Lease Sale for Oil & Gas is in Salt Lake City on Tuesday morning. Show up, show our power.
DENVER – Hundreds of community, climate, and fracking activists today protested a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oil and gas lease auction at the Holiday Inn in Lakewood, Colorado. Roughly 300 activists from Colorado and surrounding states marched to the BLM auction, carrying signs, banners, art, and singing chants. From there, a contingent of over 100 risked arrest by entering the hotel lobby and hallways, many of whom physically blocked the entrance to the auction room. The blockade and the crowd held the space for over two hours, delaying and disrupting the auction.
The protest was organized by a coalition of groups led by local Colorado activists. It was part of the larger “Keep it in the Ground” movement, which is calling on President Obama to halt new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands and waters, a move that could keep half of American fossil fuel reserves from being burned, and protect these resources for generations to come. Activists from all across the country attended today’s action, showing solidarity with local activists and drawing attention to a rising public lands movement in Western states that has been challenging BLM auctions for the last six months.
“Colorado and the public lands of the West are being treated as a sacrifice zone, with corporations profiting from the destruction of our communities, the landscape, and the people’s health,” said Remy, a Boulder-based artist and activist with First Seven Design Labs. “As an indigenous person, the language behind keep it in the ground has been passed down to me from my elders. It’s about respecting the land and the earth, and it’s about justice for people who are being denied it.”
Colorado’s public and private lands have been pockmarked by oil and gas wells in recent years. The state has also seen firsthand many of the devastating impacts of climate change, including massive flooding and extended, more intense fire seasons. The action comes just days after the Colorado Supreme Court denied community authority to regulate fracking.
“When our political systems fail us, direct action is one of the few tools we have left,” said Colorado activist and Greenpeace campaigner Diana Best. “People here are finished with industry and government making us sick, polluting our communities, and destroying the land we love. Today you can see that the resistance in Colorado is powerful and a key part of the escalating national fight.”
The coalition, made up of local groups including CREED, FrackFree Colorado, Colorado 350, Colorado Rising Tide, and many others, and supported by national groups including Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and 350.org was brought together as part of the Break Free global month of action. Artwork was designed by First Seven Design Labs and the Radical Arts Healing Collective, and built out by local community members. The coalition is now turning its attention to Saturday the 14th, when hundreds of community members will converge in Thornton to call for an end to fracking development in communities and on private lands. They will be joined by journalist Bill McKibben.
FROM CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
SALT LAKE CITY— The Bureau of Land Management announced this week that it is moving toward allowing dirty oil shale development that could be a double whammy for the environment, unleashing nearly a half a billion tons of greenhouse gases and consuming vast amounts Colorado River basin water. It would be the first commercial oil shale production facility in the United States.
The Bureau said that on April 8 it will release a draft environmental impact statement for the “Enefit American Oil Utility Corridor Project.” It would allow Enefit, an Estonian company, to build water, oil, gas and electric transmission across federal public land in Utah to enable oil shale mining on state on private land. Enefit hopes to process up to 1.2 billion barrels of kerogen oil — one of world’s most carbon-polluting fuels — with estimated lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of up to 450 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, about the same as 100 coal-fired power plants emit in a year.
“President Obama was right when he said in his State of the Union that ‘we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources’,” said Ted Zukoski, an attorney at Earthjustice. “It’s time BLM got the memo and stopped wasting taxpayer money subsidizing companies that would foul our atmosphere and endanger our planet, and our future.”
“The Interior Department is working against President Obama’s climate goals here,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Enabling the development of one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels is the opposite of climate leadership. The administration should abandon this project now.”
“We don’t need to take on this environmental disaster that comes with developing the dirtiest fuel on the planet — oil shale,” said Rob Dubuc, senior staff attorney at Western Resource Advocates. “Renewable energy innovations and improvements in energy efficiency make this fuel unnecessary to develop. BLM should not advance this project.”
The draft environmental impact study comes only months after the United States and countries around the world committed, at the Paris climate negotiations, to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Reaching that goal will require dramatic reductions in carbon pollution — the key driver of climate change — and leaving the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Enefit’s mining facility would expand development and use of one of the world’s highest carbon fuels.
“There is more energy in a similarly sized baked potato than in a chunk of oil shale,” said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “We know that burning oil shale in a giant oven can produce shale oil; the question that needs to be asked is whether proceeding with this type of project makes any sense in a carbon constrained 21st century. The unequivocal answer is no. The time has come to turn our backs on the carnival barker’s promise that oil shale will be answer to our nation’s energy needs.”
“It is true that Enefit has made the mining and production of oil shale work for the energy needs of Estonia. However, Estonia also produces more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than other European countries, including Russia,” said John Weisheit with Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper. “What Estonia has, that Utah does not, is ample water supplies to process that oil shale. Ironically, the similarity between the governments of Utah and Estonia is their subsidy of dirty energy projects with public money.”
The proposed facility will be located in the Uinta Basin, approximately 12 miles southeast of Bonanza in Uintah County, Utah, near the Green and White Rivers. The project is designed to develop oil shale mining and a shale oil production complex, at full build-out producing about 28 million tons of raw oil shale ore rock per day and 50,000 barrels per day of refinery-ready shale oil from the Green River Formation.
“Oil shale is a thirsty industry,” said Anne Mariah Tapp with the Grand Canyon Trust. “The Colorado River Basin is already looking at up to a 27 percent decrease in April to July flows due to climate impacts. At a rate of up to four barrels of water per barrel of oil, Enefit’s project poses an unacceptable threat to limited Colorado River Basin water supplies. Both in terms of carbon footprint and water demands, the West’s water future would be drastically compromised by this oil shale program.”
“The legacy of the Green River will live or die on the decisions we as a country make here and now,” said Lauren Wood with Green Riverkeeper. “The Green River watershed cannot survive as a vibrant source of life in a desert if the BLM continues to view the landscape it runs through as a source of death and climate devastation. It’s time to close this chapter of our shared history where we strayed into such extreme and dangerous forms of energy; that isn’t our legacy, it’s our nightmare.”
“This oil shale project would be another significant source of pollution in an area that just can’t take any more,” said Dr. Brian Moench with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “During the drilling boom of 2013 the air pollution in the Uinta Basin was literally off the charts, as much as would be expected from 100 million cars, eight times more cars than in all of Los Angeles. It would be unconscionable to allow anything that would make that even worse.”
“A century’s worth of failed efforts has demonstrated that trying to turn rocks into oil is a fool’s errand, but somehow Enefit expects a different result this time,” said Bobby McEnaney, a senior analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The last thing this administration should be considering is a proposal that amount to fossil fuel alchemy, particularly when cleaner energy sources are readily available.”
The Bureau of Land Management’s webpage for the project is here.