Category Archives: Updates
The proposed Uinta Basin Railway is a multi-billion dollar project promoted by the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition that seeks to quadruple the amount of oil produced in the Uinta Basin. The Surface Transportation Board has just released a draft Environmental Impact Statement for public comment. Comments due December 14th, 2020
All of us who are concerned about protecting Utah’s air, climate and wildlife need to speak up in opposition to this project. Now is the time.
The Draft EIS analyzes the potential environmental impacts of the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition’s proposal to construct and operate an approximately 85-mile rail line connecting the Uinta Basin to the national rail network near Soldier’s Summit.
The public and any interested parties are encouraged to submit comments on the Draft EIS. This can be done during an online public meeting or with written comments. Please be as specific as possible about any concerns or questions you have about the analysis and conclusions in the Draft EIS.
EIS Webpage – read the draft EIS here, register for public meetings, submit comments
- PUBLIC MEETINGS
- November 30, 2020, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. MST
- December 1, 2020, 2:00 p.m.to 4:00 p.m. MST
- December 3, 2020, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. MST
- Ideas for Public Comment
- UBR Talking Points and Background
- Stop the Uinta Basin Railway coalition webpage
- Official EIS Webpage
- Online Public Meeting Instructions
Proposed oil railway would chew up 10,000 acres of Uinta Basin habitat – Brian Mafly, Salt Lake Tribune. November 3, 2020
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):
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)
- 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.
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.
Try as they might, tar sands and oil shale will never be profitable without using massive amounts of public money to prop up their business models. With low oil prices and a very risky political climate, these upstart companies are having an impossible time securing investors to move forward with their projects.
We are winning, slowly, determinedly, and with lots of fun, by creating a risky business atmosphere for these foolish ventures. Lawsuits slow the process, direct action slows the progress, oil prices fluctuate, and now–with the recent announcement by US Oil Sands that they are drastically slowing down construction of the PR Springs tar sands mine–we have some room to breathe.
But, while the companies lay off workers and bide their time, leaving vast areas in the process of being strip mined, they are also working in our County Governments, in UDOT, with SITLA, and with the CIB to take millions of dollars of public money and spend it on infrastructure that these failing startup companies need. Right now, we need to challenge all of these institutions. We need our money to go towards locally driven, community controlled alternative energy projects, public transportation, and food security, not wasted on a dying, speculative industry that would change our climate beyond imagination.
Tar Sands and Oil Shale Projects on hold or significantly slowed due to “bust”:
Ambre Energy Oil Shale – Colorado (sold to Red leaf Resources and now on hold)
What they’re up to the in the meantime (points of intervention):
Bookcliffs Highway – a proposed $3 million/ mile highway connecting the P.R. Spring Tar Sands Mine and Red Leaf Resources to I-70. They currently have no way to get product to market, thus the projects are not viable. The Six County Infrastructure Coalition is trying to secure public money for this project from the State. The Grand County Transportation Special Service District will host a presentation about this on February 11th at 6 p.m. at the Grand Center, 182 North 500 West.
Six County Infrastructure Coalition – “The Coalition’s mission is to plan infrastructure corridors, procure funding, permit, design, secure rights-of-way and own such facilities. Operation and maintenance of these assets will likely be outsourced to third parties,” taken from the SCIC website. This is an industry-sponsored spin on local government. They function to funnel public money to benefit a few private corporation in the oil, gas, tar sands, fracking, potash, coal, and oil shale industries.
MCW is working to obtain “full production” permits from the state to move into continuous production mode and is in the process of implementing several Utah Government recommendations with regards to trucking activities on and off its lease site at Asphalt Ridge.
Enefit – Must soon give up its federal research lease with the state or prove it is making headway towards commercial production. Enefit is going through a BLM process to build a utility corridor to the site which will deliver water, power and natural gas to the Enefit operation and move crude out through a 16-inch pipe.
Red Leaf Resources – Closed up shop, but says they’ll be in full scale production by 2017 with production by 2018.
The Book Cliffs Highway, a proposed $3 million dollar per mile of paved road connecting the 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 last year when the Grand County Council pulled out of the Six County Infrastructure Coalition in order to avoid being outvoted over support for this project in our county. It is very important to stop this project at all costs. Industry in that area includes fracking for oil and gas, tar sands mining and oil shale mining. For these forms of extreme energy production to continue, they need a transport connection to a refinery. Truck traffic in the Uintah Basin to the North is at it’s maximum, and their plans for a rail system or a heated pipeline to the region have been thwarted. It is our job, as folks who care about this area, to get involved to stop this Highway from ever being completed.
The feasibility study on the road can be seen here.
The Grand County Transportation Special Service District will host a presentation about this on
February 11th at 6 p.m. at the Grand Center, 182 North 500 West.