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Seed Sowers Arrested on Country’s First Tar Sands Mine

Click here to donate to support legal expenses of arrestees.

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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: ccrt@riseup.net

Secondary Contact: Natascha Deininger, Wasatch Rising Tide, Tavaputs Action Council; Tel: 435-414- 9299; Email: wasatchrisingtide@gmail.com

Website: http://www.canyoncountryrisingtide.org

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More Disruptions at BLM Oil & Gas Lease Sale

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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.

Keep It in the Ground

Demonstrators are forcibly removed from today’s #KeepItintheGround rally in Salt Lake City. Photo by Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity. Photos are available for media use.

“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.

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“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.

Background
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).

#KeepitintheGround

‘Keep It in the Ground’ Victory: BLM Utah Halts Oil and Gas Lease Sale

Celebratory Rally in front of the BLM offices in Salt Lake City.

Celebratory Rally in front of the BLM offices in Salt Lake City.

November 17th, 2015
SALT LAKE CITY— Elders and climate activists are celebrating today as the Bureau of Land Management made a last-minute decision to halt an oil and gas lease sale owing to a “high level of public interest.”

Dozens of citizens were planning to protest the auction on Tuesday morning in Salt Lake City.  Instead, they will now celebrate the Bureau’s decision to postpone the auction of 73,000 acres of publicly owned oil and gas in Utah — which harbor an estimated 1.6 – 6.6 million tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. The planned protest had been led by elders calling on the BLM to act to prevent catastrophic climate change and to ensure a livable future for generations to come.

The victory is the latest from a rapidly growing national movement calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy by stopping new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans – a step that would keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution from escaping into the atmosphere. Similar “Keep it in the Ground” protests were held in Colorado and Wyoming in recent weeks and more are planned for upcoming lease sales in Reno, Nev., and Washington, D.C.

A number of national and local groups are coming together to demand that fossil fuels stay in the ground, including ‘Elders Rising’ – a group of seniors concerned for their children and grandchildren in an age when catastrophic climate change is destroying the possibility of a livable future. Elders Rising is joined by national groups Rainforest Action Network, the Center for Biological Development, the Women’s Congress for Future Generations, Canyon Country Rising Tide, and WildEarth Guardians in calling for inter-generational justice and an end to fossil fuel development.

Quotes

Kathy Albury, Elders Rising

“It has been said that when the elders rise up, it is a real crisis.  Well, here in Salt Lake City the elders only needed to talk about rising to protest the leasing of our public lands to fossil fuel companies, and thousands of acres have been saved from destruction. We are grateful for the postponement of this auction and are making plans to be at the rescheduled auction.  We will be bidding for the preservation of our wild areas to slow the progress of climate change and provide a livable future for our children and grandchildren.”

Lauren Wood, Canyon Country Rising Tide

“The BLM’s cancellation of the lease sale proves the strength of our movement. The BLM is learning that the people of Utah won’t allow our public lands to be sold off to the fossil fuel industry. We’ve seen the destruction they cause first-hand, and our movement will keep growing until we see a just transition from fossil fuels for all of Utah’s communities, urban and rural.”

Kaitlin Butler, Women’s Congress for Future Generations

“Community groups are standing up and withdrawing their consent to a toxic future. A powerful ethic is (re)emerging based not only on the right to a healthy environment, but also on the responsibility to act on behalf of the planet and future generations who are inheriting our debts. Currently, government protects private property and financial capital, instead of protecting the commons — the air, land, water, cultural heritage – the things we all share.”

Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity

“The BLM knows the public is watching and that they don’t want our lands and our climate auctioned off to the highest bidder,” said Valerie Love with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We forced the BLM to stop this lease sale, and we won’t rest until all new fossil fuel lease sales on America’s public lands are ended.”

Ruth Breech, Rainforest Action Network:

“Thanks to the people powered resistance, BLM is backing off and reassessing the corporate giveaway of our public lands. It is going to be community leaders stepping up in Utah and all over the country that will help end the fossil fuel leasing of America’s most precious resources. A delay on this lease sale in Utah means less public lands doomed to industrialization and a glimmer of hope to break the corporate stronghold on our future.”
Tim Ream, WildEarth Guardians

“The decision by the Obama Administration to cancel today’s Utah oil and gas lease sale is a possible turning point. Earlier this year the Utah BLM office was denying that climate change was even happening. Today, they heard the huge uproar of people across the U.S. and responded in a way we can all be proud of. If we all push hard enough this next year, the end of federal coal, oil, and gas leasing might be just around the corner.”

Background

The American public owns nearly 650 million acres of federal public land and more than 1.7 billion acres of Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. This includes federal public lands like national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges that make up about a third of the U.S. land area — and oceans like Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard. These places and fossil fuels are held in trust for the public by the federal government; federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.

Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. An August report by EcoShift consulting, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, 67 million acres of federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry — an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

More than 400 organizations and leaders in September called on President Obama to end federal fossil fuel leasing. They included: Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Dr. Noam Chomsky, Dr. Michael Mann, Tim DeChristopher, Dr. Stuart Pimm, Dr. Michael Soule, United Auto Workers Union, Unitarian Universalist Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Protect Our Winters, 350.org, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, REDOIL, Sierra Club, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Waterkeeper Alliance, WildEarth Guardians and hundreds of others.

Earlier this month Senators Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (D-Vt.) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later President Obama cancelled the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying “Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

Summer Happenings

Permanent Protest Vigil at Tar Sands Mine

June-October

In May,  tar sands resisters new and old gathered in the Book Cliffs of so-called Eastern Utah, at PR Springs, site of one 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.

This permanent protest vigil provides interested people with an opportunity to tour an area slated for destruction and to participate in an experiential “field school” exploring topics such as direct action planning, consensus decision making, ecology, and public land management.

If you have a couple free days this summer, consider coming up for one of the themed campouts or contact us (canyoncountryrisingtide@gmail.com) to find out how to find the campers any time.

People at the  one of the sites of extraction for tar sands in Utah, PR Spring.

People at the one of the sites of extraction for tar sands in Utah, PR Spring.

Family Campout at PR Spring

June 21-22 Solstice Weekend

Join us for an intergenerational campout, bringing together families to protect future generations from the Utah tar sands.

This is a unique opportunity to camp out in the scenic Book Cliffs of Eastern Utah with your family and friends and a group of people dedicated to climate justice.

Fun and informative activities will be planned throughout the weekend for adults and children of various ages.

 

Family Campout 2013 Photo Credit: Steve Liptay

Family Campout 2013 Photo Credit: Steve Liptay

Last year a group of families converged at PR Springs, site of the first proposed tar sands mine in the United States. While there, everyone from a 2-year-old, pre-teens, and Grandparents spent time exploring the land with local organizers, hiking, bird watching, water-testing, and, most importantly, learning about US Oil Sands’ project, and witnessing the devastation already being wrought by their 9-acre test site.

The School & Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), the State of Utah, and US Oil Sands would have us believe that the tar sands & oil shale projects moving forward in Eastern Utah are all for the benefit of the children. For, they would say, isn’t all the money from the Trust Lands being leased for extreme fossil fuel development going towards education? No. SITLA’s annual contribution to education accounts for less than 2 percent of the state’s $3 billion-plus education budget. With every parcel of stolen land leased for development and extraction, and every acre sacrificed, the more the land is devastated, the water put at risk and polluted, and the air filled with dust and toxins, the future of our children, and of future generations, becomes more and more bleak.

The short term gains from destroying the Book Cliffs, and turning Colorado Plateau into a sacrifice zone, is not worth the future of our children. Come see what’s at risk. Come take a stand.

DIRECTIONS
*SO THAT WE CAN BETTER ORGANIZE FOOD, CARPOOLING & CAMPING SITES, RSVP WITH US IF YOU PLAN ON ATTENDING (canyoncountryrisingtide@gmail.com). *****

Summer for Climate Justice Action Camp

July 15-22 on the Tavaputs Plateau

This July, students and other young people throughout the Western region of the U.S. will be converging to halt one of the first tar sands extraction operation in the U.S., located in Utah, and we want you to be one of them!  During the week, you will learn first-hand what’s at stake with tar sands development, cultivate a deeper analysis of existing power structures, and discover how you can be a catalyst in transitioning our energy system to a just and stable reality. The camp will culminate in direct action, and serve as a galvanizing platform for students and young people to build networks and leave equipped to take principled and concerted action on their campuses and in their communities.

Mass action shutting down preliminary construction at PR Spring in 2013. Photo Credit: Emily Wilson

Mass action shutting down preliminary construction at PR Spring in 2013. Photo Credit: Emily Wilson

Camp curriculum will be taught by experienced organizers from the Western region, primarily from grassroots organizations, Peaceful Uprising, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, and CanyonCountry RisingTide. The camp curriculum and structure will honor a climate justice framework, viewing the climate crisis as the most widespread exacerbation of already-existing systems of exploitation, emphasizing the need to dismantle such systems, and delving into ways to do that.

For more information, visit www.summerforclimatejustice.org. You must apply to attend.

Questions? Email summerforclimatejustice@gmail.com

If you’re interested in volunteering to help make this event possible please contact Sarah at Canyoncountryrisingtide@gmail.com. We will need folks interested in participating in kitchen duties, logistics, travel coordination, food shopping, and set up.

Please consider donating (money or time) to us to help make these events possible! Check out our calendar for other upcoming events.

Peaceful Demonstrators Stage Road Blockade and Prayer Ceremony at Site of Proposed Tar Sands Strip Mine in Utah

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Communities Vow to Protect Colorado River System from Dirty Energy Extraction

Bookcliffs Range, Utah–Dozens of individuals peacefully disrupted road construction and stopped operations today at the site of a proposed tar sands mine in the Bookcliffs range of southeastern Utah. Earlier this morning, Utahns joined members of indigenous tribes from the Four Corners region and allies from across the country for a water ceremony inside the mine site on the East Tavaputs Plateau. Following the ceremony, a group continued to stop work at the mine site while others halted road construction, surrounding heavy machinery with banners reading “Respect Existence or Expect Existence” and “Tar Sands Wrecks Lands”.

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Indigenous people lead everyone to bless the water and pray for the injured land at the site of the tar sands test pit where work was stopped.

“The proposed tar sands and oil shale mines in Utah threaten nearly 40 million people who rely on the precious Colorado River System for their life and livelihood,” said Emily Stock, a seventh generation Utahn from Grand County, and organizer with Canyon Country Rising Tide. “The devastating consequence of dirty energy extraction knows no borders, and we stand together to protect and defend the rights of all communities, human and non-human,” Stock said.

Monday’s events are the culmination of a week-long Canyon Country Action Camp, where people from the Colorado Plateau and across the nation gathered to share skills in civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action. Utah’s action training camp and today’s action are affiliated with both Fearless Summer and Summer Heat, two networks coordinating solidarity actions against the fossil fuel industry’s dirty energy extraction during the hottest weeks of the year.

“Impacted communities are banding together to stop Utah’s development of tar sands and oil shale. We stand in solidarity because we know that marginalized communities at points of extraction, transportation, and refining will suffer the most from climate change and dirty energy extraction,” said Camila Apaza-Mamani, who grew up in Utah.

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Lock-downs in combination with mobile blockades were used to enforced a for a full-day work stoppage at Seep Ridge Road.

US Oil Sands, a Canadian corporation, has received all the required regulatory permits to mine for tar sands in the region, and could scale up operations within a year. Although preliminary work has already begun, the company still lacks the necessary investment capital for the project. Today’s actions and lawsuits filed last week pose new challenges to the company’s plans, and those of other corporations exploring tar sands and oil shale plays on the Colorado Plateau, such as Red Leaf Resources and Enefit.

The region is known for its remote high desert land, vital groundwater resources, diversity of wildlife and sites sacred to regional indigenous people. Tar sands operations requires intensive water and energy for mining and refining processes, and Utah’s strip mining operations would likely yield only low grade diesel fuel.

Currently, tar sands from mining operations in Alberta, Canada are being refined in Salt Lake City by Chevron Corporation. As the refining industry in Utah seeks to expand, communities alongside the refineries already suffer from adverse health impacts and according to a recent study, Salt Lake City boasts the worst air quality in the United States.

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Opposition to road expansion spans workers, ranchers, hunters and climate justice advocates.

Additionally, rural communities like Green River, Utah face the risk of new refinery proposals to process tar sands and oil shale, electricity generating stations and even a nuclear power plant.

“The networks of groups and individuals taking action today in Utah have come together in an alliance that is historically unprecedented for this region. We join with others around the world, forming a coordinated response to these threats to our air, water, land, communities and to the larger climate impacts of this dirty energy development model,” said Lauren Wood, a seventh generation Utahn and third generation Green River outfitter.

Utah’s School Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), the agency leasing the land for tar sands mining to US Oil Sands, is tasked with administering state lands for the benefit of public institutions such as schools.

“Tar sands strip mining would be worst thing for the state, this country and the world. Although SITLA professes to care about the children, it consistently puts short term economic gain over the long term health of the very children it professes to benefit,” says Stock.

“There are no jobs on a dead planet. We need heroes not puppets of corporate interest who steal from current and future generations to line the pockets of a greedy few, at the expense of our communities and our environment,” said Stock.

Groups have vowed to continue their efforts to protect the Colorado River System and are planning future demonstrations and actions to stop the tar sands strip mining and other “dirty energy projects” across the region.

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People stopped work at the Seep Ridge Road public highway project, which is intended to accelerate destruction of the East Tavaputs Plateau for extreme extraction projects, including tar sands strip mining.

News Roundup:

KSL(video)- Activists protest proposed Utah tar sands mine, shut down road project

Deseret News (slideshow) –Activists protest proposed Utah tar sands mine, shut down road project

Salt Lake Tribune – Protesters halt road work near eastern Utah tar sands mine

Earth First! Newswire (photos) – Climate Justice Activists Occupy Two Tar Sands Mining Sites in Utah

ABC4- Utahns Protest Tar Sands Mine

AP: Protesters converge on Utah oil-sands pit

The Road to Hell is Paved with Tar Sands: Utah Tar Sands Resistance and Allies Confront Tar Sands and Oil Shale Road Development on the Colorado Plateau

As part of the Fearless Summer week of solidarity actions against extreme energy, Utah Tar Sands Resistance and allies confronted road construction crews on Seep Ridge Road, and expressed determination to stop both the road itself and what it is literally paving the way for–tar sands, oil shale and fracking across the Colorado River Basin (at an estimated cost of $3 million per mile).

Tavapoots!

Photo by Max Wilbert

Seep Ridge, formerly a small dirt road, is now becoming a site of immense devastation as areas of Uintah County are clear cut, leveled, and ultimately pave from just south of Ouray, Utah, to the Uintah/Grand county line atop the Book Cliffs, a distance of some 44.5 miles. Eventually, this road may connect to I-70, though development of the Grand County leg has not been approved and is already meeting with resistance.

Construction of this “Road To Nowhere” is destroying wildlife habitat, and the road itself, once complete, would facilitate the growth of a potential energy colony which would only serve to wreak more destruction of this already fragile ecosystem.

This action took place after a family campout, which gathered adults and children of various ages at the proposed site of the first tar sands mining in the United States–PR Springs, in the scenic Book Cliffs of Eastern Utah, on the Tavaputs Plateau.

UTSR was joined by members of Peaceful UprisingCanyon Country Rising TideDGR Great Basin, the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, and others.

Check out these amazing kids: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BufXi385hzc

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Photo by Max Wilbert

Photo by Max Wilbert
Photo by Max Wilbert

Traversing the Tavaputs Plateau

Elk

Elk

The air is thin up here at 8,000 feet. I’m sitting near the site of the first tar sands mine in the country, P.R. Springs. The sun’s strength diminishes as it approaches the western horizon–snow capped mountains behind layer after layer of high desert ridges.  Somewhere in those folds, the Green River tumbles though Desolation Canyon. I can hear a wild turkey gobble every now and again. The land continues to rise to the south. From that ridge I can make out the La Sals pointing me home, surrounded by miniature Fisher and Adobe Mesas. I could see a large crack in the rock that must be the almighty Colorado rushing through Horsetheif and Westwater. I could even make out the Abajos, Arches National Park, and Grand Junction lighting up for the evening. We saw 24 elk grazing on the ridge. Down below, between the Colorado River and Book Cliffs, is the Cisco desert and the I-70 corridor, fast becoming home to industrial development – evaporation ponds, a waste-water injection well, new home to the Atlas uranium tailings pile, a proposed nuclear power plant, a proposed tar sands refinery.

US Oil Sands test pit at PR Springs

US Oil Sands test pit at PR Springs

From up on top of the incredible Tavaputs Plateau, which sits upon an even greater Colorado Plateau, I am struck with how preposterous it seems that Uintah County is so removed from people’s realities in Grand County. From this vantage point, it is quite obvious that that all this destruction and pollution from fracking, oil, gas, and now tar sands and oil shale is just upstream and is wrapped in a grand plan that involves all of canyon country. My heart weighs heavy after this visit to the mine site. The buoyant notion that logical thinking leaves in me is slowly deflating. “It’s uneconomical, disastrous for the climate, technology is unproven, there’s not enough water”…Well, they’re paving the way quickly and surely.

This road construction stops right at the PR Springs tar sands mine

This road construction stops right at the PR Springs tar sands mine

The drive from the north was sickening. First Roosevelt and Vernal filled with fracking headquarters, brine mixing stations, chemical distributors, giant trucks toting gas and contaminated (or soon to be) water. Then, mile after mile of freshly paved highway through a freshly scarred landscape crisscrossed with pipelines and polka dotted with well pads. The road turned to grated dirt and signs of construction started to pop up. An empty bulldozer sat next to a newly blazed corridor through a hillside. Mile after mile of mangled old growth junipers and pinons lay dead on their sides. We passed small crews operating gigantic road eating machines. Why would they need a road over 100 feet wide? The four lanes lead right to PR Springs and the Red Leaf Resources oil shale operation. Are Uintah County tax payers paying for this? The upgrade of the high-speed, four-lane trucking route stops right at the county line. Are they anticipating that Grand County will continue the Book Cliffs highway and connect it to the planned energy infrastructure along I-70? Or are they content to truck everything to Salt Lake, already filled with industry’s toxic breath?

Seep Ridge Road Construction. Upgrading a dirt road to a four lane, high speed, trucking route.

Seep Ridge Road Construction. Upgrading a dirt road to a four lane, high speed, trucking route.

We hiked all over the drainage system just below the already huge tar sands “test pit.” The canyons are filled with elk trails, pinon, juniper, ponderosas, and Douglas Fir. Around all the seeps and springs we found groves of aspens and often abandon ranch structures. Water was flowing at some point in every drainage we checked.  US Oil Sands and the state engineer seem to agree that the PR Springs mine site has negligible ground water and thus water pollution cannot be a cause for concern. Getting baseline data for water quality in the area will be essential in this fight. A biologist accompanied us along the hike, counting and pointing out red tail hawks, flickers, chickadees, bluebirds, and starting an inventory of species.

Main Canyon, just below the tar sands test pit.

Main Canyon, just below the tar sands test pit.

We stumbled upon spots around the ridge that had been deforested already for various core samples and wells. In some places, the earth and vegetation had already been scraped off to expose the tar sands. They gray gritty cakes of tar and sand were hard in the cold spring air, very much like a crumbling parking lot buried just below the surface. P.R. Springs has some of the most accessible deposits.

Tar Sands Deposits at PR Springs

Tar Sands Deposits at PR Springs

Excitement and foreboding course through my veins. This fight is much bigger than stopping just one tar sands mine. It’s about also stopping oil shale, corporate manipulation of our public process, and the continued expansion of the extreme energy empire. We’re here, we’re everywhere, and we’re growing in strength. We believe a better way is possible and that the continued exploitation of these fossil fuels is destroying our ability to cope with the needed transition. Extreme energy extraction will no longer be tolerated. The costs are simply too high.

View of the drainage just below the test pit. If allowed to expand, US Oil sands would likely dump all of the "overburden" from mining into this canyon. Industry's term for this is "valley fill."

View of the drainage just below the test pit. If allowed to expand, US Oil sands would likely dump all of the “overburden” from mining into this canyon. Industry’s term for this is “valley fill.”

This tar sands mine was abandoned in 1983, unreclaimed. US Oil Sands has yet to pay their 1.6 million dollar reclamation bond and yet they are already deforesting and strip mining a test pit.

This tar sands mine was abandoned in 1983, unreclaimed. US Oil Sands has yet to pay their 1.6 million dollar reclamation bond and yet they are already deforesting and strip mining a different test pit.

On the Banks of the Green River where industry trucks come to fill up water and brine mix.

On the Banks of the Green River where industry trucks come to fill up water and brine mix.

Fracking Rig outside of Vernal

Fracking Rig outside of Vernal

Front-line community stages stunning banner drop in Canyon Country

Today, activists from Grand County, Utah dropped a banner from a large boulder along the route of a popular annual half-marathon. This direct action is in concert with a” week of action against tar sands profiteers”, called for by Tar Sands Blockade.

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This banner was posted along the Half Marathon Race Route. Roughly 5,000 people ran by it, thought about it, then hopefully thought about it for another 5 miles while they ran through gorgeous canyon country. The road will open for public traffic by Saturday afternoon. The banner remains in place for now.

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“The proposed strip mining, processing, shipping, and refining of tarsands in Utah threatens the wild character of this landscape that we love. It would pollute our air, water, and further contribute to catastrophic climate change. I for one am not about to let one of the most destructive industrial processes on earth come to Grand County without a fight,” one activist said.

Come to a meeting, spread the word, hang a banner, plan a direct action.
Check out www.beforeitstarts.org to get involved.  Be our friends (before it starts and canyon country rising tide) on facecrack and they even have a twitter!

Using Tarsands produces 2-4 more times carbon dioxide than conventional oil.

The mining and processing of Tarsands requires as much or more energy as it produces in the end. This extra energy input comes from either fracked natural gas or nuclear power- both of which we also oppose.

Tar sands mining in Canada is the largest and most destructive industrial project in the history of our planet.  The U.S.A. could soon become another home for this kind of mining. The most immediate threat comes from U.S. Oil Sands, Inc, which plans to begin operations this year in an area just 60 miles from where the banner drop (pictured below) took place.  [Read the details about US Oil Sands’ operation]