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Seed Sowers Arrested on Country’s First Tar Sands Mine

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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” protest interrupts BLM in Denver

LAKEWOOD, CO. Colorado community, climate and fracking activists hold up signs as they try to disrupt a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction May 12, 2016 at the Holiday Inn in Lakewood. The groups plan to rally and engage in peaceful civil disobedience to demand that public lands be no longer drilled, mined, or fracked. The protest is part of a global week of action focused on citizen action to keep fossil fuels in the ground and promote clean renewable energy, and comes days after the Colorado Supreme Court denied local authority to regulate fracking. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post)

LAKEWOOD, CO. Colorado community, climate and fracking activists hold up signs as they try to disrupt a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction May 12, 2016 at the Holiday Inn in Lakewood. The groups plan to rally and engage in peaceful civil disobedience to demand that public lands be no longer drilled, mined, or fracked. The protest is part of a global week of action focused on citizen action to keep fossil fuels in the ground and promote clean renewable energy, and comes days after the Colorado Supreme Court denied local authority to regulate fracking. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post)

The next Federal BLM Lease Sale for Oil & Gas is in Salt Lake City on Tuesday morning. Show up, show our power.

May 12, 2016

URL for photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeace_usa/sets/72157667794546282

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.

 IMG_20160512_132912.jpgThe 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.

 

Oil Shale Conference Attendees get Rude Awakening to the End of Fossil Fuels

October 5th, 2015

Blazing fire barrels and singing disruptions by Canyon Country Rising Tide (CCRT) and Utah Tar Sands Resistance (USTR) welcomed attendees to the 35th annual Oil Shale Symposium this morning, sending a clear message that extreme energy development is unwanted, unsustainable, and driving climate chaos.

CCRT activists, looking the part of oil shale developers, snuck into proceedings and interrupted plenary speaker Laura Nelson, energy advisor to governor Herbert and former Vice President of Red Leaf Resources. Disruptors pointing to the revolving door between industry and government and stated that oil shale development spells game over for a safe climate for all.

USTR members gathered around a fire barrel and symbolically burned money and diplomas, signaling that investment in oil shale and tar sands is not only wasted money, but also offers no certain job prospects in a turbulent extreme energy market. Oil shale and tar sands are dirty fossil fuels that strip the land beyond recognition. These fuels are extreme polluters in that they 1) Perpetuate climate change because they require massive amounts of energy to produce, 2) Require tremendous amounts of water, 3) Strip mine vast areas of land whose ecosystems will not return for millennia, and 4) Massively impact the public health of nearby communities via air and water contamination. The State of Utah subsidizes extreme fossil fuels via projects such as the $3-million-per-mile Seep Ridge Road, which leads to tar sands and oil shale strip mines in the Book Cliffs and received over $54million in government subsidies. Business-people turned government employees such as plenary speaker Laura Nelson exemplify the scandalous revolving door that exists between oil and government.

UTSR campaigner Raphael Cordray says: “Oil shale development is dirty, risky, and needs to be ended immediately if we want to see a livable future free of catastrophic climate change. Companies like Red Leaf are playing dice with the climate and investor money.” CCRT campaigner Bradley DeHerrera says: “The shameless revolving door between industry and government is drowning out the voices of ordinary people. Today, we took the mic from industry-rep turned government advisor Laura Nelson to say that we do not want oil shale and other extreme fossil fuels in Utah, or anywhere else.”

Fueling Climate Chaos: Government Board Pours Millions into Industry Coffers

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October 1st, 2015

Salt Lake City, UT: Today, Community Impact Board (CIB) members were greeted by banners and signs from climate justice group Canyon Country Rising Tide (CCRT), who was present at this month’s meeting to protest the flagrant use of public money for private companies that are fueling climate change.

The CIB, who claims its role is to alleviate communities impacted by fossil fuel development, allocated $53 million for the construction of a coal export terminal in Oakland, CA in April, in a brazen move to funnel public money into industry coffers. The Board is set to strike again – this time funnelling another $1.35 million for a power line project from Green River into an extraction zone scarred with drilling rigs and mines. While the Board has hitherto been shrouded in bureaucratic anonymity, these recent misallocations of royalties intended for communities has put a magnifying glass onto the CIB and their dirty-secrets.

Dirty, above all, is the right word for the type of development the CIB has fostered: the export terminal in Oakland stands to revitalize the coal industry that is pushing the world further towards climate chaos, while CIB-funded projects such as Seep Ridge Road ($54 million in CIB loans and grants) have catalysed the expansion of extreme fossil fuels oil shale and tar sands in Utah. CCRT asserts that with the increasing economic instability of coal and the looming realities of climate change, the State of Utah needs a serious overhaul of how public money is allocated.

CCRT campaigner Kate Savage asks: “Why are we continuing to prop up a dying industry causing some of the biggest problems we face, when the state could be using these funds to transition our communities towards a renewable energy future? What rural communities in Utah need are secure, healthy and abundant jobs they can count on, not pie-in-the-sky export-terminals.”

CCRT campaigner Sarah Stock says: “There is a revolving door between the CIB and industry, and present and former board members such as Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee and Transportation Commissioner Jeff Holt stand to profit greatly while the people they represent lose out. It’s time to put people before profits, and start thinking about what will be beneficial for Utah in the long run.”

Ends

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