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):
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.