US Moves Big Step Closer to Our Own Tar Sands

The US took a major step closer to opening our own version of Canada’s tar sands – the first large-scale oil sands mine. Last week a judge ruled against environmental organizations that are trying to block it.

Administrative law judge Sandra Allen in Salt Lake City ruled in favor of U.S. Oil Sands and Utah’s Division of Water Quality. She ruled that Utah rightfully granted the Calgary-based company permission to mine and process oils sands without requiring a pollution permit or water monitoring at the PR Spring mining site in eastern Utah.

The judge agreed with the Water Quality Division. There’s so little ground water within 1,500 feet of the proposed mine that additional safeguards aren’t needed.

"Substantial evidence . . . supports a finding that ground water has not been located and may be assumed absent in the project area except for a deep regional aquifer," she said.

The Canadian company received a permit in 2010 to develop nearly about 6,000 acres of state-owned land from Utah’s regulators. It plans to mine an initial 213-acre site to extract bitumen for refining into oil beginning in 2014.

Living Rivers and Western Resource Advocates are trying the prevent the oil industry from gaining a toehold that would inevitably lead to much bigger operations in the pristine region. Canada’s tar sands are mined by enormous strip-mining operations that clearcut the Boreal Forest.

Clearly there is water in the area, Rob Dubuc, a staff attorney for Western Resource Advocates, told InsideClimate News,  because flora and fauna exist there. 

They plan to take the case to Utah courts.

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