Mindnumbing: Permit Awarded for Utah Tar Sands Extraction

As the drama around President Obama’s final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline continues to build, the US is quietly
collaborating with another Canadian company to create a tar sands catastrophe on American soil.

In October, the Utah Water Quality Board awarded a Canadian company called "US Oil Sands" a permit to extract 2,000 barrels of oil a day from 32,000 acres in Utah’s Uintah Basin.

This is the second company to get a permit to extract tar sands from US soil after Kentucky-based Arrakis Oil Recovery, reports DeSmogBlog.
Mining will located in an area called the Bookcliffs, which straddles the Utah/Colorado border. 

It could start this year!

Tar Sands Utah

Tar sands mining, which could also take place in Colorado and Wyoming, has been contested in court, and so far environmental groups have lost.  They are suing the Bureau of Land
for setting aside over 800,000 acres of federal public land for such projects without an environmental impact analysis.

As it has in Canada, tar sands mining would industrialize some of most pristine backcountry, destroying habitat, polluting and depleting already scarce water supplies, not to mention the greenhouse gases and air pollution. 

"Running into a coyote at the watering hole, stumbling upon a herd of 24 elk, and discovering bear scratchings on trees – these are everyday events out at PR Springs, the beautiful high desert land that U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands development could soon erase," says Peaceful Uprising.

Tar Sands Utah Deer

"Once US Oil Sands destroys this wilderness-scrapes away what it considers the "overburden" (to us, towering aspen, spruce, and Doug fir; wild horses, turkeys, and mountain lions; dense canyons with meandering streams) – it won’t come back. Nor does U.S. Oil Sands truly believe it can rehabilitate this habitat after mining is completed, leaving this land, in its own chilling words, "as clean as beach sand," they continue.

US Geological Survey estimates the region contains 353 billion to 1.15 trillion barrels of oil – two to seven times more than the 170 billion barrels that could be delivered by the Keystone XL pipeline over its lifetime.

A variety of citizens groups are trying to block the project, including Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Peaceful Uprising and Before It Starts, but so far it hasn’t made its way into the press.

This last gasp toward building out an antiquated fossil fuel infrastructure as the world knows it must move to renewable energy is beyond frustrating. Haven’t we had enough of strip mining this incredibly beautiful earth? Aren’t we tired of chemical and oil spills, coal ash spills, trains falling over and pipelines bursting? Now, we will turn our treasured wilderness in the US into this landscape?

Tar Sands 

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