Utah Approves First Tar Sands Mine in US

Today, the Utah Governor’s Energy Initiative Task Force will hold a public hearing to gather input on Utah’s 10-year energy plan. This hearing comes one day after the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) gave final approval for a tar sands mine in Eastern Utah, the first tar sands mine in the country.

“Approving tar sands one day, then asking for public input on the state’s energy future the next is either dishonest or dysfunctional,” said Ashley Anderson, coordinator for Peaceful Uprising, a US climate action organization based in Utah.

The PR Springs mine, to be operated by Canadian-based Earth Energy Resources, would occupy 213 acres in Grand and Uintah Counties in Eastern Utah. The site is within the Colorado River watershed, which supports 30 million people across the region. Earth Energy Resources expects to produce 2,000 barrels of crude bitumen per day, 350 days per year for 7 years.

“This project has no real value or contribution to society,” said John Weisheit, Colorado Riverkeeper and Conservation Director of Living Rivers. “The total amount of oil produced by this mine over seven years of operation would cover just 7 hours of American oil demand – a tiny blip on the radar. However, it will take millennia to restore the watershed they are about to destroy.”

Tar sands, also called oil sands or heavy oil, produce one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet. On average, each barrel of tar sands oil generates three times the greenhouse gases as conventional fuel, consumes or contaminates two to four barrels of water, and exposes ground water to toxic pollutants such as arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel and cyanide. DOGM refused to consider the climate impacts of tar sands in the permitting process. Extraction of tar sands in Canada has already devastated an area the size of Florida.

Although DOGM issued tentative approval of the mine in September 2009, they failed to notify Grand County until March 2010. In response, Peaceful Uprising and Living Rivers requested a hearing with DOGM held in July to review the environmental impacts of the mine.

“No one in the government is asking whether or not tar sands development is good for Utah,” said Anderson. “Instead, DOGM is simply rubber-stamping the project while the State pretends to care about renewable energy development at these hearings.”

Despite approval from DOGM, Earth Energy Resources must still apply for one final permit from Grand County and raise up to $35 million dollars from investors before it can begin construction of the mine.  This means we still have two small windows of opportunity to stop this mine, but it will definitely be an uphill struggle.

If you are from Utah, please send comments about the State’s 10-year energy vision to Ashlee Buchholze at abuchholz@utah.gov.

10 Responses to “Utah Approves First Tar Sands Mine in US”

  1. 1 JP Sep 14th, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I’d say that recent call for more creative direct action might come in handy real soon in Utah, eh?

  2. 2 Teresa Sep 14th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    The link for “Final approval for tar sands mine” does not work, got an error 404, can’t be found.

  3. 3 Justine Sep 14th, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    I’ve been to Canada, I’ve seen the Canadian Tar Sands. We do not want this in our country….especially for only 2000 barrels of oil a day. We are talking massive land destruction and massive water use and pollution. Not to mention the creation of toxic lakes called tailing ponds. Basically this is just toxic waste water that no one knows what do with. We must make the most of these small windows of opportunity! We must shut this down! We simply cannot loose this battle!

  4. 4 Carolyn Sep 15th, 2010 at 11:46 am

    A sad day for our Earth. Fear and greed it seems rule. This is a backward and awful step.

  5. 5 William Sep 17th, 2010 at 2:24 am

    It does not seem to make a whole lot of sense to me with an initial cursory glance. I deeply understand the need to create jobs in this economy, but such an inefficient environmentally costly project in such a pristine wilderness seems a little silly, and perhaps environmentally arrogant. So many environmental issues have become partisan, but common sense should be the prevailing factor in this decision. I would hope that The Utah legislature would use common sense when deciding if and how this project moves forward. If the watershed can be preserved, then I say “why not.” If it cannot, then I say, “watch out,” the future cost may vastly outweigh the short term benefit.

  6. 6 Nick Magel Sep 17th, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Seems Chevron is already calling folks about this. Interesting read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bryan-young/corporate-citizenship-the_b_720086.html

  1. 1 Utah Approves First Tar Sands Mine in US | Peaceful Uprising Trackback on Sep 14th, 2010 at 10:44 am
  2. 2 Utah Oil Sands: Canada’s Infamous Tar Sands Extraction Coming To U.S. | Ecomentality@LifeDrop Trackback on Sep 14th, 2010 at 1:26 pm
  3. 3 Utah Approves America’s First Tar Sands Mine at Oil Change « The Energy Game Trackback on Sep 15th, 2010 at 3:13 pm
  4. 4 Utah Approves America’s First Tar Sands Mine | The Price of Oil Trackback on Oct 11th, 2010 at 2:49 am
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About Juliana

Juliana Williams grew up in Washington state and began organizing at Whitman College in 2004, working to get her campus to purchase renewable energy. She volunteered with the Sierra Student Coalition and help found the Cascade Climate Network. Following that, she lived in Iowa for two years, working as the SSC's Great Plains Organizer with amazing students in MN, IA, MO, NE and SD. After working with the Breakthrough Institute she is now pursuing her Master of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. She is an avid ultimate player, plays string bass and spends way too much time on wikipedia.

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