US Oil Sands announced yesterday that construction of the first commercial tar sands mine in the U.S. was being put on hold due to the steady decline in world oil prices. A bad idea at any price, the company’s PR Spring mine is located in a remote landscape behind the Book Cliffs in eastern Utah. Since 2009, the company has proposed several iterations of its plan to strip mine and process tar sands using an industrial-strength solvent that is strong enough to melt a parking lot from under your feet, and since 2009 WRA has opposed this project.
It’s important to note that the waste stream from the company’s process will contain significant amounts of residual solvent, along with toxic petrochemicals, which the company will deposit back into its mine pits untreated. The ground water that will be contaminated by this mine is the source of area seeps and springs that are used by a local rancher for his stock and his home and by wildlife. In a high desert area where water is scarce, every drop is precious. However, far from acknowledging the reality of how lethal its waste stream is, US Oil Sands contends that its process is environmentally benign.
Because this mine will contaminate local seeps and springs, and will result in 100% destruction of this pristine landscape, the Utah office of WRA has challenged the permitting of this mine at every turn. Currently, we are contesting the Utah Division of Water Quality’s decision to grant the company a ground water discharge permit for the company’s latest plan to triple the size of its mine pits. In spite of this announcement, the legal challenge to DWQ’s latest approval will continue.
Tar sands and oil shale are literally the bottom of the fossil fuel barrel, and result in 100% to 300% more carbon pollution than conventional oil. Mindless of how ridiculous this policy choice is, Utah politicians continue to declare that the state is “open for business” when it comes to development of these very dirty fossil fuels. But for now, at least, the “open” sign has been removed and the tar sands will remain in the ground. That makes my day and everyone’s day who likes clean air, clean water and a friendly climate.
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