Tar sand oil has been called the dirtiest energy source on Earth. Unfortunately for our neighbors to the North, Canada is home to some of the largest deposits of tar sand oil in the world. According to recent research, crude from Alberta’s oil sands is heavier, more viscous and contains more impurities than other types of oil. That’s why millions of Americans are horrified by the Keystone XL, a massive oil pipeline that would carry toxic tar sands oil over, under and across the entire length of the United States.
Until recently tar sands oil was a Canadian debacle, and U.S. activists have been fighting to keep it in Canada. But now the fight has come to American soil. On Oct. 24, the Utah Water Quality Board (UWQB) approved the first tar sands mine on U.S. soil, handing a permit to U.S. Oil Sands, a company whose headquarters are based in Alberta, despite it’s name.
With everything we know about leaky pipelines and the destructive power of oil spills, whether on land or out at sea, one would expect the state of Utah to put U.S. Oil Sands through its paces before giving the green light. Surely they required a comprehensive environmental impact statement and review of potential risks to groundwater before turning the company loose in beautiful, wild Utah, right? Wrong.
According to the UWQB, there’s no risk of groundwater pollution from the tar sands project, so officials gave the Canadian company permission to begin mining on a remote plateau in Eastern Utah without first obtaining a pollution permit or monitoring groundwater quality, an action that sets the stage for a possible court battle over the fragile region, according to Bloomberg.
So basically, Utah just proved that it couldn’t care less about keeping its groundwater clean. Might be time to invest in a state of the art water filter.
Although it’s hard to imagine something more harmful than drinking water polluted with filthy tar sands oil waste, it’s not the only thing put at risk by this decision. In an Oct. 9 interview on Democracy Now!, John Weisheit, conservation director of Living Rivers points out that the risks of tar sands extraction in the Uinta Basin aren’t limited to groundwater contamination. Rather, the entire surrounding ecosystem would be endangered.
Well, we’re concerned because this particular locality is in a high-elevation place called the Tavaputs Plateau, and it’s one of the last wild places in Utah. It’s a huge refuge for elk and deer. It’s also a beautiful watershed. It not only would affect the Colorado River, but it also—at this particular site, it’s at the top of the drainage, so it would also affect the White River and the Green River.
To put that in perspective: The entire Southwest United States – the states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming and California – depends on the Colorado River for farming, drinking and irrigation. That’s 30 million people who could be drinking contaminated water if U.S. Oil Sands is permitted to proceed. Sign the petition below to take a stand against tar sands oil on American soil.
Image via Thinkstock
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