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First Tar Sands Mine On U.S. Soil Approved in Utah

First Tar Sands Mine On U.S. Soil Approved in Utah

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.

Related Reading:

Deformed Fish Found Downstream Of Tar Sands Mines

Green Energy Under Scrutiny While Oil Sands Grow

Canada’s Oil Sands Threaten To Speed Global Warming

via EcoWatch

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Image via Thinkstock

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103 comments

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6:33AM PST on Dec 14, 2012

This is no surprise.

11:04AM PST on Nov 25, 2012

signed, thanks for sharing

4:43PM PST on Nov 17, 2012

Now how would the good democrats let that happen? But didn't they vote for Obama in Utah?

10:58AM PST on Nov 15, 2012

This is so wrong!

5:34AM PST on Nov 14, 2012

Groan.

1:44AM PST on Nov 14, 2012

Money money money. BUT it will hurt in the end and at that time money will have NO value.

7:16PM PST on Nov 13, 2012

Bill E
when the tar sands extraction process uses 2 barrels of water to extract one barrel of tar sands oil, running these operations in a water deprived area is crazy. When you factor in the fact that the tar sands will not be refined in the US or Canada and thus not detined for American energy markets the risk of polluting dwindling fresh water supplies should outweigh enriching the CEOs' obscene salaries even further. Once an underground aquifier is polluted there is no way to clean it up. We export more than half of our refineries outputs now and last year exported 1.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, so when someone tries to tell you we need to drill baby drill to lower our dependence on foriegn oil sources show them the above facts.

7:05PM PST on Nov 13, 2012

Bob A
You can be your bottom dollar that Koch Industries and the other 71 dirty energy corporate members of ALEC have a stake in the tar sands operations as they do in the Canadian tar sands operations. They thought Romney would be a shoo-in and therefore the EPA would be all but shut down come January. We must be vigilant to try to stop tar sands operations, tar sands pipeline projects, mountain top mining operations and any other mining that pollutes the great national parks ecosystems whose borders they share. Two headed fish are now being found in the yellostone river ecosystem thanks to mining operations that have had little to no oversight for over a decade.

11:16AM PST on Nov 13, 2012

Greed knows no bounds. Guess they can liquify the money and drink it, right? Signed the petition gladly.

10:34AM PST on Nov 13, 2012

I wonder how many cubic miles of ground water they will be allowed to pollute? We need alternate energy. Wind, solar, geothermal, tides, to replace fossil fuels.

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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