Utah Carbon Bomb: Democracy Now!
(Plus Colorado’s Western Slope and southwestern Wyoming as well. Sorry it’s copy paste, too much information to rewrite, and I do hope I kept the various sites straight.)
‘The road to hell was paved with greed and cavalier disregard for human and planetary life.’
~ Sensura Utilis
This is the transcript.
Here is the map:
From tarsandsworld.com Dec. 20, 2013: ‘Utah OKs nation’s first commercial oil shale mine’ (Redleaf Corp.), a description of the ‘below grade ovens heat ore’ process:
‘Kerogen-bearing shale exists in vast abundance under Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, but no one has figured out how to extract oil from it in commercial amounts. With 600 million barrels available under its Utah leasehold, Red Leaf hopes to be the first. [snip]
In Red Leaf’s trademarked EcoShale process, operators dig pits lined with bentonite and clay, fill them with ore and heat it to 725 degrees for a few months. By contrast, Enefit American Oil, another developer proposing a mine nearby, plans to run ore through a processing facility that “retorts” or heats kerogen into oil in a matter of hours.
Red Leaf’s process “extracts oil with lower energy consumption, lower emissions, lower water use and less environmental impact than any oil shale technology deployed in the world today,” Lechtenberger said in his statement. “The EcoShaleTM process was specifically designed to address traditional environmental challenges of oil shale production.
But eco-activists say EcoShale is still hard on the earth. While Enefit would put spent ore back in the mine, Red Leaf would leave it where it was retorted, along with the infrastructure. Red Leaf said it expects mining operations to begin in the spring.’
From DeSmogblog, Feb. 16, 2014: ‘Canadian Company Called U.S. Oil Sands Will Soon Start Extracting Utah’s Tar Sands’:
‘In October, U.S. Oil Sands, Inc. joined Kentucky-based Arrakis Oil Recovery as the second company to receive a permit to produce U.S. tar sands. The Utah Water Quality Board gave U.S. Oil Sands a permit to extract 2,000 barrels of oil per day from Utah’s tar sands reserves.
Despite its name, U.S. Oil Sands is actually a Canadian outfit based in Calgary, Alberta. The company currently holds leases on just over 32,000 acres in Utah’s Uintah Basin. U.S. Oil Sands’ mining will take place at PR Spring on the Colorado Plateau in an area called the Bookcliffs, which straddles the Utah/Colorado border. U.S. Oil Sands’ water-and-energy-intensive extraction process involves first digging up congealed tar sands, then crushing them to reduce their size. The company then mixes the crushed sand with large amounts of hot water (at a temperature of 122-176°F) to loosen up and liquefy the tarry, oil-containing residue and separating it from the sand.
Next, coarse solids sink, are subsequently removed and considered waste tailings. Air is then bubbled through the remaining water-oil mixture, which makes the oil float to the top in what’s referred to as “bitumen froth,” in industry lingo. The froth is then deaerated, meaning all the air molecules are removed.
When it finally gets to this point in the production process, the mixture is still so thick it can’t be pumped through pipelines.
Thus, it undergoes even more treatment with a hydrocarbon solvent to reduce the viscosity and density of the sludge. Wastes from the process — which contain water contaminated with chemicals and unrecoverable oils — are called “middlings” and will be disposed of in surface tailings ponds and kept long-term.’
Followed by this news: ‘Utah Supreme Court hears challenge to tar sands permit; if permit is upheld, drilling could begin this spring’, the Salt Lake Tribune, March 04 2014:
‘The Utah Supreme Court is deciding whether the state’s first oil-producing tar sands mine was appropriately permitted by state regulators.
The court challenge is the last hurdle for the U.S. Oil Sands project, which could begin this spring if the permit is upheld.
‘Environmentalists say the Division of Water Quality incorrectly concluded there is no groundwater near the 213-acre project area on state trust lands in the Book Cliffs. U.S. Oil Sands intends to strip mine to a depth of 150 feet.
But during arguments Tuesday, Justice Thomas R. Lee questioned whether the court should second-guess decisions made by an agency expert in analyzing industrial impacts to groundwater.
‘’How we are supposed to know where to draw the line? Shouldn’t we defer to their judgment?” Lee asked.’
The wall to the left of your head look good for banging, at least from here…
Although, U.S. Oil Sands is already working on a smaller, but related project, according to Alternet.org, with the author mocking the ‘no groundwater’ claim by industry flacks:
‘U.S. Oil Sands (which did not return an interview request) has already dug its shovel into part of 32,000 acres it has leased in the Tavaputs Plateau. The company started a 200-acre test mine and last October it received sign-off from the state to continue its project following approval from the Water Quality Division. The Division’s director, Walt Baker, believed the company didn’t need a groundwater pollution permit. “He concluded that there is no groundwater to pollute in the project site, around 213 acres in the arid high country between Vernal and Moab,” reported Judy Fahys of the Salt Lake Tribune.
But the environmental group Living Rivers disagrees. Ironically, the site of the test mine is referred to on U.S. Oil Sands’ website as PR Spring, the name of a nearby freshwater spring. Additionally, Jeremy Miller reported for High Country News in July 2012 that the company actually plans to use groundwater from the site to supply the necessary water for the process. As his HCN colleague Stephanie Paige Ogburn wrote in October 2012, “Apparently the groundwater is not too deep to drill into as a water source, but still deep enough to be immune from pollution runoff.”
I left all the links hot since they’re all worth reading. But the Alternet article by Tara Logan may be the most fulsome description of the horrors awaiting the 100,000 wilderness quality canyon lands, animals, and birds, including endangered species, near the PR Springs site and the Asphalt one south of Vernal that has already been granted a permit.
Lying just north of Moab, Utah, and straddling the Colorado and Green Rivers, the 800,000 acres includes the Tar Sands Triangle between Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Logan says that the tarsands development would be dwarfed by the oil shale development.
Not to pile on with more bad news, but this is from the Deseret News:
‘Green River to host Intermountain West’s first refinery since 1976’, Sept. 26, 2013:
‘Ranked 11th in the nation for crude oil production, Utah is now on tap to host a $230 million refinery four miles west of Green River, where Houston-based Rock River Resources plans to build. Construction will begin later this year, with operations slated to start in 2014.
The refinery will process 5,000 barrels per day of the heavier wax crude and 10,000 barrels a day of what’s called the light or sweet crude.
There have been obstacles raised by a consortium of environmental groups that have launched an appeal of the permit granted to the company in June by the Utah Division of Air Quality. The permit lists the refinery as a minor, not major, source of emissions, and therefore under a different regulatory umbrella that only requires approval from the state, not the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Our challenge contends that this is a major source, not a minor source of emissions,” said Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with the Grand Canyon Trust. “The state and its proponents have underestimated the pollution that would come from this plant.”
The company recently decided to retool its application to air quality regulators and will submit a revised design of the facility, which will kickstart another appeal process that will unfold in the months to come. McKinnon and environmental groups Center for Biological Diversity, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Moab-based Living Rivers see the move as a victory in a project that has numerous ramifications for the state and its residents.’
Victory; well, with a many Battles with the Devils to fight as those groups do… Read more about the coalition’s “request for agency action” challenging the Utah Department of Air Quality Board here. Good on you all.
As an andidote, even allowing that Jonathan Thompson at High Country News mused about a wilderness philosopher who presaged Google Street Views: “The utopian technologists topian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated and anyone can transport himself anywhere, instantly,” wrote Ed Abbey in The Journey Home. “Big deal, Buckminster. To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me. That’s God’s job, not ours”…
You can find more here. If you haven’t seen some of these wild, wild, areas…go soon so you won’t have to see them in historical video form later. And read all the Ed Abbey books you can. 🙂
A bit of a personal note:
Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Mr. wd and I did a lot of backpacking all over Colorado, although more in the north. By the time we’d adopted two chirren, we did a lot of car-camping and day hikes all over eastern Utah and the southern West Slope of Colorado, a bit in northern New Mexico. To say that these areas have been important to our family, and to so many other Wilderness Lovers would be putting it mildly; rather: The Wilds were our church, the place where we found what many would call ‘the Hand of God, or: the Creator, in any event.
The Wilds were also classrooms for not only our children, but ourselves as well. How many times did I wish I’d learned more geology, then came home to study at the local library? To understand the history of upthrust pieces of rock that once lay on the ocean floor, or underlay flat canyons that no longer held water? To witness whole ecosystems: water, soil, bird insect and plant life, and the four-leggeds who were part of them? Mr. wd even ‘Adopted’ a BLM Wilderness Study area, our own Menefee Mountain that’s on the east side of our home canyon, and we’d take folks on tour to the top, in hopes that they would understand how important keeping it wild and roadless was, and would support a Wilderness designation for it, contra Mountain States Legal Foundation’s push to reject it. Yes, Gale Norton’s folks. Menefee Mountain burned to ash at the end of June, 2012, you may remember. I expect it will be Wild again one day…
Anyway, these 800,000 acres that are slated to become a Dirty Energy National Sacrifice Area…are all places I love, even though I never ventured into the Slick Rock canyons (Ooohm Kiva Void…)
The Wilds are important…and just knowing they’re there and rather unspoiled are…a blessing beyond measure. My thanks to all the heroes: Abbey and Stewart Udall, John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Wallce Stegner, and so many others…
(cross-posted at Café-Babylon.net)