Opponents to enforce shutdown of tar sands mine today
PR SPRINGS, Utah–About 80 climate justice land defenders right now are using their bodies to halt construction of a tar sands strip mine in the Book Cliffs of Utah.
The action is the culmination of a week-long direct action training camp within 2 miles of the mine. Participants of Climate Justice Summer Camp travelled from numerous organizations, states and sovereign tribal nations to learn direct action skills and build networks.
In recent weeks, Calgary, Canada-based US Oil Sands began a new and devastating phase in construction of the first tar sands mine in the United States. Nearly 80 acres of forest and sage land have been leveled.
US Oil sands has construction permits on 212 acres of pristine wilderness and strip mine land leases on 32,000 acres. Opponents say the traditional Ute hunting lands leased by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Land Administration are too fragile and damage would be irreversible.
Numerous states and local governments question the wisdom of tar sands and oil shale projects in the Colorado River Basin. That system—which provides drinking water to 40 million people in the US, Mexico and native communities—is already severely over-tapped and endangered by industrial waste contaminants.
“Indigenous people’s sacred lands for hundreds of generations here would be destroyed after a few generations of American settler colonialism,” says Jessica Lee, on behalf of the land defenders. “US Oil Sands perfectly demonstrates capitalism’s brazen disregard for the climate crisis, human and tribal rights and rights of the planet itself to be free of dangerous corporate parasites.”
The United States Environmental Protection Agency this month joined the crowd demanding answers from the tar sands company. EPA’s letter indicates US Oil Sands may need tribal authorization for their project due to lease acres bordering and sometimes occurring in “Indian country.”
EPA also has concerns about toxic and hazardous waste from the project. The construction site is immediately upstream of one of the major river systems of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation, the stunning Willow Creek Canyon area. The company has never sought Ute Tribal Government approval.