In Utah, we know a little something about tar sands. While Tran Canada tries to barrel the Keystone XL Pipeline through middle America, we in Utah are sitting on the brink of all out tar sands extraction. Open pit mining operations are breaking ground in our backyard at PR Springs on the Tavaputs Plateau – the site of the first permitted commercial Tar Sands mine in the United States. Not only is this energy a huge greenhouse gas powder keg, but U.S. Oil Sand’s mining operation sits at the top of the drainage to the Green and therefore the Colorado River system and as such is a threat to increased pollution on the most overburdened waterway in America.
As water monitoring continues on the Tavaputs Plateau, and litigation continues to hold industry back, U.S. Oil Sands just put five new faces on their board, finally finding insane financial backers for such a bum economic deal. It’s incredible they were able to find deep enough pockets to fill a serious void in a company on the brink of going bust. Facing unproven reserves, a water crisis about to break out across the Colorado Plateau and a growing popular movement against their project, U.S. Oil Sands and these new investors have their work cut out for them.
People in Utah are standing up together to educate each other, and take action against Tar Sands, not only in the pipeline (Keystone XL, Enbridge) and in the pit (Book Cliffs) but also in the refineries across North Salt Lake as well, as these refineries position themselves to accept even dirtier forms of Tar Sands. This past Saturday, members of this community stood up because we all live here, in this airshed. And because we know that 40 million people rely upon the Colorado River watershed. And because communities across the west deserve better than this.
But we cannot fight Tar Sands here without recognizing and standing with the Chipewyan people as they fight Tar Sands Extraction in Alberta. We cannot stand up against U.S. Oil Sands here without standing up with brave activists opposing expansion of the Enbridge Pipeline in Michigan. We cannot be a part of this movement resisting expansion of Tar Sands refinement in our airshed without remembering the neglected and yet empowered frontline communities resisting the Valero Tar Sands Refinery in Texas as it looks towards expansion in their own backyard. These issues are increasingly and fundamentally interconnected.
We the people of Utah cannot afford to sell off our land to the lowest bidder, the price is simply too high.
These men, Carlos Slim, Frank Giustra, Cameron Todd, they don’t know us. They don’t know you. But they will.
Because n Salt Lake City, in Moab, and in many other communities around Utah and the Colorado Plateau, folks are standing up and drawing our own line in the sand; for water, for our future, and for our children. These men who don’t know the color of the sky when it sets at PR Springs, who have never rafted the desolate canyons of Southern Utah, who have never stood on the muddy banks of the river, who have never lived through an inversion season in the Salt Lake Valley, will not define our future, we will! This is our community and we will be here to fight for (as Wallace Stegner once said) “a society to match our scenery”.