Will the Moab Desert be Home to the First US Tar Sands Project?
The various Tar Sands projects in the wilds of Alberta, Canada make up the largest industrial project on the planet, producing synthetic crude oil by a process of extracting a tar like form of oil (bitumen) from sand and clay found in the earth. To extract the bitumen laced sand, the soil is strip mined out of the earth by enormous steam shovels, and through a costly industrial process converted to synthetic crude, laying complete waste to anything natural in the area; destroying forests, mountains, prairies, lakes and so on, leaving giant open pit mines of toxic waste in their place.
Where the trapline and the cabin once were, and the forest, there is now a large open-pit mine. Here Syncrude, Canada’s largest oil producer, digs bitumen-laced sand from the ground with electric shovels five stories high, then washes the bitumen off the sand with hot water and sometimes caustic soda. Next to the mine, flames flare from the stacks of an “upgrader,” which cracks the tarry bitumen and converts it into Syncrude Sweet Blend, a synthetic crude that travels down a pipeline to refineries in Edmonton, Alberta; Ontario, and the United States. Mildred Lake, meanwhile, is now dwarfed by its neighbor, the Mildred Lake Settling Basin, a four-square-mile lake of toxic mine tailings. The sand dike that contains it is by volume one of the largest dams in the world. (National Geographic)
With oil reserves underneath 54,000 sq. miles of forest, peat bogs, lakes, rivers and streams in the Northern Territories of Canada, this once pristine eco-system is rapidly becoming a vast industrial wasteland. The oil industry has already invested tens of billions of dollars in the production of these fields, with hundreds of more billions in invest expected to pour in over the next few years.
It is an environmental catastrophe of the highest order and one of the most glaring examples of the shortsightedness of mankind, right up there with Fukushima and GMO’s. Where once roamed wild animals and flourishing vegetation, now only scorched earth remains.
In Utah, it appears that the same companies responsible for the destruction in Canada have already been given the green light by State and local agencies to begin the first oil sands development in United States.
This week, the planned 213 acre oil sands project site between Vernal and Moab in Northeastern Utah, was approved by the State Water Quality Board in spite of concerns that this project will lead to contamination of this beautiful natural area by carcinogenic solvents and strip-mining. The approval was granted on the grounds that as is there is really no groundwater to contaminate in this area, which seems to deny the obvious truth that rainwater, ice and snow of course cover this area at various times throughout the year.
Lawyers for activists fighting the development of the project say environmental concerns can not be understated:
“It’s really hard to visualize how giant this threat could be,” Joro Walker, an attorney for Western Resource Advocates, the organization representing Living Rivers, told the Salt Lake City Weekly. “I don’t think people in Utah are really paying attention.” (CS Monitor)
Are people paying attention?
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