Utah Government Gives Go-Ahead to First Tar Sands Mine in U.S.

Thursday, July 23, 2015
Oil sands site in Utah (photo: David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News)

Tar sands oil is coming to the United States, or rather out of its soil, for the first time.


The state of Utah has approved a mining plan by a Canadian company to extract tar sands oil from the eastern part of the state. The decision will allow for the first commercial tar sands operation in the U.S.


The surface mining will take place on a ridge top in the Book Cliffs area, more than 200 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, an area home to wildlife and used by hunters and outdoor recreationalists. The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) approved the Canadian-based U.S. Oil Sands Inc. proposal only after the company agreed to do water and air quality monitoring.


Environmentalists were glad that the state at least required water monitoring. “This is a big deal and it’s a step in the right direction,” Rob Dubuc, an attorney representing the Living Rivers environmental protection organization that has protested the project, told the Associated Press. “To expect DOGM to deny the permit is not realistic in this political environment. But at least they are doing the right thing by requiring the monitoring.”


The monitoring could come in handy. A University of Utah geology professor says there’s a good chance that the operation will pollute water supplies, according to ThinkProgress. “Unfortunately, every decision that has been made to date is the (same) as looking out at the sky today and saying it is impossible that water can fall from the sky, and I find that infuriating,” Bill Johnson said at a hearing about the project last month. “The conclusions are based on data that was never intended to find a hydrological resource.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

State Approves Tar Sands Mine But Requires Water Monitoring (by Brady McCombs, Associated Press)

Utah Set To Be Home Of First Oilsands Mine Project In U.S. By End Of 2015 (by Geoffrey Morgan, Financial Post)

Utah Officials Give Canadian Company The Go-Ahead To Expand Tar Sands Mine (by Katie Valentine, ClimateProgress)

Oil Sands Mining Plan In Utah Draws Strong Reaction (by Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News)

FBI Zeroes in on Anti-Oil Sands Protesters (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Tar Sands Oil Extraction Uses more Water than Entire City of Toronto (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Deformed Fish Found Downstream from Oil Sand Project; Next Stop…Utah (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


paul davey 8 years ago
Sirs: Your story headlined "U.S. Government Gives Go-Ahead To First Tar Sands Mine in U.S." is incorrect.I think you picked up this story from Financial Times, which has since changed its original story. MCW Energy Group, a Canadian-registered company has been producing oil from its extraction plant location in Vernal, Utah, since October, 2014. (Note that the correct term is "oil sands" and not "Tar Sands." Tar is actually a man-made product which is derived from tree sap. More importantly, MCW Energy Group has a breakthrough, environmentally-friendly extraction technology, which uses NO water in the process, produces no tailings ponds, there are no greenhouse gases produced, no high temperatures/pressures, and the benign solvents used are recycled and re-used within a safe, closed-loop system. (www.mcwenergygroup.com) The process extracts over 99% of all hydrocarbons. Unlike any other oil sands project in the world, the MCW system proves that resources may be developed without harm to the environment. It's a win-win proposition for Utah, which has over 30 billion barrels of oil in 8 major deposits. Any comparison to the enviro-disaster in Alberta is foolish....different composition of deposits (water wet, not as in Utah which is "oil wet," and totally different extraction technology, where in Alberta they are dependent on water. In Utah, there's no such luxury. Hopefully, you will alter the details in your story to make it more accurate. Thank you. Paul Davey
Eric A. Tuttle 8 years ago
Utah Residents should give great pause in allowing their State Government letting this go forth without setting very stringent Mining Rules for this type of oil. A look at the Athabasca Tar Sands area via Google Earth, will give them a preview of what Utah may look like in its future.

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