While record numbers of protesters were chaining themselves to construction equipment earlier this week along the Oklahoma segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, the proposed plan to ferry Canadian tar sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, another group of activists camped out at 8,000 feet on an Eastern Utah plateau. Their target: a lesser-known tar sands project here at home.
A Canadian company named U.S Oil Sands is poised to launch the nation’s first tar sands mining operation at PR Springs, not far from Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Tapping the energy resource, supporters say, will be a boon for Utah’s local economy and the country’s energy security, while posing few negative consequences, given the remoteness of the operation. Opponents, however, fear real impacts on local wildlife and tourism, as well as downstream effects on already polluted air and the continually dwindling supplies of clean water upon which millions of people in the West rely.
“We don’t need to do this,” said Celeste Bradford, 10, standing at the U.S. Oil Sands site with other kids, a few picking at rocks coated in tar. She suggested that if people raised solar panels instead, “we wouldn’t have to be polluted anymore.”