(EnviroNews Utah) – Salt Lake City – Peaceful Uprising has demanded that the Department of Air Quality (DAQ) ban all tar sands refining in the state of Utah, and has called upon them to reject any further permit requests for tar sands refining or development in the future.
Tar sands are some of the dirtiest fuels to develop and refine, and with the air quality conundrum along the Wasatch Front having recently gained worldwide notoriety, Peaceful Uprising’s demands seem to make sense.
“Tar sands almost makes regular crude refining look green,” said Melanie Martin, spokesperson for Peaceful Uprising, at a key Air Quality Board vote on the state plan (SIP) that seeks to get Utah into compliance with national air quality standards.
To few people’s knowledge, Canadian tar sands, or bitumen crude refining, is already underway at two of the Salt Lake area’s five oil refineries (Tesoro and Chevron), with others asking the DAQ’s permission to pollute even more while expanding and retrofitting their facilities — ramping up on oil sands processing infrastructure. The side effect of this of course is that all of the extra pollution that comes with bitumen refining will be dumped directly into the Wasatch air shed.
With Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker calling for authority to regulate his local air, and citizens wondering why industry gets to continue to pollute while people are unable to heat their homes with wood burning stoves and fireplaces, Peaceful Uprising’s demands seem justified. One question that still has to be answered is what happens when private individuals and cities change bad habits to good on their own? Will industry be able to use those gains as an excuse to expand and pollute even more?
Speaking of industry, another point illuminated by Melanie Martin of Peaceful Uprising as she sat in frot of the DAQ Air Quality Board, raises a level of high concern among many activists and citizens alike. It just so turns out that the way the Board is currently structured (in an effort to be fair), makes way for 2 seats for direct representatives of industry, and those representatives come from two of the most controversial source polluters in the state.
Tesoro and Kennecott Utah Copper are both being sued by the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) for perpetrating what are allegedly illegal expansions of their refining and mining operations respectfully, and convieniently enough, both have representatives that sit on the DAQ Air Quality Board.
Karma Thomson represents Tesoro on the Air Quality Board, while it is chaired by Stephen Sands II of the simply massive Kennecott Utah Copper mining operation. Kennecott, controlled by British parent company Rio Tinto, steals the dubious distinction of being Utah’s largest air pollution culprit, and they have demonstrated a track record of profits over people as much or more than any other corporation in the state.
The very duty of the DAQ and the Air Quality Board is to protect the people from harmful air pollution, so if having Sands of Kennecott head the Air Quality Board is not the prime example of a fox guarding the henhouse, then we don’t know what is.
Last summer, members of Peaceful Uprising joined with the group Utah Tar Sands Resistance for weekends of education about the Tavaputs, an area where U.S. Oil Sands, a company based in Canada, now has permits to develop America’s first commercial tar sands strip-mine on the magnificent Eastern Utah plateau.
Virtually all attempts to mine tar sands in Utah have failed miserably in the past, with many of them scarcely even producing a barrel of oil. The remnants of the Leonard Murphy Mine have been left to rust in the woods, while deadly, and possibly uranium-containing tar from the mine creates toxic fumes and puddles where animals get trapped and die. There have been no attempts at a cleanup of the deadly mess — an un-bonded, and unregulated experiment from the Reagan era.
During meetings in Salt Lake City about the proposed mine, people were told that there was “nothing” out there. Environews.tv went out to one of the campouts held on the Tavaputs to get the full story.
Peaceful Uprising was founded in response to Timothy DeChristopher’s action at an illegal land auction held by the U.S. Government. DeChristopher went to protest the auction, but felt like he could do more, so he went into the auction house, took a paddle, and after seeing one person’s anguish over the loss of wilderness, began bidding on federal oil leases. He ended up with 22,500 acres and a $1.8 million bill before the authorities escorted him out of the building.