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Earth First! Protests Tar Sands Plans in Utah

Energy
Earth First! Protests Tar Sands Plans in Utah

Earth First!

On Feb. 20, Earth First! protested tar sands exploration in Utah outside the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) offices in downtown Salt Lake City. Earth First! activists staged the protest with local organizers from Utah Tar Sands Resistance and Canyon Country Rising Tide. The offices were closed for Presidents’ Day, but a clear message was left at the doorstep—a mock oil spill accompanied by a mural reading “Hey SITLA: Tar Sands Outta Utah!”

The project would lease school trust lands for tar sands extraction in the Book Cliffs area, directly impacting PR Springs, a site which is also used for camping and recreation.

“Destruction of education trust lands through tar sands mining is contrary to the mandate of this agency, which requires them to maintain the land for the long term,” said Mark Purdy of Utah Tar Sands Resistance.

According to an article in the Desert News:

“The proposed mining operation would occupy a 213-acre site in the East Tavaputts Plateau straddling the borders of Uintah and Grand counties. An ore processing facility would accommodate up to 3,500 tons of ore per day in the production of bitumen. The extraction process would require 1.5 barrels to 2 barrels of water per barrel of bitumen produced… The company will have to post a reclamation bond of nearly $1.7 million before any work is allowed to begin at the site.

Another company, MCW Energy, is proposing a pilot project to test its proprietary solvent in the extraction of bitumen on 1,000 stockpiled tons of tar sands three miles west of Vernal in Uintah County.

Opponents have appealed permits issued related to the PR Springs project, with hearings set for next month.”

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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