Workers prep an oil sands site in Utah
The world-famous tar sands project in Alberta, Canada, has been called the "most destructive project on Earth," and for good reason. You can see the strip mined destruction in the heart of once-pristine Boreal forests from space, after all. It's a top target of environmentalist ire, and the source from which the contentious Keystone XL will one day spring.
But oil companies aren't content to let Canada have all the fun. Efforts are underway to open up our very own American oil sands project in Utah. And it just got one step closer to reality.
An administrative law judge in Salt Lake City has ruled against two environmental organizations that are trying to block a Canadian company's plan to open the first large-scale oil sands mine in the United States.Local environmental groups disagree, of course—they note that there's enough water to sustain plant and wildlife in the region in question, and that contamination could adversely impact all of it.
Judge Sandra Allen sided with U.S. Oil Sands and Utah's Division of Water Quality in deciding that the state rightfully granted the Calgary-based company permission to mine and process oils sands without requiring a pollution permit or water monitoring at the PR Spring mining site in eastern Utah. The judge agreed with the Water Quality Division's opinion that there is so little ground water within 1,500 feet of the surface of the proposed mine that additional safeguards weren't needed.
Furthermore, top climate scientists like NASA's James Hansen have warned against further developing "extreme energy" sources like tar sands, seeing as how global emissions are still ballooning. They say an immediate transition to cleaner fuels is necessary to prevent the worst of global climate change—but oil companies are undeterred; they're doubling down on the fossil fuels as we speak. And they're gearing up to leave a smoldering crater in the middle of Utah.