Nel's New Day

March 21, 2014

GOP on National Parks: Follow the Monday

Tired of trashing just people, GOP members of the U.S. House has decided to throw away the country’s most wonderful resources—the national parks. These people are in a snit because the President of the United States has had the right to declare new parks and monuments for 108 years. Rep. Bob Bishop (R-UT) introduced a bill this month that would give Congress the sole power to create new public resources. HR 1459 is called “The Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of Monuments and Parks,” but it would better be called “No New Parks.” The GOP members of Congress that wants to be responsible for our public resources has opposed every piece of legislation that would protect the environment or conserve land in the nation.

Once again, the GOP opposes what the public wants. A few months ago, three-fourths of respondents to a survey indicated that the government is not doing enough to protect national parks or public lands. In another survey, almost 70 percent of the people said they would more likely vote for a candidate who protects the environment and cares for the land.

HR 1459 is on schedule for a vote next week. That fast work is amazing for the House because bills sent over from the Senate such as immigration reform or helping the unemployed are still unattended.

Such quick action from the GOP calls on a response called “follow the money.” Bishop’s home state of Utah is sitting on a possible three trillion barrels of oil, more oil than used thus far in human history. Utah is getting ready for all this extraction with a $80-million highway into the Book Cliffs after a request from an oil shale lobby. A year ago BLM and the president allocated 800,000 acres of public lands for oil shale and tar sands leasing.  Benefiting companies are Enefit American (Estonia), Total (France), and Red Leaf Resources (Canada).

Tar sands oil is a mixture of sand, clay, and water. Usually the rock is “stripped” from the land, crushed, and then separated from the oil with the use of heat, water, and chemicals. Transport to a refinery requires dilution with some kind of petroleum solvent. As with other methods of fossil-fuel removal, tar sands oil mining uses a great deal of energy and water and causes massive and dangerous waste.

Below is the already mined Black Cliffs in Alberta and the Book Cliffs area before any mining.

black cliff alberta

book cliffs #3U.S. Oil Sands already got approval because the state’s Water Quality Division’s director, Walt Baker, doesn’t think there is any groundwater in the area in the high country between Vernal and Moab (UT). That site is called PR Spring, the name of a nearby freshwater spring, and the company plans to use groundwater for its processing. The total of that mine’s production over seven years will provide six hours of the fuel supply in the United States.

Jeremy Miller, of the environmental group Living Rivers, described the process during its seven years:

“Heavy machinery would scour bitumen from the pit around the clock … The sand and mineral fines remaining after the oil has been removed will be combined, shoved back into the pit and covered with topsoil. But processing expands such wastes by as much as 30 percent. The overflow will be dumped into surrounding ravines—a method starkly reminiscent of Appalachia’s mountaintop coal mining. And the project will create miles of light pollution, illuminating one of the country’s last great ‘dark’ regions.”

The mining company plans to use an untested “citrus-based solvent.” Miller said:

“In order to utilize the solvent, the sands must first be sent through a series of on-site crushers. Hot water is added to the resulting slurry, generating a ‘froth’ of oil, solvent, and fine sand particles. This mixture is then passed through a series of separation towers, where the crude oil is isolated. It’s then trucked to refineries in Salt Lake City for processing. Unlike conventional light crude oil, the heavy crude generated from PR Spring—like Canada’s—requires extra, energy-intensive refining steps to remove impurities, such as sulfur and heavy metals, before it can be turned into anything useful.”

arch parkThis site, however, is small compared to the largest deposit further south in the Tar Sands Triangle between Canyonlands National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and the Dirty Devil River Watershed. These are near some of the most beautiful places in the United States, including the red-rock canyon country of Canyonlands National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and inside Capitol Reef National Park.

white Canyon

[White Canyon in Natural Bridges National Monument. White Canyon, just outside the monument’s boundaries, is a designated tar sands development area. Credit: Bobby Magill]

canyonlandsTar sands mining would, in the words of BLM, “completely displace all other uses of the land.” Its environmental impact statement would mean that the air nearby could be:

“… contaminated with carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants, while air close to the site could be contaminated with benzene, toluene and formaldehyde. More than 100,000 acres of wilderness-quality land could be industrialized, construction of reservoirs would alter natural streamflow patterns, hydrocarbons and herbicides could cause ‘chronic or acute toxicity’ in wildlife and habitat for 20 threatened or endangered species could be lost.”

That was the report from the federal agency that approved the tar sands mining.

These “before and after” photos shows the change in a northern Alberta forest on the Suncor Millennium tar sands site. [Photo by Peter Essick; complete article in March 2009, National Geographic.]

tar-sands-before-after Alberta

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has asked Secretary of State John Kerry for a “comprehensive human health impacts study” analyzing the respiratory ailments, cancer and other illnesses related to harvesting and refining the dense hydrocarbon bitumen in Alberta’s oil sands. In a press conference, she said:

“The health impacts of tar sands oil are being ignored. This press conference is about waking up Americans that more tar sands coming into this country is a danger to the health of our people, all along the way, from the extraction to the transport, to the refining.”

She noted that people living near the facilities suffer from “higher rates of the types of cancers linked to these toxic chemicals, including leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” The letter to Kerry stated, “Putting more Americans at risk for asthma, cancer and other serious health impacts is not in our national interest.”

Her concern was about the pollutants from tar sands mining in Canada and piping it across the United States so that companies can make billions by shipping the product to Asia. The GOP wants tar sand mining to destroy the country’s public lands.

Water from the area targeted for the mining goes into the Colorado River watershed. Aside from taking water from a source for 30 million people, the resulting pollution would greatly damage the fragile Colorado River watershed.

Boxer needs to expand her concerns about what could happen to the land of Utah as this photo from the Alberta mines shows. Photo by Garth Lenz.

Alberta sands at night

As president, Theodore Roosevelt conserved over 230 million acres of U.S. land. He created five national parks (doubling the previously existing number); signed the landmark Antiquities Act and used its special provisions to unilaterally create 18 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon; and set aside 51 federal bird sanctuaries, four national game refuges, and more than 100 million acres’ worth of national forests. Now the Republicans want to again reject Roosevelt’s policies and destroy the beautiful lands of Utah. The GOP has one goal: follow the money.

 

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3 Comments »

  1. This would be criminal. Should be a crime.

    Like

    Comment by Lee Lynch — March 22, 2014 @ 12:23 AM | Reply

  2. I don’t even know why I clicked LIKE. It’s so depressing. What’s going on with the Republican Party ? Are these new batch of Repugnants just ” soldiers ” of the Koch brothers, and they’re trying to ” invade” the gpvernment , and then take it over , ?

    Like

    Comment by renxkyoko — March 21, 2014 @ 11:36 PM | Reply

  3. Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

    Like

    Comment by Central Oregon Coast NOW — March 21, 2014 @ 9:19 PM | Reply


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