U.S. Oil Sands Goes Bankrupt

By Amy Brunvand

The first tar sands strip mine in the United States has run out of money, leaving behind a 100-acre open pit and the 40-mile Seep Ridge “road to nowhere” paved at taxpayer expense at a cost of $86.5 million.

In September, U.S. Oil Sands Inc. (a misleadingly named Canadian company) suddenly announced that they had gone into receivership, meaning they no longer have enough money to pay financial obligations.

Western Resource Advocates calls oil shale and tar sands “the most polluting fuels on the planet.” The mining process, similar to mountaintop removal in the Appalachian Mountains, involves stripping away plants and soil, crushing rock, and cooking it with chemicals to extract oil. The landscape and ecosystem are destroyed and replaced with organically dead material that the company calls “clean sand.”

Despite the industrial ecocide taking place in Canadian tar sands, the Bush administration made a push to open U.S. public lands to oil shale and tar sands leasing. The State of Utah played along, offering incentives to promote so-called “unconventional fuel” development including low royalty payments, tax incentives, and leases on State and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) lands in order to help mining operations avoid federal environmental regulations.

In 2012, U.S. Oil Sands dug a test pit on land leased from SITLA at PR Springs in the Book Cliffs and the company holds leases for the potential development of strip mines on 32,000 acres of SITLA property in the Uinta Basin. For the past six years, protesters with Utah Tar Sands Resistance have been holding a vigil at PR Spring to bear witness to the sacrifice of Utah’s environment.

Utah Tar Sands Resistance: tarsandsresist.org; Western Resource Advocates: westernresourceadvocates.org

This article was originally published on November 3, 2017.