Protesters gathered outside the Bureau of Land Management Office in downtown Salt Lake City on Monday, angry over the agency’s recent decision to approve thousands of acres of Utah land for tar sands development.
A group of thirty concerned Utah residents started with a short protest outside the BLM building, but they later moved inside, with demonstrators attempting to deliver “The People’s Environmental Impact Statement” on tar sands.
The group was met by six security guards, but eventually two protesters were allowed upstairs to deliver the three-page statement.
“The reason that we’re here is that we feel the people have not been heard, and we wanted to deliver our own impact statement stating the danger of mining tar sands here in Utah.”
That’s Henia Belalia, Director of Peaceful Uprising. She says she’s concerned the federal government is making more than 130,000 acres available for tar sands development in Utah. Belalia says there is a lot at risk: water, wildlife and Utah’s tourism industry.
“Tar sands is essentially the dirtiest form of oil to extract. It’s under the surface and what needs to be done in order to get to it is strip mine and to get below the surface. And then once they actually get to the tar sands, they have to extract the bitumen from the sand, and that process is extremely energy intensive as well as water.”
BLM spokesperson Megan Crandall says the proposed plan, 130,000 acres is open for research development and demonstration leases.
“We are saying someone needs to prove that the technology exists to even develop tar sands. But even more importantly than that, we need more information on the environmental consequences before we can even think about committing to broad-scale development.”
So who needs to prove that? Crandall says industry does.
“If someone in industry were to say I want to look into that, they would then apply for that RD&D lease. Then if down the road we have looked at it, we have decided that it's technologically feasible, and we really have a lot more information about what the consequences are to the environment, that's when we can look at the possibility of committing to a broader scale development.”
Those opposing the agency’s decision are holding meetings and public forums in the upcoming weeks to educate more people on the issue.