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Stop "Massive Strip Mining" in Utah's Public Lands: Green Groups to BLM


Stop "Massive Strip Mining" in Utah's Public Lands: Green Groups to BLM

Nika Knight, staff writer

In the latest chapter of a decades-long battle over oil-rich shale in Utah, this week over a dozen conservation groups submitted public comments urging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to reject an Estonian oil giant's attempts to sidestep environmental review and start the first commercial oil shale project in the United States.


This from an environmental advocacy group, Earth Justice: " Environmental groups have raised concerns about the broader impact of the shale oil project, however, as the kerogen oil it produces is a highly carbon-polluting fuel. The 1.2 billion barrels of oil expected from the project have been estimated to produce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of up to 450 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, about the same as 100 coal-fired power plants emit in a year."

And Enefit Utah has an anointed CEO, Rikki Hrenko-Browning (CEO) a 32-year old with long blonde hair and a Colgate white smile whose forte is, guess what: public relations via “environmental policy and management”…yup, management of the press and company image for the public. Let’s see, image vs substance.

Read more about the oil shale operations in Estonia and the resultant environmental degradation since 1980:
"Nearly 75 percent of Estonia’s air pollution was reported to come from two oil shale-based thermal power stations operating near Narva. The mining of oil shale in northeastern Estonia also left gigantic mounds of limestone dotting the region."

And so Enefit (Utah) forms a company in the US and proceeds to buy up tens of thousands of acres of land in Utah for oil shale extraction, conducts it own environmental impact report (fox-hen house?) to attain licenses to start operations, and then contacts the BLM about public land in So. Utah that Enefit wants to traverse for transport of their toxic brew in addition to constructing a plant therein via a “lease.” They also promised providing over 100,000 jobs (of course, over a 50 year period in small print) but in reality, maybe only 1,000 jobs with most going to Estonian guest workers, to be sure as the bulk of their executive management are native Estonians (thus the crowning of a pretty face for the public image). Oh, the ineffective EPA gave its blessings, too.

Their operations will expel thousands of tons of carbon pollution, utilize already limited water resources and then expel the used water into neighboring (Green) rivers. Gee, who would not want that in their backyard?

Another environmental disaster in the making not unlike the tar sands extraction debacle in Canada. It’s just about the money.


Just another cost of “free” trade…


And the beat goes on…long-term destruction and pollution of our Mother for short-term profits - money - the so-called “growth” so necessary for vulture capitalism to provide profits for shareholders. The construct of money uber alles has infected humanity and our politicians, governments, courts are all the instruments of its greed and destructive forces.
Our directions on the planet are focused on the current end product only - profit for the connected - while the quality of life on Earth continues to be diminished - and most people are just pawns in the game…
The consciousness of humans generally, and there are exceptions, is to exploit, to profit from the misery of other people, the Earth’s “resources”, other creatures we share the Earth with, our finite air and water, the sustainability of all life on Earth.
Almost all we get from “leaders” now in power, almost exclusively a political class of agent for exploitation, that have taken control of government supposedly Of, By, and For The people, is for their own self-interest and that of their masters, the MO is more advantages for the capitalist model of life that values “profit” at the expense of all else - more wealth concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, and millions pay with their lives for the ease and comfort of the few. Parasites on humanity and the Earth…
An infuriating failure of care, and our epitaph.

“We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on it’s vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed, for our safety, to it’s security and peace. Preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and the love we give our fragile craft.” - Adlai E. Stevenson


This whole thing breaks my heart. Utah is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, certainly in the US. There are still vast sections of wild land (under BLM oversight) accompanied by magnificent federal and state parks, not to mention the lands that make up our ski areas, trail systems, and top rated fishing streams. The Green River is in many ways the lifeblood of the state as it flows through the Northeast corner until it meets the Colorado south of Moab, providing life sustaining freshwater to farms, ranches, and wildlife, not to mention excellent recreational opportunities. One of my best memories was created on a seven day float and canoe trip down the Green from Moab to the confluence, when my children were young. (Do it before it’s too late!)

In fact the outdoor recreational opportunities in Utah are so great, it makes me wonder why in hell the Utah legislature is so bent on destroying the land which draws millions of tourists to this state each year. Further, Utah has the lowest severance tax rate of any western state. Instead of raising the small tax on the extraction industry to match our neighbor Wyoming, another state with a below average rate, and leaving millions of dollars on the table every year, the Republican legislature has chosen to raise taxes on We the People every year since the Mortgage crisis.

It appears Enefit has friends in high places. They receive favors coming and going, while Utah residents pick up the tab, and the rest of the world’s population suffer under an ever-expanding carbon footprint and environmental destruction.

Living here, I understand the phrase “God’s country”, even though I’m not religious. If there is a God. why did he give Utah to the mormons, who have proved to be shit poor stewards of the land?


I contacedt the UT BLM and the only permit they issued was for right of way, no mining whatsoever.
The strip mine is apparently on private land and that falls under the UT state govt. which is so pro mining and gas it will be a miracle if any UT lands are left untouched.

Would be great if the author of this article clarified who is actually permitting the strip mine as far as the UT BLM is saying, it is not them.


“… in an area that’s already suffering from some of the nation’s most unhealthy wintertime smog,” …

Since you live there is that due to the usual culprits associated with every metropolitan area? Same goes here in Ohio with the Amish, though generalization may be unfair. What I have witnessed is that they are just as eager to line up and sign gas leases for fracking, their forest management practices are abusive and destructive, and in fact several Amish timber harvesters have been sued here for stealing timber from adjoining lands. They overfish the local lakes to depletion, and their farming practices, in many cases though not all, are every bit as polluting as factory farms. Working in Amish country here I stopped into a bar at the end of a hot summer day for a cold one and remarked to the bartender that I was very surprised to see so many bars in Amish country. She gave me a look that one usually gives an un-schooled toddler: “Are you kidding? They swear, they drink, they smoke, they party, they chase women.” So, asks I, what is the point of being Amish? The reply: “It’s a tax dodge.”


The air quality in the Salt Lake Valley is actually improving. The city’s location between two mountain ranges (Wasatch and Oquirrh) creates an inversion layer that traps smog in the city, especially during the winter months. Citizens have been actively working with state agencies and the legislature in reducing pollutants in the air because it can still get very bad for children, elderly and asthmatics, but we’re having more “better” and “good” days than in the past. Still the legislature is slow to act, and will rarely act against the extraction industry.

The train system TRAX has done a lot to improve the air in the valley. The first phase was completed in time for the 2002 Winter Olympics with the support of US taxpayers. Since then TRAX continues to expand as does it ridership, replacing millions of car trips annually, the main culprit in Salt Lake City’s air quality issues. TRAX was also resisted by the state legislature. In fact the UDOT, over many years, used budget surpluses to acquire rights of way for a future train system without authority from the legislative, simply because they couldn’t get the legislature to act. In their holy wisdom, the Leg thought that no one would ride the train because they didn’t ride the busses.

It was almost a scandal until the city was awarded the Olympics and the cash began to flow. Thankfully UDOT had the vision to acquire those rights of way, making it possible to install TRAX in time for the Olympics. New lines have been added with regularity while bus routes have been revamped to work in tandem with TRAX causing the ridership for both to explode. At least the Utah legislature learned that lesson in spite of themselves.

Wow on the Amish! We call those folks Jack mormons! There’s an unwritten code in the Utah democratic experiment I call the mormon loophole. First, it is next to impossible to get elected in Utah anywhere other than in Salt Lake unless you are mormon, so the legislature is overwhelmingly packed with saints. Controversial legislation often passes out of committee to the LDS offices next door, where it gets the mormon stamp of approval, before floor debate. Further the church has an active lobbying arm that is deployed across the country to fight other states in their pursuits of lotteries and casinos, gay marriage, and whatever else the church deems unholy.

People are free to practice religion, but it doesn’t necessarily make them good stewards of the land (which it should). I can’t speak to how the Amish are represented, but as far as the LDS church goes, their tax-free status should be rescinded. They are far too politically active in state legislatures.