State panel to weigh oil sand development in Book Cliffs
by Steve Kadel
staff writer
Nov 15, 2012 | 1696 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The state Board of Oil, Gas and Mining is scheduled to meet Dec. 5 to decide whether to give its blessing to the nation’s first commercial oil sands project, proposed for Utah’s eastern Book Cliffs.

The board is being asked by an attorney for Moab-based Living Rivers to vacate the state Division of Oil, Gas and mining’s previous approval of the project.

Attorney Rob Dubuc said he did not plan a lengthy presentation in opposition to the oil sands proposal from Earth Energy Resources, a Canadian company doing business as U.S. Oil Sands.

“We put on our case before the Water Quality Board and did a pretty good job,” Dubuc said.

“This is specifically an appeal from Living Rivers,” Division of Oil, Gas and Mining spokesman Jim Springer said. “They originally brought the matter before the board eight or nine months ago.”

He said there’s a possibility the meeting will be postponed until January or later.

The Water Quality Board voted 9-2 in October to allow the 212-acre PR Spring project to proceed. The board didn’t require a groundwater pollution permit, saying the area’s groundwater is too deep to be affected by runoff from drilling.

Opponents to the oil sands proposal, including Living Rivers, disagree about the presence of groundwater. They contend there is solid evidence of groundwater at the mine site that could become polluted if oil extraction occurs.

However, U.S. Oil Sands CEO Cameron Todd has said Utah government approval so far shows the company has outstanding environmental attributes, including the use of a non-toxic solvent derived from citrus to remove oil from sands.

Oil sands, sometimes called tar sands, are sedimentary rocks containing a heavy hydrocarbon compound called bitumen, which can be refined into oil, according to a news release from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

“Unlike the oil sands deposits in Canada, oil is not currently produced from tar sands on a significant commercial level in the United States,” the BLM news release said. “U.S. tar sands are hydrocarbon wet, whereas the Canadian oil sands are water wet, meaning that U.S. tar sands would require different processing techniques.”

The BLM this month published a proposed plan to promote research, demonstration and development of oil shale and tar sand resources on BLM-administered land in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.

The final environmental impact statement and plan amendments would make about 130,000 acres in Utah available for activities related to tar sands, BLM officials have said.

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