Company hogging water for Uinta drilling project

The Uinta Basin region of Utah is already riddled with mining operations and is an EPA designated non-attainment zone for ozone. Photo by Wild Earth Guardians on Flickr.

UPHE has been one of the environmental groups suing to stop the atrocious proposal to allow an Estonian oil company to begin a large-scale oil shale operation near Dinosaur National Monument.

The British news magazine, Grist, did an extensive story on the shady maneuvering by the company to lay claim to 3.2 billion gallons of water from the White River (tributary of the Green and Colorado Rivers),  which will be needed to run the operation.

The company appears to be using a loophole meant to ensure water and electricity to Utah residents to hold on to their water rights, although they haven’t been put to beneficial use in the allotted time. This is a gross exploitation of Utah’s water rights laws at a dire time. 

“The company, Enefit American Oil, has proposed strip-mining 28 million tons of rock, heating them up to temperatures around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and extracting a type of synthetic crude oil. Enefit plans to operate on about 7,000 acres of desert land just south of Dinosaur National Monument and produce 50,000 barrels of oil per day, almost doubling the entire basin’s production. Its novel oil extraction method is also reportedly up to 75 percent more carbon-intensive than traditional fossil fuel extraction. No operation of its kind currently exists in the United States,” the Grist article explains. 

It is astonishing that any level of government would tolerate such a proposal given the climate crisis, our air pollution nightmare, and dire water crisis. UPHE is quoted in the article.

Even beyond its local effects, Enefit’s plan would be a “climate disaster,’ according to Brian Moench, president of the nonprofit Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

“We have wildfire pollution, dust pollution, particulate pollution, high volatile organic compounds, and high ozone,’ Moench said. ‘Approving the Enefit project would be like pouring gasoline on the fire of an existing pollution nightmare.’

We’ve been vocal in our opposition of the Uinta Basin Railway for some time now, due to our concern it will open the door to operations like this. The goal of the railway is to nearly quadruple oil extraction in the area. The railway was approved to cross Ashley National Forest earlier this summer. Please be on the lookout for ways to voice your opposition to this project. 

Read the full Grist article here.