Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

[Utah] BLM: Tar sand development may hurt parks

BLM: Tar sand development may hurt parks
The Daily Sentinel

Monday, January 07, 2008

Tar sands development could severely affect Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and a stretch of the San Rafael Swell along Interstate 70, according to a Bureau of Land Management report.

The 1,400-page government report, called the Oil Shale and Tar Sands Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, was released in December and outlines the landscape-altering changes that could occur when the BLM’s congressionally mandated commercial oil shale and tar sands leasing program for Utah, Colorado and Wyoming gets going.

Tar sands in the region exist only in Utah, but some of the 431,224 acres the BLM wants to make available for leasing under the development scenario it prefers are within 50 miles of Grand Junction and are within sight of I-70 and several of Utah’s most famous national parks, monuments and recreation areas.

Should the land proposed for tar sands extraction be leased and developed, the report says the BLM expects there to be conflict between tar sands producers and conventional oil and gas companies because tar sands development would dominate land where oil and gas is now being produced.

If the BLM’s preferred tar sands development scenario goes forth, air in the region could be contaminated with carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants, while air close to the site could be contaminated with benzene, toluene and formaldehyde, according to the report.

More than 100,000 acres of wilderness-quality land could be industrialized, construction of reservoirs would alter natural streamflow patterns, hydrocarbons and herbicides could cause “chronic or acute toxicity” in wildlife and habitat for 20 threatened or endangered species could be lost, the report says.

If the BLM settles on the development scenario it prefers, nearly 25,000 acres in the “Tar Sands Triangle” adjacent to both Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Canyonlands National Park’s Maze District would be open to industrial tar sands development.

Some of the BLM’s “special tar sands areas” in the region exist within both parks, but those sections would not be leased, according to the report. The parks would be indirectly affected, the report says, because views from within their boundaries could be reduced.

More than 70,000 acres in the San Rafael Swell along I-70, an area which the BLM in the report calls “spectacular” and “one of the region’s most well-known and popular scenic attractions,” would be open to tar sands leasing, completely displacing all other uses of the land, including all forms of recreation, according to the report.

In the PR Spring area above the Book Cliffs about 50 miles west of Grand Junction, more than 150,000 acres could be leased for tar sands development, the report says. The area is due west of Douglas Pass just over the Utah state line.

More than 7,000 acres could be leased in White Canyon along Utah Highway 95 near Natural Bridges National Monument, through which the canyon features three of the most well-known sandstone bridges in the West.

Other areas northeast of Price, south of Vernal and a few miles west of Dinosaur, Colo., are also slated for leasing.

Find the report on the Web at http://ostseis.anl.gov. Hard copies may also be obtained at the BLM’s office on H Road in Grand Junction.

A 90-day public comment period on the report ends in March.

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