• June 22nd, 2020

    At the doorstep of Bears Ears National Monument, the White Mesa Uranium Mill in southern Utah wants to acquire tons of new radioactive waste shipped all the way from Estonia.

    The mill’s owner, Energy Fuels Resources, lobbied the Trump administration to reduce Bears Ears National Monument in 2017. If the license application is approved by the Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control, the White Mesa Uranium Mill would begin accepting 660 tons of radioactive waste to process in the first year alone.

    Click here to ask the state of Utah to reject the proposal to import radioactive waste to southern Utah.

    Bringing Estonia’s radioactive waste, which contains about 0.05% uranium ore, to the White Mesa Uranium Mill for processing would add millions of tons of toxic waste to the pits that lie just a few miles from the Ute Mountain Ute’s White Mesa community.

    White Mesa Uranium Mill, copyright EcoFlight

    The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe has voiced concerns about Energy Fuels Resources’ proposal and the threat of contamination to the Tribe’s drinking water. Scott Clow, the Environmental Programs Director for the Tribe, lamented to the Salt Lake Tribune how the White Mesa Uranium Mill is becoming “the world’s radioactive waste dump.” He added, “The Tribe does not want these materials to continue to be delivered to their neighborhood, their traditional lands, and stored there forever.”

    Energy Fuels Resources already has a questionable track record when it comes to handling toxic and radioactive materials. Within the last five years, trucks driving through southern Utah on their way to White Mesa have spilled radioactive waste twice, and the mill itself releases toxic and radioactive air pollutants, which residents of White Mesa have reported smelling.

    The public comment period on Energy Fuels Resources’ proposal is open through July 10, 2020.

    Click here to submit your comments to Utah regulators today.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • June 16th, 2020

    As expected, the Trump administration has gone all-in on its plans to flood southern Utah’s redrock country with oil and gas development.

    If Trump’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM)  gets its way during its September 2020 oil and gas lease sale, new oil and gas wells could appear at the doorstep of Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef National Parks—as well as near Bears Ears National Monument, Labyrinth Canyon, Dead Horse Point State Park, the Green River, and in lands proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    The September lease sale threatens to blanket southern Utah’s landscape of red rock canyons and natural arches with drill rigs, pipelines, and truck traffic—replacing the clean air, expansive vistas, quiet stillness, and sense of wildness with the sights and sounds of industrial development, all while expanding fossil fuel emissions that are driving the climate crisis. 

    And the size of this new lease sale is massive. At more than 114,050 acres across 77 separate parcels of public land, this is the largest lease sale seen in the area since the oil industry giveaways at the end of the George W. Bush administration with its  December 2008 lease sale—which coincidentally also included 77 parcels. 

    The nature and scale of that Bush-era lease sale was so controversial that it prompted a lawsuit from conservation groups including SUWA that blocked the sale and led to long overdue and common sense reforms to the oil and gas leasing process. 

    The Trump administration threw out those reforms shortly after taking office, setting the stage for a repeat of the disastrous December 2008 lease sale.

    Previously, Utah Governor Gary Herbert has shown a willingness to speak out against oil and gas leases that lie too close to Utah’s national parks, as many of these leases do. That’s why we’re asking you to take a few minutes today to call Governor Herbert and ask him to demand that the Trump administration abandon this rapacious plan for southern Utah.

    Call Governor Herbert’s office today at 801-538-1000 and ask him to protect Utah’s national parks, or click here to be connected to his office.  You may also click here to send him an email.

    When you call, tell him:

    • To intervene and ask the BLM to cancel its inappropriate September lease sale for southern Utah, which threatens Utah’s magnificent parks and wild places.
    • We should not sacrifice our national parks and wildlands for the sake of oil and gas development, especially when the world is awash in oil.
    • His leadership in speaking out against inappropriate leasing around Dinosaur National Monument, Zion National Park, and Sand Flats Recreation Area was greatly appreciated.

    In the coming weeks, we’ll also ask you to submit comments on the lease sale directly to the BLM. 

    But first, we need you to contact Governor Herbert—and to help get the word out by sharing this post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

    And click here to take additional action by send sending a Letter to the Editor.

    Thank you for taking action.

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • June 15th, 2020

    Speak out against climate-damaging oil and gas leasing  near Arches and Canyonlands National Park

     The Trump administration is proposing to sacrifice our national parks and exacerbate the climate crisis by leasing a massive swath of treasured public lands near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks for oil and gas development.  On June 9, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released an environmental assessment purportedly analyzing the effects of such leasing.  Watch for SUWA alerts about writing Utah Governor Herbert, and later about submitting comments to the BLM.   

    But there is something as or more effective that you can do – bring attention to this outrageous plan by writing a letter-to-the-editor or guest editorial (OpEd) to your local paper.  This issue is of national interest so papers across the country should be receptive to your commentary.

    Background:

    Under the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda the BLM has been on a rampage, leasing public wild lands in Utah and across the West for oil and gas development regardless of destructive impacts to the climate crisis, lands sacred to Native Americans, national parks, wilderness, recreation, wildlife and community watersheds.  In a particularly egregious plan, BLM now proposes to sell 77 oil and gas leases on 114,000 acres of public lands near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks and the Obama-designated Bears Ears National Monument at a September 2020 sale. 

    These lands are some of the wildest, most scenic, and culturally significant public lands in Utah, and are popular with outdoor enthusiasts who use them for hiking, camping, mountain biking, climbing and more.  Development on many of the leases would be visible from the national parks and Bears Ears National Monument as well as Dead Horse Point state park.

    SUWA and other groups have been challenging oil and gas leasing on public lands in the courts with some at least temporary success.  But if we are to change the BLM’s oil and gas leasing policies (under a new administration) it is essential we also win in the court of public opinion – and you can help do that by writing to your local news publications!

    Some messaging point you could make:

    • The Trump administration is proposing to blanket a massive swath of land near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks, as well as Bears Ears National Monument, with oil and gas drilling leases.  Ultimately, this will replace the area’s unspoiled red rock canyons, expansive vistas, clean air, quiet stillness, intense night skies, and sense of wildness with the sights and sounds of industrial development.  
    • The future development of these leases will unavoidably and unnecessarily exacerbate the climate crisis.  We can not afford to have any more land opened to oil and gas development, especially when renewable energy sources now offer a real alternative.
    • Absurdly, this rush to lease continues even though the world is awash in excess oil and gas, as evidenced by the fact that the price per barrel of oil has dropped dramatically, even dipping below zero at one point!  
    • Even more ludicrous, BLM is offering new leases while at the same time reducing the royalty rates oil and gas companies pay on existing leases in the same area.  This “royalty relief” comes in response to oil and gas company claims that they can’t afford to develop existing leases economically at this time.  
    • And remember, leased land is tied up for decades as once leases are issued, oil companies hold a “right” to develop that lasts at least ten years!  
    • Given all this, how can anyone consider BLM’s plan to sacrifice iconic western landscapes and our planet’s health to oil and gas leasing anything but outrageous and unconscionable?
    • The September 2020 Utah oil and gas lease sale must be halted and the “energy dominance” policy reformed.
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    For more information see:

    Published articles that you can respond to:

    Other good places where you can submit LTEs/OpEds: Even if your local/regional paper has not run a news story on the September 2020 oil and gas leasing sale, you can still submit a LTE.  In fact, that could even inspire them to cover the issue. See finding “hooks” guidance below!  Use this list to find papers in your region – see tabs at bottom!

    Remember to check the word limit for your paper.  LTE word limits are often 200-250 words and papers are often strict about it. Guest Editorials (OpEds) can usually be a lot longer but OpEds are more challenging to place. 

    Finding “hooks” for your LTE/Guest Editorial:  The best hook arises if your local/regional paper publishes an article on this lease sale and you write a LTE referencing that article. But if our paper does not cover the sale, there are a lot of other ways you might make your letter/editorial timely and relevant to your local paper.  You could use any article on the climate crisis, Trump’s environmental record, or national parks and public lands, for example, as a springboard or pivot to your commentary.  You could even use the Covid-19 pandemic by leading with a sentence that talks about how you and many Americans are dreaming of the day when they can again visit safely our national parks and public lands – but say they might find them diminished if current oil and gas leasing policies persist. 

    Trust your own voice: Remember, the most compelling LTEs are written in your own voice, bringing in a personal experience or relationship to the issue as well as making broader messaging points. Trust that your letter will be more interesting if you write from your heart and interweave your own story.

    If you’d like some help:  We are happy to give your draft a read for accuracy or help with editing suggestions.  Just email terri@suwa.org with URGENT in the subject line!

    Send us a copy of your submitted and/or published LTE! terri@suwa.org 

    Share your published LTE/OpEd on social media!  Suggested hashtags: #ProtectWildUtah, #StandwithBearsEars  #publiclands #wilderness #utah

  • June 10th, 2020

    Contact:
    Liam Kelly, National Parks Conservation Association, 213-814-8666, lkelly@npca.org
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991, landon@suwa.org 

    Salt Lake City, UT – The Trump administration has released its proposal to open up more than 110,000 acres of public land to oil and gas drilling, most of which lies in southern Utah near Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef national parks.

    • In total, the administration is opening up 114,050 acres of public land to oil and gas drilling.
    • Leases are within 0.4 miles of Canyonlands National Park, 4 miles of Arches National Park, 3 miles of Capitol Reef National Park, and 0.7 miles of the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.
    • Leases are also within 5 miles to Dead Horse Point State Park, and within 0.1 miles of the Green River.
    • Leases also encompass lands with wilderness characteristics including Duma Point, Goldbar Canyon, Hatch Canyon, Horse Thief Point, Hunters Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon areas. These are areas that appear natural (i.e., are free from signs of human development), and provide outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive types of recreation (e.g., hiking, camping, and hunting).

    A map of the area is available here

    Photographs of the area are available here

    At more than 114,050 acres across 77 separate parcels of public land, the scale of the lease sale is the largest seen in the area since the oil industry giveaways at the end of the George W. Bush administration in December 2008, which ironically also included 77 parcels.

    The nature and scale of that Bush-era lease sale was so controversial that it prompted a lawsuit from conservation groups that blocked the sale and led to long overdue and common sense reforms to the oil and gas leasing process. The Trump administration overturned those reforms shortly after taking office, setting the stage for a repeat of the disastrous December 2008 lease sale.

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is pressing ahead with its plans to proceed with the lease sale by beginning the public comment period, ignoring numerous calls for the agency to pause or extend comment periods until after the pandemic.

    The BLM made the right decision last month to extend the comment period on a planning process for oil and gas leasing near Chaco Culture National Historical Park, where many communities are focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and keeping their members safe. The agency should also take community needs into consideration here and extend the comment period.

    The U.S. Geologic Survey and other government and academic reports predict that southeastern Utah will warm more rapidly over the coming decades than nearly any other part of America.  By proposing to sell these leases to oil and gas extraction the Trump administration is ignoring the climate crisis and working to seal the fate of this area to be hotter, drier and less ecologically sustainable.

    “This supersized lease sale will hand over oil and gas lease rights to famous Utah red-rock landscapes and lead to heavy industrial development and emissions that will degrade air quality and dark night skies, permanently mar the land, and exacerbate the climate crisis,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “It’s plain to see that the Trump administration is trying to sell as many leases as it can before the November election; we’ve stopped this kind of short-sighted public lands fire sale before.”

    “This is a huge expansion and a real threat to nearby national parks and monuments, as well as enormous amounts of the extraordinary red-rock landscape that Utah is famous for,” said Erika Pollard, associate director southwest for the National Park Conservation Association. “The public have a right to have their say about oil and gas drilling plans, and especially those as reckless as these. Forcing this through in the middle of a pandemic while people are preoccupied with keeping their families and communities safe demonstrates a complete disregard for the public. The Bureau of Land Management urgently needs to reconsider this entire oil and gas drilling plan and at the very least should postpone the process until the public can participate properly.”

    “Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks are among the crown jewels of America’s National Park System, attracting over 2.5 million visitors to Utah in a normal year,” said Phil Francis, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. “But this is not a normal year.  Leasing public land for oil and gas drilling on the doorstep of these national parks will always be a threat to these irreplaceable resources. And right now, there is no good reason for BLM to push through a lease sale as communities across the country continue to deal with the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. We urge BLM to defer the leasing proposal until the fall, when the public will be better able to submit their comments on this questionable lease sale.”


    Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

    The mission of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans. SUWA promotes local and national recognition of the region’s unique wilderness character through research and public education; supports both administrative and legislative initiatives to permanently protect the Colorado Plateau wild places within the National Wilderness Preservation System, or by other protective designations where appropriate; builds support for such initiatives on both the local and national level; and provides leadership within the conservation movement through uncompromising advocacy for wilderness preservation. www.suwa.org

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  • June 3rd, 2020

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently accepting public comments on a proposed coal mine expansion on the western slope of the Book Cliffs in eastern Utah.

    The proposal would allow Utah American Energy—a wholly owned subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest (and now bankrupt) coal company—to expand the Lila Canyon mine into an additional 1,272 acres of public land.

    It would also allow the company to mine an additional 9.1 million tons of coal, extending the life of the mine by approximately 3 years—with the accompanying increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

    The BLM’s approval of the coal mine proposal will push us further down the path to climate disaster. In a recent study, the United States Geological Survey concluded that fossil fuels extracted from public lands, including coal, account for nearly 24 percent of the nation’s annual carbon dioxide emissions.

    Tell the BLM to stop all new coal development on public lands.

    The science is clear: climate change requires immediate action. The BLM must put a halt to all new coal leasing and development on public lands if there is any chance of avoiding the most severe impacts of a changing climate.

    However, with this proposal the Trump administration’s BLM is barreling in the opposite direction, digging us into a deeper hole.

    Click here to submit your comments by June 8th.

    The world does not need more coal. The climate crisis has already arrived, threatening humanity and the environment upon which all life relies. We must act now to ensure that current and future generations not only survive, but thrive in this rapidly changing world.

    Thank you for taking action.