May 152013

For Immediate Release: May 14, 2013
Contact: Kate Finneran, Before It Starts, 435-260-0662 or

Opposition Against Tar Sands Grows in Utah as US Oil Sands, Inc meets for Annual Shareholder Meeting in Calgary

Meme shared on social networks:

Meme shared on social networks:

Front Line and Downstream Communities Call for Protection of Colorado River, Vow to Stop Canadian Company’s Bid For Tar Sands Extraction

Calgary, Alberta~ An unprecedented coalition of Utahns delivered a powerful message to US Oil Sands, Inc. today as investors gathered for an annual and special meeting of shareholders at the Calgary Petroleum Club: “US Oil Sands: We Will Stop You…Before it Starts.” Investors received a group photo from the alliance, with the picturesque backdrop of Arches National Park and the Tavaputs Plateau, and a promise protect their community.

US Oil Sands (which changed its name last year from Earth Energy Resources) hopes to begin construction in 2013 on what would be the first tar sands mine in the United States, located in the Tavaputs Plateau region of Southeastern Utah. But a growing alliance of Utahns has pledged to stop the project before it starts. The company has galvanized Utah locals and downstream communities committed to the protection of Colorado and Green River waterways.

“We want current and potential investors of US Oil Sands to know they will meet resistance on the ground,” said Kate Finneran, local Moab mom and organizer with Before it, an organization committed to keeping Utah tar sands and oil shale free. “We will use every avenue available to us; legal, legislative, policy, organizing and even direct action to protect our communities and our future.”

As the Arid West braces for another dry, hot summer, growing concerns about water use and pollution from the project have also moved farmers, ranchers, hunters, anglers and others to join in saying ‘No thank you’ to the Canadian company and its tar sands mining plans.

“Tar Sands projects are simply short sighted gains at the expense of long-term habitat conservation. Some type of fossil fuel extraction can be done with minimal environmental impact but tar sands are not in that category. They destroy habitat that can never be restored to anything that resembles what was lost. It is a losing proposition,” said Jay Banta of Back Country Hunters & Anglers.

The company has also drawn fire from small business owners over impacts on air quality and ‘viewscapes’ in the nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, which attract over one million visitors a year to Moab and surrounding areas, fueling a thriving tourism economy. Ty Markham runs a small hospitality business near Capitol Reef, one of Utah’s spectacular red rock national parks.

“I know how the polluting process of extracting tar sands near ANY of our national parks will impact my business, along with all the other businesses here that exist due to the strong tourism and recreation we have in our part of the state,” Markham said. “When those blue skies, broad vistas and clear rivers and streams are no longer pristine, visitors to our area will decrease and our businesses will struggle. Then it won’t be long before we’re laying off employees and our local economies die. We’re not going to be fooled by the empty promises of boom-bust industries.”

The proposed tar sands operation has faced legal challenges by Living Rivers and Western Resource Advocates, and although the company was recently given the green light by the state of Utah, US Oil Sands may find it more difficult than expected to operate in the region, due to growing objections by locals. Some groups are organizing a camp in July to train local residents in civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action in anticipation of a summer of peaceful protests against US Oil Sands’ plans.

For the photo card sent from Utahns to US Oil Sands investors visit:

For more information:

 May 15, 2013  Posted by at 9:45 am Actions, Events Tagged with: , , ,
Apr 012013

Click here to make a secure grassroots donation on idiegogo — get the Roadshow on it’s way!

Will talks about the campaign. Click to view the video and learn more.

Will talks about the campaign. Click to view the video and learn more.

The Utah Tar Sands Roadshow is a listening project and educational presentation about the impact of tar sands extraction on people, water, and the land.  Tar sands development is one of the most destructive industries on earth–and a Canadian company is bringing it to Utah unless we rise up to stop it before it starts.

Tar sands are geological deposits containing bitumen. In order recover oil, bitumen must be strip-mined, pulverized, chemically separated, and then extensively refined. This process requires enormous amounts of energy input and requires 1.5 – 3 barrels of water for every barrel of oil created. Utah is the second most arid state in the nation and tar sands extraction would tap already stressed watersheds.  The proposed mine lies in the Colorado River watershed, which 30 million people downstream rely on for agriculture and drinking water.

Tar sands mining also requires extensive refinery expansions in Salt Lake City, which will add to the already record level air pollution along the Wasatch Front.
An extractive project of this scale will irreversibly impact the remote and pristine Tavaputs Plateau in Eastern Utah.  Some claim there are 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil contained in this large formation. This would mean disaster for the climate as tar sands extraction releases roughly three times more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil.

The Utah Tar Sands Roadshow will journey around the region weaving together stories of resistance and resilience in the face of tar sands and other forms of extreme energy extraction. Our collection of interviews and conversations will be constantly updated on our website and compiled into a production to help educate people on the impacts of tar sands mining in the United States and the world.

Help make the Roadshow a success! 

 April 1, 2013  Posted by at 10:04 am ACTION ALERT, Events, Resources Tagged with: , , ,
Mar 292013

Its mountainous skyline graces a zillion breathtaking photos. Its jagged blue-green pine-covered peaks rise out of sandy-colored cliffs to complete the rainbow of color that the canyon country is so famous for,  but it never gets the credit. Now, there are plans to strip-mine it for tar sands and oil shale.

The Tavaputs Plateau as sen from the windows section of Arches National Park. The smooth sandstone of the Delicate Arch area can be seen.

The Tavaputs Plateau as seen from the windows section of Arches National Park. The smooth sandstone of the Delicate Arch area is near the bottom.

So let’s make it right. Let’s celebrate the Tavaputs Plateau. Let’s point it out!


~ A public collaboration ~

It’s simple: get your photos to us and we’ll aggregate them into a Flickr Set and Facebook album, so anyone can appreciate them.

If you’ve ever taken photos in the red rock country of Southeastern Utah or the western slope of Colorado, you probably already have some gems! Plus, it’s kind of a fun game of hide-and-seek to search your image files…


Make sure that the Tavaputs Plateau is in the picture. (Examples.) It can comprise all or part of the skyline. The photo should (but doesn’t necessarily need to) convey that it was taken somewhere in red rock canyon country. For an especially poignant image, try to include a famous or recognizable landmark (like Balanced Rock in Arches National Park or Dead Horse Point in Canyonlands National Park, or even a road sign everyone knows, for example.)

To add (submit) your photos, either

Upload them to Flickr with the tag #TavaputsCountry and we’ll find them and add them to the set and Facebook. Make sure you create a caption. Here’s our Flickr set so far


Email the photo as an attachment to The caption will be whatever you put in the subject line.


Post them to our Facebook Wall. If they meet the criteria, we’ll add them to the album. Here we are on Facebook. 


Upload them to Instagram and tag them #TavaputsCountry. We’ll find them. And add them to the slideshow below.


Tweet them with the #TavaputsCountry hashtag. We’d love it if you included a  link to the slideshow or this page.

Your photos remain your property and you retain the rights. We won’t sell them. Don’t even know how.  We won’t let anyone alse sell them either. But by submitting, you are allowing us to add them to the set and to post to Facebook and Twitter.


Questions? email admin@beforeitstarts.


~Ashley A from the BiS team in Moab. PS: I took the first coulpe to get us started.



 March 29, 2013  Posted by at 2:23 pm Art projects, Inspirational Tagged with: , , , ,
Mar 282013

Actions against tar sands profiteers are ramping up in the US. Last week, there were over 55 actions across the country. For more info visit our friends at

For Immediate Release

Click here to read the Press Release

March 26, 2013

Living Rivers & Colorado Riverkeeper

Before It Starts

John Weisheit – 435-259-1063; 435-260-2590;

Ashley Anderson – 801- 652-2971;

Investors Beware: Utah’s Tar Sand Deposits are Duds

MOAB, UT – The Record of Decision issued March 22nd by the Bureau of Land Management concerning the development of TAR SANDS in Utah states the following on page 40:

“[t]his resource is not, at present, a proven commercially viable energy source, and the BLM would like to obtain more information about environmental consequences associated with its development prior to committing to broad-scale commercial development.”

Activists opposing the development, processing, and refining of Utah’s TAR SANDS emphatically concur with this statement. It is well documented in the geologic literature that the majority of the deposits in Utah will require steam injection to liberate the bitumen (“tar”), in order for this viscous oil to be pumped to the surface for further refining (in-situ). Vast amounts of water will be required for this proposed industry and in the second driest state in the USA (preceded by Nevada).

“Aquifers will be depleted before there is any investment return and depletions of surface water from the Colorado River and its tributaries will be fiercely litigated because current demand outstrips the supply,” says John Weisheit, conservation director of Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper.

The Energy Return on Investment (EROI) for in-situ extraction is, under the best of circumstances, 2 to 1, according to respected energy analysts from the USA. Additionally, analysts from Canada place the EROI of steam injection at 1 to 1. For comparison, the EROI for the global oil and gas industry is 10 to 1.

However, there are tar sand deposits near the surface in some localities such as the PR Spring deposit in the Tavaputs Plateau of east-central Utah. It has been speculated that these deposits could be strip-mined and processed on site with just hot water and solvents to liberate the bitumen. Lack of water, none-the-less, is still the #1 heartache of industry speculators such as US Oil Sands, Inc., which is based in Calgary, Alberta. US Oil Sands has leased 30,000 acres from the state of Utah that it considers worthy of strip mining.

Investors must understand that this ore deposit near the surface is by no means a bonanza. The near surface deposits are lens-shaped deposits that have an average thickness of 27 feet and the deposits are interuppted and isolated by a series of incised canyons. The average depth of the overburden and intraburden (rocks with no economic value) is 124 feet. The general standard for economic return is a ratio of waste rock to ore is 2 to 1. In this case the ratio is an exorbitant 5 to 1.

“The strip-mining proposed by US Oil Sands will become the grave of their business. When they declare bankruptcy, the citizens of Utah will have the responsibility to reclaim their damage to the last remaining wild place of the contiguous USA,” says Ashley Anderson, co-founder of Before It Starts.

Potential investors should do at least these three things:

1) Ask USOS what it would cost the company to be shut down unexpectedly for a full day of operation, and write that amount down.

2) Take a moment and visit some search engines. Look up Keystone XL pipeline protests and mass arrests, which were organized in part by Utah activists. An ever-growing number of people are now blockading construction of the pipeline in multiple states. The CEO of Enbridge said “We are facing a very strong, almost revolutionary movement.”

3) Write down how many days you think USOS can be stopped by a continental movement and multiply those two numbers together.

Now ask yourself, is it worth it?”

Supplemental information:

Table One

Analyses of drill records available to the public within a two mile radius of US Oil Sands proposed strip mining project.

Depth below surface for this analysis is 150 feet (as per submitted application).

Standard: uneconomical if ratio of ore to waste is over 1 to 2

Reference: Horn, George H., 1967. Open File Report on PR Spring-Roan Cliffs, Grand County and Southern Uintah
Counties. USGS.

Table Two

Analyses of drill records available to the public on an 8-mile
transect along the Divide Ridge Road.

For more info on US tar sands, follow us on Facebook & Twitter

For photos of the first proposed tar sands site in the US, PR Spring, visit our Flickr

For updates for our friends an allies in Salt Lake, please visit & Utah Tar Sands Resistance


Supplemental information: See Tables One & Two below

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 11.45.33 AM

Mar 162013

Today, activists from Grand County, Utah dropped a banner from a large boulder along the route of a popular annual half-marathon that read:  ”TAR SANDS ARE COMING / UNLESS WE STOP IT / BEFORE IT STARTS.ORG”

This direct action is in concert with a” week of action against tar sands profiteers”, called for by Tar Sands Blockade.

Detail of banner dropped off a huge rock along the route of  an annual half-marathon

Detail of banner dropped off a huge rock along the route of an annual half-marathon


Over 5000 runners will have seen the banner by the time of this posting. The road will open for public traffic by Saturday afternoon. The banner remains in place for now.

The drop was conceived of and carried out by activists from Canyon Country Rising Tide, Before it Starts, and individuals who came together during a series of events in Moab, Utah–including a conversation with Canadian Indigenous Elder Francois Paulette and a teach-in / strategy discussion–which had been planned and hosted by Before It Starts.

Tar sands mining in Canada is the largest and most destructive industrial project in the history of our planet.  The U.S.A. could soon become another home for this kind of mining. The most immediate threat comes from U.S. Oil Sands, Inc, which plans to begin operations this year in an area just 60 miles from where the banner drop (pictured below) took place.  [Read the details about US Oil Sands' operation]

Hundreds of marathon-goers pass a banner alerting them to the threat of tar sands mining in the area they enjoy.

Hundreds of marathon-goers pass a banner alerting them to the threat of tar sands mining in the area they enjoy.

“The proposed strip mining, processing, shipping, and refining of tar sands in Utah threatens the wild character of this landscape that we love. It would pollute our air, water, and further contribute to catastrophic climate change. I for one am not about to let one of the most destructive industrial processes on earth come to Grand County without a fight,” said one activist.

Come to a meeting, spread the word, hang a banner, plan a direct action.
Check out to get involved. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, as well.

Using Tarsands produces 2-4 more times carbon dioxide than conventional oil.

The mining and processing of Tarsands requires as much or more energy as it produces in the end. This extra energy input comes from either fracked natural gas or nuclear power- both of which we also oppose.

 March 16, 2013  Posted by at 1:47 pm Actions, Impending US Tar Sands operations Tagged with: , ,
Jan 142013

[UPDATE March 31 2013: Water bottle label now available in high resolution to improve readability. Click to view]  

The prospect of tar sands and oil shale mining (i.e. “unconventional fuels”) made this year’s Governor’s Energy Development Summit in Utah anything but conventional.

Media coverage of the conference was dominated by multiple protests going on both inside and outside the convention center, much to the dismay of the companies that are seeking investors for their upstart tar sands and oil shale projects.

Utahns protest outside the Annual Governors Energy Development Summit.

Utahns protest outside the Annual Governors Energy Development Summit.

One company in particular, U.S. Oil Sands, Inc., bore the brunt of the protesters concerns–and direct actions.

Close-up of the label on dozens of water bottles passed out during the 2012 Governor's Energy Development  Summit

Close-up of the label on dozens of water bottles passed out during the 2012 Governor’s Energy Development Summit (click for an even closer look)

Anderson proudly distributing "biodegradable carcinogens"

Anderson proudly distributing “biodegradable carcinogens”

Before it Starts co-founders Ashley Anderson and Kate Finneran took part by smuggling in unsanctioned water bottles and table cards and distributing them widely. The water bottles were adorned with custom labels listing the ingredients in U.S. Oil Sands’ processing solvent. The table cards let the industry folks who were eating lunch with the Governor and Utah’s Congressional delegation know that the water they were drinking had been treated with some of the “safe” solvent. The idea was to let people know exactly what U.S. Oil Sands was referring to as they championed their “environmentally friendly” extraction process, and to bring attention to their first national action, which calls for people around the country to email U.S. Oil Sands CEO Cameron Todd demanding a do-over on disputed testing of their mining permits.

standing card placed on tables for the Governors luncheon

standing card placed on tables for the Governors luncheon

For one reason or another, no one in charge of the conference seemed to care that someone was distributing water which claimed to contain extremely poisonous chemicals.  ”I thought we’d get arrested, or at least thrown out. I even gave one to someone from the Governors office. I guess we’ll need to be less subtle next time.” said Finneran. Table Cards


Anderson and Finneran also had the opportunity to chat at length with U.S. Oil Sands’ CEO Cameron Todd following his presentation at the first Unconventional Fuels breakout session. Todd had just stated to the audience that his company was publicly owned, therefore accountable to it’s shareholders for everything it claims in public, unlike the “detractors” who were opposed to his company’s plans. Anderson reminded Todd that as a Utah resident expecting his first child, he was rightfully concerned, and didn’t appreciate being referred to as a detractor.  Todd also answered some straightforward questions about these concerns, which Before it Starts is in the process of validating now.  A full video and transcript of this conversation coming soon.

While this was going on, two protesters from Utah Tar Sands Resistance seized the mic in the main staging area and gave the Governeor a special award, before being forcefully thrown out by security.  From then on, the Unconventional Fuels breakouts were heavily guarded by police–unlike the other three sessions that were in the same hall.

Later that day, Utah’s Congressional delegation discussed ways to stop environmental organizations from getting in the way of unconventional fuels development. They were clearly referring to Living Rivers, which is the plaintiff in the legal challenges that have held oil shale and tar sands projects at bay for years. (Living Rivers is also the parent organization of Before it Starts.)

On day two,  BIS’ Anderson was given the mic at the end of the final Unconventional Fuels breakout session, and took the opportunity to remind the participants that their perceptions of the protesters were inaccurate. You can read his post about what he said and why here.

Outside, a large rally pulled together by members of HEAL Utah, the Sierra Club, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Before it Starts, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and others took off around 12:30. After some speeches, they started singing “This Land is Your Land” and stormed the Salt Palace Convention Center, until they were turned around by security. (This was in the tradition of a 2010  rally outside the Utah Capitol surrounding HB477 , during which over 100 protesters flooded into the capitol rotunda and up to the legislative chambers, scaring lawmakers enough that they quickly overturned the controversial law.)

“I am proud of what we are doing here in Utah, as concerned citizens from a wide range of backgrounds, to confront this kind of energy development. This Summit proves we are good at working together. But the first tar sands and oil shale mines in the United States are a national issue. Our work at Before it Starts is to serve fill the role of on-the-ground liaison to organizations and individuals from all over the country that are already working on the issue or want to become involved,” Anderson said.


Sep 072012
Written by Ben Jervey.
An excellent starting point for getting the basics on the PR Springs mine.

First U.S. Tar Sands Mine: Six Years Digging Up Sixty-Two Acres…For Just 6 Hours Worth of Oil (via Desmogblog)

How much oil can we expect to get out of the very first tar sands mine on American soil? About six hours worth. That’s how long the 4.7 million barrels of bitumen that U.S. Oil Sands Inc plans to extract from a 62-acre mine in eastern Utah would sate our American oil demands.   Back in April, I…

Continue reading »

 September 7, 2012  Posted by at 7:07 am Impending US Tar Sands operations Tagged with: , , ,