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Oil Shale and Tar Sands Raise New Concerns in the Colorado River Basin

Hi Friends of the Colorado River!

Over the past few weeks, two new developments have occurred in the ongoing debate about if and how oil shale and tar sands might be developed in the Colorado River basin.  First, in October, the Utah Water Quality Board approved the first U.S. tar sands extraction operation.  This permit was extremely controversial in Utah and beyond.  Tar sands mining has decimated massive swaths of land in Canada — the Utah permit actually went to a Canadian company — and is at the heart of the extreme controversy over the Keystone XL Pipeline.  By granting this permit, Utah continues to be at the center of controversial water and energy projects in the U.S.  Our friends at Ecowatch provide more details about tar sands and the permit — please click through to read more.

A few days after the election, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the Obama administration was severely limiting the amount of land that the federal government was potentially opening up to oil shale and tar sands mining in the Western U.S.  While the Bush administration proposed to open up 2 million acres, the Obama administration proposes to open up 800,000 acres.  Some conservation groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council, celebrated this announcement as a victory for the environment — it means that Obama/Salazar are forcing Big Oil companies to take a more measured and thoughtful approach to energy extraction.  Other conservation groups, like the Center for Biological Diversity, think it’s still too much land for a dangerous and environmentally destructive activity.

The Los Angeles Times printed an excellent editorial last weekend titled, “America’s Water Mirage: Even at Hoover Dam, the ugly  truth about our water crisis is being ignored.”  Written by Cynthia Barnett, the editorial surveys some of the serious water supply challenges facing the U.S., and focuses on the shrinking Lake Mead and its bathtub ring as a sign that climate change is severely affecting our environment and water, but that even the white bleached rock around Lake Mead is being ignored by leading political leaders.  Take a read of this editorial and enjoy.

Thank you for your support, and please stay tuned!

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