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Center for Biological Diversity:
U.S. Oil Shale and Tar Sands

The Salt Lake Tribune, July 21, 2014

Uintah deputies arrest anti-tar sands activists
By David Self Newlin and Brian Maffly

Twenty-one activists were arrested Monday during a "blockade" of a tar sands company’s construction equipment in eastern Utah, according to anti-tar sands groups who accused Uintah County sheriff’s deputies of "brutality."

The Sheriff’s Office declined to confirm the arrests Monday afternoon, except to say that all of its available deputies were at the site about 50 miles south of Vernal. By Monday night, the Sheriff’s Office still had not commented on the arrests.

Beginning at 6 a.m., 80 protesters associated with Utah Tar Sands Resistance physically blocked access to the equipment being stored off Pope Well Ridge Road, near where U.S. Oil Sands is beginning work on Utah’s first commercial fuel-producing tar sands mine at PR Springs. Several protesters entered a fenced enclosure and locked themselves to equipment, according to protester spokeswoman Jessica Lee. Deputies arrested 13 Monday morning, loading them into white county vans, according to activists’ posts on Twitter and Facebook.

Those who were not immediately arrested remained on nearby Seep Ridge Road to "[make] sure that our comrades are not going to be abused by the police and make sure that they are being treated fairly," Lee told a reporter.

Another six were arrested while blocking the road and demanding their friends’ release, according to the Facebook post by Peaceful Uprising, and late Monday afternoon, Utah Tar Sands Resistance tweeted that two more were arrested outside the Uintah County Jail, bringing the total number of arrests to 21.

"Uintah sheriffs used force to pull the protesters apart, and also targeted those providing media coverage. One protester is reported as injured," stated the Peaceful Uprising post. Activists said police canine units were also on the scene, including one dog that was unleashed, chasing protesters.

According to Lee, the action was staged in response to a June 12 letter sent to Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. That letter indicates that U.S. Oil Sands’ project. which targets state-owned minerals, includes land within the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation.

"We have a lot of indigenous land defenders actually with us, including members of the Lakota and Dine [Navajo] tribes," she said.

Because the project impacts lands in Indian country, the tar sands mine and related processing facilities may need to clear additional regulatory hurdles administered by the EPA, which implements environmental programs on tribal lands.

U.S. Oil Sands has already obtained all the state permits required to begin construction on its 213-acre PR Springs site, which also has survived a challenge before the Utah Supreme Court.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton