Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Disappeared energy story 2: Utah student “buys” 22,000 acres of federal land at auction, saves it from drilling

by Larry Geller

It’s one thing to march to Washington to oppose war. Holding signs and protesting is helpful. But for this Utah student, holding signs wasn’t doing the trick, and so he took action to save federal land from oil and gas drilling. He likely succeeded, though it may cost him time in jail. Before he was escorted out of the auction, he had bid successfully on 22,500 acres of land.

It’s a grand story of civil disobedience, though you didn’t find it in our daily paper:

He didn't pour sugar into a bulldozer's gas tank. He didn't spike a tree or set a billboard on fire. But wielding only a bidder's paddle, a University of Utah student just as surely monkey-wrenched a federal oil- and gas-lease sale Friday, ensuring that thousands of acres near two southern Utah national parks won't be opened to drilling anytime soon.

Tim DeChristopher, 27, faces possible federal charges after winning bids totaling about $1.8 million on more than 10 lease parcels that he admits he has neither the intention nor the money to buy -- and he's not sorry.

"I decided I could be much more effective by an act of civil disobedience," he said during an impromptu streetside news conference during an afternoon blizzard. "There comes a time to take a stand." [The Salt Lake Tribune, Impostor disrupts lands bid, 12/20/2008]

The Bureau of Land Management held a controversial auction Friday to sell oil and gas drilling rights to nearly 150,000 acres of wilderness in southern Utah. The sale had been strongly opposed by many environmental groups. Stephen Bloch of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said, "This is the fire sale, the Bush administration’s last great gift to the oil and gas industry.”

While many environmental groups launched campaigns to oppose the sale of the land, one student in Salt Lake City attempted to block the sale by disrupting the auction itself. Twenty-seven-year-old Tim DeChristopher posed as a potential bidder and bid hundreds of thousands of dollars on parcels of the land, driving up prices and winning some 22,000 acres for himself, without any intention of paying for them.

The Bureau of Land Management must now wait over a month before it can auction off these properties, but by then the bureau will no longer be run by the Bush administration. [Democracy Now, 12/22/2008]

Bushites were in such a hurry to sell off these rights that they didn’t require bidders to be bonded. In fact, some of DeChristopher’s supporters are trying to raise money to pay for the land he bid on.

Read more on this story at The Huffington Post, Tim DeChristopher Throws Utah Oil And Gas Drilling Leases Auction Into Chaos, or read, watch or listen to the interview with DeCristopher on Democracy Now.



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