In the waning days of the Bush presidency, an auction of 130,000 acres of pristine Utah lands near national parks was organized by the Bureau of Land Management as a last-minute gift to the oil and gas industry. Tim DeChristopher, “then a 27-year-old economics student at Utah, walked into the auction and signed up as Bidder 70.” DeChristopher successfully bid for $1.7 million in parcels, breaking up the auction. The Bush leasing plan was found in court to be flawed and has been withdrawn, but DeChristopher faces 10 years in jail for his brave act of non-violent civil disobedience. Furthermore, the judge in charge of DeChristopher’s case is stacking the case against him:
A reasonable person would realize that since the government ruled that the auctions were invalid to begin with – Tim clearly prevented a greater crime from happening. And a reasonable person should also see that the dangerous policies of destroying wild lands to continue our addiction to fossil fuels is a far greater crime than anything Tim might have done. But the judge in this case has blocked attempts by Tim’s lawyers to introduce arguments about the dire threats of climate change, and refused to let the jury hear Tim’s motivations and reasons for doing what he did.
DeChristopher been charged with two felonies: making a false statement, and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act. Meanwhile, the Obama administration approved the first offshore drilling permit today since the BP disaster, for which no criminal charges have been filed.
Hundreds of smiling protesters marched from Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Park to Exchange Place across the street from the federal courthouse this morning, wielding “Bidder 70” placards and chanting “Free Tim, Free Tim!”