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. The auction was disrupted by climate activist Tim DeChristopher, then a 27-year-old economics student, who successfully bid for $1.7 million in parcels. Although the Bush leasing plan was found in court to be flawed and has been withdrawn, today DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison, fined $10,000 for his act of civil disobedience, and taken immediately into custody.
At the sentencing, DeChristopher — a native of West Virginia, where coal companies rule supreme — explained why he was willing to take on the government and the fossil fuel industry, risking a prison sentence that could have been as long as ten years:
I actually have great respect for the rule of law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case with the fossil fuel industry.
The federal prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Huber, sought a stiff sentence against DeChristopher “‘to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct’ by others,” because “the rule of law is the bedrock of our civilized society, not acts of ‘civil disobedience’ committed in the name of the cause of the day.”
“The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today,” DeChristopher responded in his 35-minute address. “And neither will I.”
Twenty-six activists were were arrested for blockading the Salt Lake City courthouse where DeChristopher was sentenced.