Climate Trial

It was the tail end of the Bush administration in December 2008, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was hurriedly auctioning off oil and gas leases in Salt Lake City.   The land up for grabs bordered on three national parks—Canyonlands National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, and Arches National Park.  Outside the BLM office, 200 protesters were opposing the illegitimate sale.  One protester, Tim DeChristopher, was a twenty-seven year old economics student at the University of Utah who was not satisfied with just holding up signs and chanting slogans to no effect. Not having a plan, Tim walked into the auction with every intention of somehow disrupting it. When asked if he was there to bid he said, “Yes I am,” he was given a placard and thus became bidder number 70. He sat in the auction room for a bit not knowing what to do and then it hit him that he needed to start bidding on the parcels. Initially, he just intended to drive up the prices to reflect the true costs of drilling.   Soon, Tim realized he could really protect the lands if he actually won the bids.   With no money to back up his bids but every intention of throwing a wrench into the system, Tim outbid all of the private companies for thirteen straight parcels of land—totaling 22,500 acres worth $1.8 million.  Suspicious, the BLM paused the auction and Federal agents detained Tim for several hours.  During the questioning, Tim gave his reason for disrupting the sales—to derail further effects of climate change that would have been exacerbated by more drilling.  Not buying into his defense, the government slapped Tim with two felony counts—making a false statement to the government and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act—which could carry a sentence of up to ten years and a fine of $750,000 if he is found guilty.  Tim’s trial has received a great deal of media coverage, and what has been come to be known as “The Climate Trial” has been postponed eight times already.  Finding the Good is heading out to Utah February 24th to attend weekend workshops and civil disobedience training held by Tim’s supporters at Peaceful Uprising.  The students are anticipating the outcome of Tim’s trial February 28th.


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