Eco-hero Tim DeChristopher convicted

Earthgauge interview with Tim DeChristopher

Perhaps it wasn’t surprising given the powerful interests at play, but last week the environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was found guilty of violating an onshore oil and gas leasing act and making a false representation stemming from a botched oil and gas auction in 2008. DeChristopher now faces sentencing, which could include up to 10 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

His crime? Almost three years ago, DeChristopher went to an auction that was leasing more than 100,000 acres of federal (i.e. public) land for oil and gas development in Utah. The leases were approved in the dying days of the Bush II administration, despite the fact that the land in question bordered Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument.

Posing as a bidder, DeChristopher won the right to develop 22,500 acres of land for which, of course, he had neither the capability nor the intention of doing. His goal was simply to take the land out of the hands of oil and gas companies.

Despite the fact that officials in the Obama administration subsequently canceled leases on 77 parcels from the auction, effectively agreeing that the auction should never have gone ahead, DeChristopher was nonetheless being prosecuted, and now convicted, for his actions.

“We know now that I will go to prison,” he said following the verdict.  “We know now that’s the reality, but that’s the job I have to do. … If we are going to achieve our vision, many after me will have to join me as well.”

In the face of overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change, no one has ever been charged for polluting the atmosphere, yet now we are sending a man to prison for taking action to prevent oil and gas development from taking place. I think Bill McKibben puts in best in this article in Grist.

“So far, no bankers have been charged, despite the unmitigated greed that nearly brought the world economy down. No coal or oil execs have been charged, despite fouling the entire atmosphere and putting civilization as we know it at risk.

But engage in creative protest that mildly disrupts the efficient sell-off of our landscape to oil and gas barons? As Tim DeChristopher found out on Thursday, that’ll get you not just a week in court, but potentially a long stretch in the pen.

If you’re outraged by what happened to Tim, and if you’re inspired, make sure to follow the group he’s helped found, Peaceful Uprising. And if you’re thinking about laying it on the line, give us your name at ClimateDirectAction.org.”

And in this article in the Huffington Post, Jeff Biggers argues that DeChristopher deserves the medal of freedom. Click here to read the speech Tim delivered after his sentence was handed down. To lend your support, visit DeChristopher’s website Bidder70.org.

I interviewed Tim a few months ago, before his trial had begun. In light of recent developments, I am posting this interview once again. Just click the audio player above or right click here to download the mp3 file.

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