Posing as a Bidder, Utah Student Disrupts Government Auction of 150,000 Acres of Wilderness for Oil & Gas Drilling

By | December 23, 2008


AMY GOODMAN 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.—

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.

Tim DeChristopher was arrested Friday and is scheduled to appear in court later today. He joins us in Salt Lake City.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Tim DeChristopher.

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Good morning, Amy. It’s great to be here. I read your book last summer and really enjoyed it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, thanks. Why don’t you start off by telling us what happened on Friday? What did you start off planning to do that day? Where were you?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: I started off, actually, at a final exam at the university and went straight from there down to the BLM office. And I saw some protesters walking back and forth outside, and I knew that I wanted to do more than that and that this kind of injustice demanded a higher level of disruption. And so, I just decided that I wanted to go inside and cause a bigger disruption.

And from there, I found it really easy to get inside and become a bidder, and went inside and was in the auction room. And once I was in there, I realized that any kind of speech or disruption or something like that wasn’t going to be very effective, but I saw pretty quickly that I could have a pretty major impact on the way this worked. And it just took me a little bit of time to build up the courage to do that, knowing what the consequences would be. And so, I started bidding and started driving up the prices for some of the oil companies. And throughout that time, I knew that I could be doing more and could really set aside some acres to really be protected. And so, then I started winning bids and disrupting it as clearly as I could.

AMY GOODMAN: How does it work? You get a paddle?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Yeah. I just had a bidder paddle and just kept raising it as much as I could.

AMY GOODMAN: And you ended up buying what? Over 22,000 acres of land?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: And where was this land?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Honestly, I didn’t know at the time. But now it turns out that a lot of that land was the land right around Arches National Park and in Labyrinth Canyon and Mineral Point and beautiful places like that. So it turned out pretty well.

AMY GOODMAN: And now what are your intentions? Or first, I should ask, what was the response of the people in the room? When did they understand who you were? Or did they, at the time?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Once I started buying up every parcel, they understood pretty clearly what was going on. And so, at that point, they stopped the auction, and some federal agents came in and took me out. And from other people who were in the room afterwards, I guess there was a lot of chaos, and they didn’t really know how to proceed at that point. But then, I was away talking to the federal agents at that point.

AMY GOODMAN: When did they arrest you?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, they took me into custody there on Friday, and they had me for a few hours. But it was a pretty cordial conversation that I was having with them. I was very clear about what I was doing and why I was doing it. I told them all my motivations and why the environmental movement, as it’s been, and myself included, hasn’t been effective and why I felt it was necessary to take more drastic actions. And so, they took my statement there and decided that I wasn’t a threat, and so they released me. But charges haven’t been pressed yet. That’s going to happen later today.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at the Salt Lake Tribune article on you. It says, “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.â€via Democracy Now! | Posing as a Bidder, Utah Student Disrupts Government Auction of 150,000 Acres of Wilderness for Oil & Gas Drilling.

Ha ha! … uh, I hope he doesn’t get into any small airplanes anytime soon … at least until they arrest Karl Rove.   Long live DeChristopher!  Why let Bush destroy anything else on the way out?  I don’t understand, however, why they didn’t just restart the auction on the things where he was the bidder. I guess other people already saw how high the others in the room went and so the whole process was messed up? I don’t go to auctions much.

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