Posts Tagged ‘Bureau of Land Management’

nopumpjacksThe promise by Obama to overturn Bush administration policies on energy is already being fulfilled.  Today the Obama administration said it will cancel oil drilling leases on more than 100,000 acres in Utah and return $6 million in bids including those of activist Tim DeChristopher, who added an interesting twist to the Bush administration’s rush to sell oil and gas leases during their last weeks in office.

In December DeChristopher bid on and won several of these leases in protest, even though he didn’t have the money to pay for them.   By early January he had raised $45,000 from supporters and promised if he didn’t have to use the money he would contact donors to determine what do do with the cash.

In the meantime, an alliance of conservation groups filed a lawsuit to try to stop the leasing, citing concerns it would pollute the air in the protected areas.  They were granted a temporary restraining order preventing the Bureau of Land Management from moving forward with the leases.

These delaying tactics have proved to be most effective in light of this announcement.

So thank you Tim DeChristopher, for your unorthadox approach to good stewardship of some of our nation’s most precious landscapes in Utah.  It took a lot of chutzpah to do what you did in the face of  an administration whose motto has long been (as Sarah Palin puts it) “DRILL-BABY-DRILL” regardless of the consequences to environmentally sensitive areas.

And thank you Robin Cooley, the Earthjustice attorney who represented the conservation groups, for convincing the court that the one and a half hours of use we would get from the oil produced on these lands should be weighed more carefully against the impacts on our national parks and protected areas.

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ed-abbeyEd Abbey would be proud.

At an auction held by the Bureau of Land Management for oil and gas leases on 149,000 acres of public land in Utah, a University of Utah student and environmental activist named Tim DeChristopher posed as a bidder and bought up 22,000 acres to keep it from industry clutches.  Much of this land was from the area right around Arches National Park, a beautiful swath immortalized in Ed Abbey’s book Desert Solitaire.  DeChristopher also drove up prices for oil and gas leases on other parcels to the tune of about half a million dollars.

Reports the Salt Lake Tribune:

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.

Tim DeChristopher, 27, faces possible federal charges after winning bids totaling about $1.8 million on more than 10 lease parcels that he admits he has neither the intention nor the money to buy — and he’s not sorry.

“I decided I could be much more effective by an act of civil disobedience,” he said during an impromptu streetside news conference during an afternoon blizzard. “There comes a time to take a stand.”

The land was being auctioned off in another last-ditch effort by the Bush administration to win Big Industry some holiday goodies before Obama takes office in January.  The BLM didn’t have time to do adequate environmental impact statements, leave much time for public comment, or even take in input from other federal agencies such as the National Parks Service.  Apparently in BLM’s intial announcement of the auction, private property with houses on it and land the agency didn’t have rights to drill on was also included.  BLM won’t re-open the land DeChristopher’s won for auction until February, when the new administration will be in place.  They are also giving bidders who won parcels with inflated prices the chance to withdraw those bids within a ten-day period — but since the Obama administration is unlikely to offer the leases again, most bidders will probably hold on to the land they’ve won.

Watch Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! interview DeChristopher below:


And a final Ed Abbey parting shot:

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.

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