Published on February 28th, 2011 | by Jeremy Bloom10
Why is Obama prosecuting Tim DeChristopher, the gas-lease pranker?
You may have heard the story: In the waning days of the Bush administration, the Interior Department tried to rush through a bunch of gas leases on public land. They knew the Obama admin wouldn’t allow them, so they tried to get them locked down, contractually, by holding an auction.
Update: The jury found Tim guilty of two felony counts. Not surprising, since the judge refused to allow him to make any real defense. See the story: Jury finds DeChristopher guilty of fraud for blocking drilling next to national parks
A student climate change activist, Tim DeChristopher, went to the auction. As Grist reports, “DeChristopher hadn’t planned what he was going to do that day when he arrived directly after a class. The auctioneers asked if he would like to be a bidder. Thinking on his feet, he said, ‘Yes, I would’.”
Like a sheep in wolf’s clothing, he outbid the oil barons and scored 22,500 acres of primo parcels.
Of course, he didn’t have the $1.8 million to pay for them. Which was fine by him – he didn’t want to drill for gas, he just wanted to ensure that the OTHER guys didn’t get to drill for gas either, so it worked out just fine. And it’s not like this hasn’t happened before – over the years more than 25 bidders have discovered they didn’t actually have the finances to pay up when the time came, and have walked away from their obligations. That’s just business.
But apparently the Justice Department treats activist kids differently from oil companies – who knew? They decided to prosecute DeChristopher for twin felonies under an obscure, rarely-used law. So now he’s facing 10 years in the slammer. The trial starts today in Salt Lake City.
Don’t just sit there – do something!
How insane is this prosecution?
The 77 leases were for areas near Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Dinosaur National Monument. They may as well have been drilling for oil in the National Gallery or the Kennedy Center.
Once Obama took office, his Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, invalidated the leases and handed back the oil companies’ money.
“In the last weeks in office, the Bush administration rushed ahead to sell oil and gas leases near some of our nation’s most precious landscapes in Utah,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters when he invalidated the leases. ““We need to responsibly develop our oil and gas supplies to help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but we must do so in a thoughtful and balanced way that allows us to protect our signature landscapes and cultural resources.”
That’s right. DeChristopher is being prosecuted for disrupting a sale that didn’t happen, and for failing to pay money he would have gotten back anyway. And the judge in the case has already ruled that he can’t use that fact as a defense, or the fact that the leases would have accelerated global warming (“necessity defense”), or the fact that this is a politically-motived prosecution, since the government didn’t prosecute the oil guys who bid on leases and then failed to pay.
Here’s where you come in .
Hundreds gathered in Salt Lake City this past weekend to organize – from Greenpeace, 350.org, Ruckus Society, Rainforest Action Network and dozens more. Matt Leonard at It’s Getting Hot In Here is on the scene, and reports how excited everyone is at the outpouring of support:
[Tim] reflected on the daunting sound of “United States v Tim DeChristopher”. As Tim put it – “300 million to 1 is a little intimidating – those aren’t good odds”. But we know those numbers aren’t true. Millions of people support what Tim did, and support a world based on justice and sustainability. Millions of people are demanding we confront the climate crisis. And most importantly, Tim isn’t alone.
While he admitted confronting the climate crisis is daunting, Tim said he realized that through the past 2 years of telling his story; of organizing with Peaceful Uprising; and working with the international climate movement; – he wasn’t alone. He realized how many people supported what he did. He realized how the movement for climate justice has taking action, and shutting down coal plants, and winning victories for people and planet. He saw how the movement grows every time we share our stories, every time we show another person our joy and resolve, and most importantly – every time we take an action in the name of justice.
As he closed his speech – he made the simple, but telling observation: “Every day, our odds are getting better”.Truer words have not been spoken.
What YOU can do
Tim is NOT alone. He has big-name activists like Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Robert Redford, and Terry Tempest Williams supporting him. Actress Darrly Hannah and Peter Yarrow (of ’60s folks group Peter, Paul and Mary) are outside the courthouse today.
But that’s not enough – you need to make YOUR voice heard, too.
“The world will be watching,” Tim says. “They’re looking to see how you react when I’m prosecuted and when I’m likely convicted and sent to prison. … The world is watching because they want to see if you’re going to back down.”
- Write or call Salazar and tell him to pass the word to his colleagues at Justice. Tell them to stop prosecuting Tim DeChristopher. (202) 208-3100
- Write or call Attorney General Holder and President Obama and tell them if they don’t prosecute oil companies, they can’t prosecute students. 202-353-1555
- You can get more info at the DeChristopher support website, PeacefulUprising.org, and on the Facebook Page.
- You can attend the rally at the courthouse today in Salt Lake City.
- You can donate to support Tim’s fight.
- Friend Red Green and Blue on Facebook to keep on top of this and other stories of environmental justice and politics.
More on the Trail of Tim DeChristopher:
- Jury finds DeChristopher guilty of fraud for blocking drilling next to national parks
- Time to Support Tim DeChristopher
- Tim DeCristopher is on Trial: Initial Statements/Testimony
- Teacher & Bus Driver Inspired by DeChristopher Fired