Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bidding adieu

A Utah man is facing jail time for bidding on oil and gas land he couldn't and wouldn't develop.

Tim DeChristopher is arguing that it's okay to disrupt a fire sale if it's the result of arson-- or something like that.

He's facing federal charges of interfering with an auction and making false statements on bidding forms for taking part in a December Bureau of Land Management auction, one of many regulatory and policy environmental caltrops dropped by former President George Bush on his way out the door.

Degrees of Separation That's one version of a caltrop in the photo. It's an ancient landmine that's still used today; note that one spike always points upward. My fevered brain fixed on the analogy because the article title "Legal Cost for Throwing a Monkey Wrench" reminded me Edward Albee's Monkey Wrench Gang. They used them, fictionally. (Oh, I highly recommend the book and the author, though I prefer what they're doing along the Klamath River to blowing up dams.)

A temporary injunction held up 77 of the 116 parcels in January, and new Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar withdrew those parcels from consideration in February, according to an Oct. 7, 2009 BLM report (pdf). That report recommends a handful for leasing, a handful for withdrawal from leasing and that action on the majority be deferred.

The report probably led to the New York Times article in which DeChristopher's supporters reportedly claim his actions had a role in the judicial and administrative actions. That argument lines up with his lawyer's attempt to assert a "necessity defense". That's kind of a lesser of two evils thing; the article cites the example of breaking into a cabin when you're lost in the woods. It doesn't impress most judges.

"My intention was to cause as much of a disruption to the auction as I could," DeChristopher is quoted as saying. "Making that decision — that keeping the oil in the ground was worth going to prison — that was the decision I made."

To which I would respond: "Be careful what you ask for."

No, Utah isn't in the Ninth Circuit. I thought not, but checked anyway because that would be a wild card.

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