Salt Lake City

Sat, 2013-04-20 09:21Laurel Whitney
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Tim DeChristopher, Imprisoned For Nearly Two Years, To Be Released On Earth Day

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher is set to be released from prison on Earth Day, this Sunday April 21st, since being incarcerated on July 26, 2011.

Tim DeChristopher created quite a ripple in the activist community when he tried to buy millions of dollars of land in December of 2008 in order to stop the oil and gas industry from snatching it up at an illegitimate auction put on by the outgoing Bush administration. While the incoming Obama administration cancelled the auction, Tim was caught in the fallout, while the rest of the auctioneers presumably roam free.

He was slapped with two federal felony charges - one for making false statements and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act.

Tim's trial was pushed back 6 times over two years and was fraught with maddening plot twists. The judge refused to let Tim use the Necessity Defense or let the jury know crucial facts, including that the auction was illegal. Tim was also prohibited from testifying on how he acted on moral convictions relating to climate change.

His prison term was no less eventful. During March of last year, Tim was thrown in isolated confinement for two and a half weeks after writing correspondence that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) deemed potentially harmful because it contained the word “threat.” It turned out he was only “threatening” to return a potential legal fund donation from a company whose ethics weren't aligned with his own.

Rumors went around that an unnamed Congressman had put in the order, but investigations never figured out if it was true.

Sat, 2012-07-28 06:00Steve Horn
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The Real Train Wreck: ALEC and "Other ALECs" Attack EPA Regulations

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt to EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative “corporate bill mill” by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls “model bills.” Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a “voice and a vote in shaping policy.” In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become “models” that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

Fri, 2012-07-27 03:30Steve Horn
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Exposed: Pennsylvania Act 13 Overturned by Commonwealth Court, Originally an ALEC Model Bill

On July 26, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court** ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional.*** The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.

The Court ruled that Act 13 “…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise.”

Act 13 – pejoratively referred to as “the Nation's Worst Corporate Giveaway“ by AlterNet reporter Steven Rosenfeld – would have ended local democracy as we know it in Pennsylvania.

“It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government,” Ben Price, project director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), told Rosenfeld. “It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government. They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us. It is the corporate state. That is how we look at it.”

Where could the idea for such a bill come from in the first place? Rosenfeld pointed to the oil and gas industry in his piece.

That's half of the answer. Pennsylvania is the epicenter of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States, and by and large, is a state seemingly bought off by the oil and gas industry.

The other half of the question left unanswered, though, is who do oil and gas industry lobbyists feed anti-democratic, state-level legislation to?

The answer, in a word: ALEC.

Fri, 2011-03-04 15:54Laurel Whitney
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Tim DeChristopher stands tall despite guilty verdict

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” Henry David Thoreau on Civil Disobedience

A collective gasp was heard late afternoon yesterday as Tim DeChristopher was found guilty after only 5 hours of jury deliberation. Officially charged with one count of False Statement and one count of violating the Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, suddenly everyone was left thinking- did they convict the real criminal?

Much of the last two days of trial had focused on DeChristopher’s intent when bidding for BLM land leases. Prosecutor John Hubert argued that DeChristopher intentionally “disrupted, derailed, and sabotaged” the auction. However, defense attorney Ron Yengich painted a different picture:

“He wanted to raise a red flag,” he said. “He wanted to make a statement. That’s what he wanted to do. His desire was not to thwart the auction. … He wanted people to think about the consequences that the auction was bringing to bear on other people. But it was never his intention to harm anyone.”

Maybe if Tim had run into the auction using his paddle to feverishly whack participants to prevent them from bidding, then that could be seen harmful.

But let’s put this into context:

Mon, 2011-02-28 15:21Laurel Whitney
Laurel Whitney's picture

Tim DeChristopher Trial Commences in Salt Lake City

Today in Salt Lake City, climate activist Tim DeChristopher (aka Bidder 70) finally gets his day in court after waiting almost 2 years since his original indictment for disrupting an illegal auction of oil and gas leases that would have opened pristine public lands in Utah to drilling. The district attorney has delayed the trial as many as 6 times as the government hoped DeChristopher would succumb to a plea bargain, but DeChristopher’s legal team has stood firm in demanding a public trial by a jury of his peers so that the public might hear the truth about the original BLM auction, which was a last-minute parting gift to the oil and gas industry from outgoing President George W. Bush.

Back in December 2008, DeChristopher showed up at a controversial oil and gas auction in Utah that was offering leases to companies to drill on environmentally-sensitive public lands, including Nine Mile Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument. An economics student at the time, DeChristopher was troubled by the Bush Administration’s efforts to skirt around required environmental assessments, essentially making the auction illegal in the first place.

Thu, 2010-12-02 15:48Nathanael Baker
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Salt Lake City Oil Spill: Chevron Pipeline Leaks Thousands of Gallons for Second Time in Six Months

After a Chevron oil pipe has leaked crude oil near the Red Butte Creek in Salt Lake City, Utah for the second time in six months, city and state officials are calling for the oil company to shut down the pipeline indefinitely.

The leak which, was reported by Chevron employees at 11:30 PM on Wednesday, spilled an estimated 100 barrels of oil.  Emergency response crews, with the help of oil booms and earthern berms, were able to stop the flow of oil 50 feet before it reached the nearby Red Butte Creek.  

In June, the same section of the pipeline failed leading to 800 barrels of oil leaking into the community.  The oil contaminated three waterways: the Jordan river, Red Butte Creek, and the Liberty Park pond.  The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) allowed the pipeline to resume operations only eight days after the initial spill.  The DOT determined the pipeline was safe after Chevron conducted five tests of the compromised section.

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