Activist may win his bid to go to jail

Tim DeChristopher could end up in prison and face a six-figure fine for his juvenile efforts to disrupt a gas lease in Utah last year.

That’s fine with us. DeChristopher has been painted as a hero by some folks on the left, but his stunt accomplished nothing except to bring notoriety to himself.

DeChristopher, a 27-year-old college student, walked into a Bureau of Land Management gas-lease auction in Utah last December, grabbed a bidder’s paddle and started driving up the costs of leases being auctioned. He actually was the high bidder on a number of the leases, worth a total price of $1.7 million.

But, he told news reporters afterward, he never intended to pay for the leases, even though federal law says he is on the hook for the price of any leases he won in the auction.

The BLM has since changed its auction rules to make it more difficult for someone like DeChristopher to bid and win leases if they have neither the intention of using the leases nor the ability to pay for them.

And this week, a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City indicted DeChristopher on a pair of felonies related to making representations about himself. He could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.

Federal gas leases are always subject to challenge — by legal means. In fact environmental groups challenged the Utah lease sale long before DeChristopher showed up to disrupt it.

They got a number of parcels removed because they were too close to national parks and monuments. And Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar rescinded 77 of the leases from that auction shortly after he took office, based in large part on the environmental groups’ complaints.

So DeChristopher’s grandstanding didn’t affect whether those leases will be drilled upon.

Entirely legal actions by others did.

However, the claim by DeChristopher’s attorney that the young man “caused no harm” at the auction doesn’t hold water. Representatives of one energy company say DeChristopher cost them $600,000 by artificially driving the prices of leases higher than they would otherwise have been.

DeChristopher has reportedly been making the rounds on the lecture circuit since his stunt, taking credit for what he claims was an act of civil disobedience. But, rather than becoming an enviro-celebrity for his antics, he ought to become an example to others who wish to use illegal means to disrupt the activities of private companies legally interacting with government agencies.

It’s highly unlikely DeChristopher will spend 10 years in prison for what he did. But a little jail
time and a substantial fine are certainly in order.


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