1) What happened to the leases Tim won?
The “leases” no longer exist as leases; they were cancelled by Interior Secretary Salazar. The revoked parcels were subsequently broken up into three categories: parcels appropriate for future auction since they are surrounded by existing oil development, those never appropriate for future auction, because of their wilderness value, and those requiring further consideration to determine the appropriateness of drilling.
After being evaluated by Secretary Salazar, only 29 of the 116 parcels up for auction went through. Most of them were permanently dismissed; a handful of the parcels warranted further evaluation.
2) What are the charges against Tim, exactly?
Tim has been indicted with one count of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, and one count of False Statement. Each is a federal felony carrying a potential penalty of five years each and a total of $750,000 in fines. The indictment is available at http://www.bidder70.org/resources/view/141959/.
3) Why has it taken so long for the trial to happen; what were the reasons for the delays?
Tim and his defense team only weighed in on one of the delays; the other six delays were by the prosecution. For that reason, any idea about what caused the delays is speculation. It is likely that many of the delays are because the prosecution wants the trial to happen quietly, and they’re hoping that sooner or later, people will forget about this and stop paying attention.
4) How did they get away with the auction in the first place?
Many people recognized the impropriety of the auction, and sounded the alarm; especially the Sothern Utah Wilderness Alliance, who brought the lawsuit against the BLM which, in concert with Tim’s disruption of the auction, resulted in Secretary Salazar dismissing the vast majority of the parcels that were originally auctioned.
Before the auction, the attitude of the Bush administration was dismissive of the illegality of their actions, and of the people’s knowledge of that illegality. They only stopped when they were forced to stop. Due to the attention and pressure from this auction, the regulations around parceling public lands for oil and gas leases have been significantly changed by the current administration; it’s probably the area where the Obama administration has been the toughest in standing up to the oil industry.
5) Why did Secretary Salazar dismiss most of the leases?
SUWA, along with environmental groups, had already begun a lawsuit to block the Bush administration from auctioning these leases. The suit alleged that the BLM failed to complete the analysis required by federal law for the “protection of national and cultural resources.” Specifically, the Bureau hadn’t evaluated the effects of drilling on the parcels to ambient air quality in the surrounding national parks and recreation areas, and had neglected to adequately communicate with other federal agencies, like the National Parks Service.
The result of the lawsuit is that the vast majority of the auction parcels were permanently dismissed by Secretary Salazar, after the auction was disrupted. Tim’s actions worked in harmony with SUWA’s tactics, and the ultimate result was that those lands are safe. Because the lawsuit wasn’t quick enough to prevent the auction from going forth neither Tim’s actions nor SUWA’s lawsuit alone would have worked to stop this auction from leasing Utah’s national park lands to oil and gas companies. Together with Tim, the Utah environmental community safeguarded those lands on behalf of all Utahns.
6) What is Tim’s defense going to be, if he can’t use “Necessity”?
The necessity defense would have allowed Tim to offer the jury his motivations, so that they could weigh whether Tim’s nonviolent action was the “lesser of two evils” in that it stopped the development of rare and wild lands as sources of dirty energy and contributions to catastrophic climate change.
The necessity defense would have allowed Tim and his defense team to piece everything together all at once about why the auction was so unjust. Since Benson has ruled that Tim can’t use that defense (or even comprehensively discuss the auction’s illegitimacy, or describe Tim’s own motives), his defense team will attempt to push that information anyway they can, and hope that someone on the jury knows they have the right to make any decision they want for whatever reason they want. Not too much about Tim’s defense can be made public, but we do know that it has been very much limited by the prosecution.
7) What was Tim’s Sentence?
On July 26th, 2011 Tim DeChristopher was sentenced with 2 years in Federal Prison, a 3 year probation and a $10,000 fine. He was taken into custody immediately from the Courtroom and is awaiting transfer to a Federal Prison in Davis County Jail in Utah. To get more information about visits, donations to Tim’s legal defense fund, or writing to Tim, please contact Dylan at: firstname.lastname@example.org