Judge rejects global-warming defense in Utah BLM auction-fraud case

Tim DeChristopher, a University of Utah student who last December allegedly won 13 Bureau of Land Management oil and gas leases for $1.7 million he never intended to pay, came up with a unique defense in U.S. District in Salt Lake City Monday: “Global warming made me do it.”

Federal judge Dee Benson was having none of that, according to the Associated Press, denying a motion by DeChristopher’s lawyers and essentially rejecting his defense that he jacked up the bids at a chaotic BLM auction last December in order to curtail climate change by blocking drilling near iconic national parks like Canyonlands and Arches.

Tim DeChristopher
Tim DeChristopher

“Unlike a person demolishing a home to create a firebreak, DeChristopher’s actions were more akin to placing a small pile of dirt in the fire’s path,” Benson reportedly wrote in his ruling – a statement that hopefully at least made sense to the judge.

Benson said DeChristopher should have demonstrated outside the auction, where he could have rubbed elbows with protesting luminaries like Robert Redford, or sued along with other conservationists who ultimately succeeded in getting much of the acreage removed from drilling consideration.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar just last month blocked the most critical acreage near national parks from drilling. The legal system apparently works, is the message there, with a Colorado auction just last week underscoring the point.

The BLM in Colorado auctioned approximately 6,000 acres for $112,969 on Thursday, according to AP, the third smallest amount of leased acres since the late 70s. Exxon Mobil was the big spender, paying a mere $215 an acre for an 81-acre parcel in Rio Blanco County, but clearly the economy and depressed gas prices are still impacting the industry.

Before the Colorado auction, Western Resource Advocates praised a BLM decision to remove from the sale 907 acres adjacent to the Black Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area on the Routt National Forest in Moffat County. WRA filed a protest on behalf of the Colorado Environmental Coalition because the land is critical deer, elk, cutthroat trout and sandhill crane habitat.

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