Utah has had a surfeit of eco-news in the past couple of weeks. First, of course, there’s Tim DeChristopher, the “bogus BLM bidder.” DeChristopher put his paddle up on December 19th to disrupt a BLM sale of mineral rights in Utah. He is now awaiting charges from the BLM, which seems completely flummoxed. They are purportedly not planning on holding another auction.
The idealistic University of Utah student has spoken up in his own defense. He says, “I thought what I did…at the BLM oil and gas auction was just an individual act of civil disobedience against a fraudulent auction and against a cruel leadership indifferent to the future of my generation.
“I was wrong. What I have learned since then is that America is still a place where you stand for what is right.”
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, DeChristopher has a new plan. He wants to pay the $45,000 that would hold the 13 leases he won. He wants to keep the parcels inactive at least until Obama gets into office.
DeChristopher is being represented by Ron Yengich, possibly the most famous practicing lawyer in Utah. Three websites are now taking donations for him:
Cliff Lyon, at OneUtah, says that if DeChristopher goes to prison, his entire generation will die. This concerns me because I may belong to his generation. But Lyons might be exaggerating a little. In an editorial, the Salt Lake Tribune called the BLM’s years-long process to bring the parcels up for sale a “rush.”
“It’s easy to say that he could have taken his complaints to court,” says the Tribune, “but right up until time for the sale, the BLM was revising the list, creating a moving target.”
Actually, right up until the time of the sale, the BLM was frantically pulling parcels off the bid list. It had already dropped 84,000 acres from the original 360,000 because of protests by environmental groups and the Park Service.
“President Bush,” the editorial continues, “will be remembered for eight years of disregard for the environment and disdain for hard science on the catastrophic effects of climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.”
Elsewhere, Ted Wilson, former mayor of Salt Lake City and current director of the Utah Rivers Council, is appalled at the BLM, the Forest Service and yes, probably President Bush, for finding more than 1,740 of the initial 2,240 river miles considered by the BLM and the Forest Service for “wild and scenic” designation “not suitable.”
The Forest Service ended up recommending 108 river miles in 10 segments. Utah has no rivers designated “wild and scenic.”
“The agencies,” says Wilson, now have no responsibility to provide the same protection as when they (had the status of) ‘eligible.’”
“Unless the Obama administration or Congress forces the BLM and Forest Service to reconsider these plans,” Wilson continues, “the agencies are not likely to change their minds.”
That certainly remains to be seen. If you’re interested in helping the Utah Rivers Council, however, go to www.utahrivers.org.
Finally, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is pushing a big solar power initiative that could cost tens of millions of dollars. According to the Salt Lake Tribune,
“The county would bid out the rooftops of more than 50 government buildings to a solar-power provider, which would install the arrays at its own cost and then sell the electricity at a fixed rate to the county.”
“What!?” you say, “Solar power is one of the least efficient alternative energies the county could invest in! Why doesn’t Corroon push an investment in wind power? It’s almost as cheap as coal!”
Turns out that part of the plan involves “potentially (attracting) more solar-related jobs to the state.” Hopefully, that also means more high-tech solar research. Towards that end, the mayor is pushing for legislation forcing Rocky Mountain Power to allow larger solar arrays to connect to its power grid. He also wants tax incentives for (large) solar energy providers.