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Tim DeChristopher on the Demand to End All New Fossil Fuel Leasing on Public Lands and Oceans

StorySeptember 17, 2015
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A coalition of more than 400 organizations have called on the White House to stop issuing new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans. More than 67 million acres of public land and ocean are already leased to the fossil fuel industry. The coalition says that declaring unleased oil, gas and coal on public lands as “unburnable” would accomplish more in the global fight against climate change than any other single action taken by the Obama administration. Joining us to discuss the new campaign is climate justice activist Tim DeChristopher. In 2008, DeChristopher spent 21 months in federal prison after he disrupted an oil and gas leasing auction on public land in Utah by posing as a bidder. Tim DeChristopher is now one of the co-founders of the new Climate Disobedience Center, which is among the many organizations calling for the end to all new fossil fuel leases on public lands.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: A coalition of more than 400 organizations have called on the White House to stop issuing new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans. More than 67 million acres of public land and ocean are already leased to the fossil fuel industry. The coalition says that declaring unleased oil, gas and coal on public lands as “unburnable” would accomplish more in the global fight against climate change than any other single action taken by the Obama administration.

AMY GOODMAN: Joining us here in New York is climate justice activist Tim DeChristopher, who spoke out at Tuesday’s rally in Washington. He spent 21 months in federal custody after he was disrupted—he disrupted a Bush administration last-minute move to auction off oil and gas exploitation rights in Utah by posing as a bidder at an auction in 2008.

Tim DeChristopher, welcome back to Democracy Now!

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about this rally this week and what’s happening.

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: Yeah, I think it was a major—the launch of a major campaign to completely end fossil fuel leasing on federal lands, which would keep about 450 gigatons of carbon in the ground. Obviously, there’s a lot that’s already been leased that hasn’t yet been developed; that’s about 40 gigatons that’s already in the control of the fossil fuel industry. So there’s a lot there that we can continue to develop. But we should stop issuing new leases, was the demand here.

And to put those numbers in context, Obama’s Clean Power Plan, if it worked perfectly, would reduce emissions by about five gigatons by 2030. So there’s another 450 gigatons that could be kept in the ground by ending fossil fuel leasing. So it’s a major demand, and it’s something that I think is kind of a new step for the climate movement, for a lot of the mainstream groups that were part of this coalition and are a part of this campaign, that we’re saying we’re no longer operating from a paradigm of deviating from the status quo, or operating from the paradigm of looking at the challenge of climate change and what’s actually necessary, and we’re going to find a way to make that happen.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And how many of these new leases are there, and when were they issued or put in place?

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: I mean, they’re issued all over the place. You know, like the auction that I disrupted back in 2008 is one of the ways that these leases are distributed. And that’s a—so the auction that I disrupted was a quarterly auction in the Utah Bureau of Land Management district.

AMY GOODMAN: And when you say you “disrupted,” that you just kept bidding on land.

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: Right, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: You picked up your paddle.

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: Right. So those are auctions that happen every quarter. And that’s just for the Utah district. Every BLM district has those auctions, and then there’s other agencies—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Every what district? What did you—

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: Bureau of Land Management.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ah, Bureau of Land Management.

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: And then there’s other Department of the Interior agencies that are issuing leases for offshore drilling, things like that. So, as you said, there’s 67 million acres that are already under development, and even as we were planning this campaign, last Friday, at the end of the day, around 5:00 p.m., the Department of the Interior quietly announced that they intend to issue another 40 million acres of offshore drilling leases in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the Climate Disobedience Center?

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: The Climate Disobedience Center is a new organization that we just got off the ground last week. I’m working with the folks who did the lobster boat blockade a couple years ago, where they blockaded a shipment of West Virginia coal from being delivered to the Brayton Point coal-fired power plant.

AMY GOODMAN: In Massachusetts?

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And it ended up that the attorney, the—what was it? The district attorney there joined with them?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Sutter.

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: Right, yeah. And so, you know, it was a principled act of civil disobedience that had a big public impact, and so that’s the kind of thing that we’re trying to encourage more of. And so, we’re putting ourselves out there as a resource and support center for other people that want to engage in serious civil disobedience around the climate issue. And so, we’re sort of an open-ended support team for whatever kind of backup people need when they stick their neck out.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, Tim DeChristopher, spent 21 months in prison for disrupting an auction of public land in 2008 to prevent oil and gas drilling on thousands of acres in public land in his home state of Utah, a subject of the documentary, Bidder 70, that’s releasing today in New York.

That does it for our broadcast. This Saturday, I’ll be giving a keynote address at the Symbiosis Gathering 10th anniversary in Oakdale, California.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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