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Eco-hero Tim DeChristopher convicted

March 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Earthgauge interview with Tim DeChristopher

Perhaps it wasn’t surprising given the powerful interests at play, but last week the environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was found guilty of violating an onshore oil and gas leasing act and making a false representation stemming from a botched oil and gas auction in 2008. DeChristopher now faces sentencing, which could include up to 10 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

His crime? Almost three years ago, DeChristopher went to an auction that was leasing more than 100,000 acres of federal (i.e. public) land for oil and gas development in Utah. The leases were approved in the dying days of the Bush II administration, despite the fact that the land in question bordered Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument.

Posing as a bidder, DeChristopher won the right to develop 22,500 acres of land for which, of course, he had neither the capability nor the intention of doing. His goal was simply to take the land out of the hands of oil and gas companies.

Despite the fact that officials in the Obama administration subsequently canceled leases on 77 parcels from the auction, effectively agreeing that the auction should never have gone ahead, DeChristopher was nonetheless being prosecuted, and now convicted, for his actions.

“We know now that I will go to prison,” he said following the verdict.  “We know now that’s the reality, but that’s the job I have to do. … If we are going to achieve our vision, many after me will have to join me as well.”

In the face of overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change, no one has ever been charged for polluting the atmosphere, yet now we are sending a man to prison for taking action to prevent oil and gas development from taking place. I think Bill McKibben puts in best in this article in Grist.

“So far, no bankers have been charged, despite the unmitigated greed that nearly brought the world economy down. No coal or oil execs have been charged, despite fouling the entire atmosphere and putting civilization as we know it at risk.

But engage in creative protest that mildly disrupts the efficient sell-off of our landscape to oil and gas barons? As Tim DeChristopher found out on Thursday, that’ll get you not just a week in court, but potentially a long stretch in the pen.

If you’re outraged by what happened to Tim, and if you’re inspired, make sure to follow the group he’s helped found, Peaceful Uprising. And if you’re thinking about laying it on the line, give us your name at ClimateDirectAction.org.”

And in this article in the Huffington Post, Jeff Biggers argues that DeChristopher deserves the medal of freedom. Click here to read the speech Tim delivered after his sentence was handed down. To lend your support, visit DeChristopher’s website Bidder70.org.

I interviewed Tim a few months ago, before his trial had begun. In light of recent developments, I am posting this interview once again. Just click the audio player above or right click here to download the mp3 file.

Canadian diplomats fight to keep tar sands oil “a-flowin”

January 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Interview with Danielle Droitsch of the Pembina Institute

It’s good to know our tax dollars are paying Canadian diplomats to fight the good fight in Washington on behalf of those hard-luck oil companies working in Alberta’s tar sands. Postmedia news is reporting that our diplomats have quietly asked oil-industry players such as Exxon Mobil and BP to help “kill” U.S. global-warming policies in order to ensure that “the oil keeps a-flowing” from Alberta into the U.S. marketplace.

Apparently unaware of either the climate change crisis or the exceedingly high levels of greenhouse gases emanating from the tar sands, the officials proposed instead to “kill any interpretation” of American energy legislation that would apply to the tar sands industry. “We hope that we can find a solution to ensure that the oil keeps a-flowing,” wrote Jason Tolland, from the Canadian Embassy in an exchange of emails with government trade lawyers Feb. 8, 2008.

The correspondence reveals that the Canadian diplomats had contacted officials from the American Petroleum Institute – an industry association – as well as from Exxon Mobil Corp., BP, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, Encana Corp. and Marathon Oil Corp. One email sent by Paul Connors, who at the time was an energy counsellor at the embassy, encouraged an official with Exxon Mobil to get involved in the political debate against the legislation.

The correspondence was released to the Pembina Institute who obtained it through an access-to-information request.

To find out more about this, I spoke with Danielle Droitsch, the Director of U.S. policy for the Pembina Institute, a Canadian not-for-profit think tank focused on developing innovative sustainable energy solutions. We also discussed the shifting political ground in the United States. With the Republican Party taking control of the House of Representatives this week, what does this mean for climate change policy in North America?

In his first two years on the job, President Obama has thus far failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation. Now his administration wants to introduce regulations to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Upon taking office, Obama directed the Department of Transportation to issue regulations that will raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks to 35-miles per gallon by 2020 (6.7 litres per 100 km) from the current 27-mpg standard. Last year, Canada followed suit, issuing guidelines for 2011 model year vehicles that are identical to the U.S. CAFE standards.

And just this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new rules requiring all new industrial plants or major expansions to acquire permits for emitting carbon dioxide and other GHGs. The Obama administration has also announced plans to impose new emission rules on power plants and refineries.

Back here in Canada, the former Environment Minister, John Baird, indicated this week that Canada would not adopt a similar approach but will broadly match the U.S. regulatory approach. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long indicated that Canada would harmonize emissions reductions efforts with the U.S. Now that the Obama administration is taking measures to regulate industrial emissions, what will the Harper government do? Was all the talk of harmonization simply empty rhetoric or will we see some action at long last? Time will tell.

And will Obama even be able to push through the proposed new regulations? The new Republican House Speaker John Boehner has already indicated that one of his party’s top priorities for the coming session will be to block the new EPA regulations however they can.

In my interview with Danielle Droitsch, she discusses what lies ahead for U.S. and Canadian climate policy given the recent political shifts.

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