Friday, October 30, 2009

BLM moves to block bogus bids

Nearly 10 months after Tim DeChristopher’s moment of fame, the US Bureau of Land Management has quietly taken short-term steps to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

The 27-year-old University of Utah economics student and environmental activist submitted $1.8 million of bogus bids at the BLM’s Utah oil and gas lease sale on Dec. 18, 2008. He apparently received a bidding paddle after showing his driver’s license.

Federal regulations said that bidding for oil and gas leases is open to any US citizen over 21, but successful bidders had to accept and pay for what they acquire. DeChristopher outbid others at the sale to keep the tracts from being developed but did not have the money to pay for them.

He became a hero in Utah environmental circles for a nonviolent tactic which elevated the issue of the proposed leases’ supposed proximity to national parks and other scenic areas. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and several national environmental organizations successfully sued to delay the process. Ken Salazar ordered that 77 of the leases be rejected soon after he became US Secretary of the Interior in early 2009 and ordered a review.

OGJ has covered the review’s main recommendations already. But tucked away at the end of Q&A about the Utah lease sale report on the state’s portion of BLM’s Web site is the following:

“Q: What actions has the BLM taken to ensure that oil and gas lease sales aren’t sabotaged by disruptive bidders?

“A: The BLM has taken short-term actions to better safeguard competitive oil and gas lease auctions from bidding activity that is disruptive and contrary to conducting the public’s business. These efforts include: validating the identity of registering bidders; ensuring that bidders are responsible and qualified through the application of an enhanced bidder form; and instituting disincentives for submitting fraudulent or protest bids through enhanced language in lease sale notices, bidder registration forms, and use of formal billing and collection processes.”


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