After 21 months in federal custody, climate activist Tim DeChristopher approached the pulpit at his church in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a free man. The First Unitarian congregation rose in uproarious applause, tears streaming down more than a few faces.
“It’s good to be home,” DeChristopher told the crowd.
During his sermon, he said that he had never expected to change the oil and gas industry alone. “But I thought that I could change people like you, and I knew people like you have a lot of power.”
The story of how DeChristopher landed in prison is well known. On December 19, 2008, he walked into an oil and gas auction in Salt Lake City, where the Bureau of Land Management was auctioning off leases to drill on public lands. When asked if he had come to bid, DeChristopher, somewhat startled, said yes. He took a paddle, labeled “Bidder 70,” and without any plan as to what he would do with it, entered the auction. But then, when he saw a friend across the room break down in tears over the potential loss of wild lands, an idea came to him. He began raising his paddle to bid. By the end, he’d amassed a total of 22,500 acres at a price of $1.8 million.