According to the story in today’s Washington Post, a college student in Utah walked into a BLM auction for drilling rights on your land a couple of weeks ago, registered to bid in the auction, was given a paddle to raise to make a bid, and bought 22,000 acres of drilling rights on public land in Southeast Utah. Not only did he win the rights to drill on 22,000 acres, he bid up the prices on others, forcing the oil companies to pay more than they wanted. This caused such consternation among the oil men and the BLM bureaucrats in the room that federal agents were summoned to remove the student from the room. Now they are threatening him with prosecution.
In the past eight years the administration has sold — at prices laughably below market value — 35,000 such permits, allowing oil companies to drill on your land.
The student does not have the $1.8 million dollars to pay for the drilling rights, but he does have, thanks to the internet, the $45,000 necessary for the first payment. When word of his bid got out, an environmental web site was created so people could donate to the purchase price. Already he has raised enough for the first payment of $45,000.00 from small contributions. And who knows, he may soon have the entire purchase price donated by United States citizens, a/k/a the owners of the land.
If he gets the money, an additional 22,000 acres will never have a drilling rig on it, will never have a road built for the rig, and will never have a waste dump next to each rig. Animals and birds will be able to live out their lives undisturbed by giant machinery and the dust and erosion caused by hundreds of mammoth pick-ups speeding back and forth.
For more, especially on the reaction of people in the room at the time, see the New York Times article about the auction.
UPDATE – JANUARY 20, 2009
A federal judge last week, temporarily stopped the entire sale. The BLM, which would have deposited the checks from the sale yesterday and made the sale final and binding, was restrained from depositing the checks until it redoes its Environmental Impact Statement. Given the change in presidential administrations today, there is some chance the sale will never happen. What that will mean for the young college student threatened with prosecution remains to be seen.