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3 States Pass Anti-Pipeline Protest Bills in Two Weeks

3 States Pass Anti-Pipeline Protest Bills in Two Weeks
In just two weeks, three states have passed laws criminalizing protests against fossil fuel infrastructure.

Between March 16 and March 25, the governors of Kentucky, South Dakota and West Virginia all signed laws designating oil and gas pipelines and facilities “critical” or “key” infrastructure and imposing new penalties for anyone caught tampering with them, HuffPost reported Friday. The laws came as much of the nation was absorbed by the spread of the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people in the U.S. so far.

The push to criminalize anti-fossil fuel protests predates the coronavirus pandemic, however, and is part of a broader conservative movement to pass legislation that makes civil disobedience more difficult, as Greenpeace pointed out last year.

Since 2015, bills have been introduced that target particular movement tactics like boycotts, strikes and traffic blockage and increase the penalties for already-illegal activities. In the case of anti-pipeline protests, the laws have sold themselves as protecting “critical infrastructure” but follow a very specific playbook, as Greenpeace explained:

Generally, critical infrastructure bills share several common elements. (1) They create new criminal penalties for already illegal conduct — for example, turning misdemeanor trespass (a common charge for civil disobedience) into a felony. (2) They broadly redefine the term “critical infrastructure” to include everything from cell phone towers to trucking terminals; far greater than the fossil fuel pipelines the bills purport to protect. (3) The bills also seek to create liability for organizations that support protesters by treating such support as a criminal conspiracy.

To date, 11 states have enacted similar “critical infrastructure” legislation, according to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law’s U.S. Protest Law Tracker.

So what exactly do the three most recent laws say?

Kentucky

South Dakota

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed two laws this month that could have a chilling effect on protests, according to HuffPost. The first, signed March 18, counts all oil and gas facilities and equipment as critical infrastructure and increases the charges for “substantial interruption or impairment” of these facilities to felonies. The second, signed March 23, defines a “riot” as “any intentional use of force or violence by three or more persons, acting together and without authority of law, to cause any injury to any person or any damage to property” and creates a new felony offense for “incitement to riot,” according to the U.S. Protest Law Tracker.

West Virginia

The West Virginia law, signed by Gov. Jim Justice (R) Wednesday, also designates a wide range of oil, gas and utilities as “critical infrastructure” and increases fines and sentences for trespassing, trespassing with intent to “vandalize, deface, tamper with equipment, or impede or inhibit operations,” and actually vandalizing equipment or impeding operations, according to the U.S. Protest Law Tracker.

Protesters face off against security during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

Source:  EcoWatch

By:  Olivia Rosane Mar. 30, 2020 08:58AM EST

LINK: https://www.ecowatch.com/anti-pipeline-protest-bills-2645583954.htm

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OHIO 2020

Ohio Hearing on Proposed Anti-Protest Law Draws… Loud Protest

The controversial bill was passed out of committee despite demonstrations.

Protesters against an Ohio law criminalizing anti-pipeline protest filled the hall outside a hearing room in the statehouse Wednesday.

Protesters against an Ohio law criminalizing anti-pipeline protest filled the hall outside a hearing room in the statehouse Wednesday. (Photo: screenshot/Tyler Buchanan/Twitter)

Demonstrators filled the halls near a hearing room in the Ohio statehouse Wednesday to make their opposition to a bill criminalizing protest that ultimately passed through the state House Public Utilities Committee and is now headed to the floor.

“You aren’t the people’s government! You’re the oil and gas industry’s government!”
—Ohio demonstrator

The legislation, Senate Bill 33, institutes stiff penalties for demonstrations that cause damage to infrastructure—a standard that the bill’s opponents say is aimed at stopping protests against pipelines and other fossil fuel projects.

“It’s meant to intimidate us into not using our voice,” Rev. Marian E. Stewart of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus told the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday.

As the Dispatch reported, the legislation is part of a pattern in states looking to curtail the right to protest fossil fuel infrastructure:

Ten states so far have enacted similar laws, starting in the wake of 2016’s protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota to which Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers were dispatched. It would make it a first-degree misdemeanor to “knowingly enter or remain on” pipeline rights of way even when they’re on public land or when protesters have property owners’ permission to be there.

It also would make it a third-degree felony to “knowingly destroy or improperly tamper with” a pipeline or other critical infrastructure. But its supporters in October wouldn’t define “tamper.”

Further, the bill would subject groups to which people committing such felonies belong to fines of up to $100,000 — an amount that could devastate nonprofit environmental groups and churches, the bill’s critics say.

Protesters in the hearing room voiced their disapproval.

“You aren’t the people’s government,” shouted one demonstrator. “You’re the oil and gas industry’s government!”

The demonstration continued outside of the hearing room.

The bill passed out of committee largely along party lines with Republicans in favor of the legislation.

Advocates hope to pressure the full state House to reject the bill.

“We the people have the right to protest,” said one opponent of the bill.

LINK:  read:https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/01/30/ohio-hearing-proposed-anti-protest-law-draws-loud-protest

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OHIO 2018

Critics say Ohio pipeline protest bill is unnecessary, maybe unconstitutional

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