Bills Targeting Anti-Pipeline Activists in Seven States in 2020, so Far

State legislative sessions are underway across the country. Already, seven states will consider legislation that would criminalize climate activists protesting oil and gas pipelines. The bills closely follow model legislation promoted by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The Greenpeace PolluterWatch project, which closely tracks the measures and cites analysis by the International Center for Non-For-Profit-Law, reports seven states in 2020 will consider measures that would criminalize trespass at a “critical infrastructure facility.” Critical infrastructure includes pipelines, refineries, storage facilities and electrical power generating facilities.

The measures follow a trend that began shortly after ALEC adopted the “Critical Infrastructure Protection Act” in 2017. Ten states have already adopted legislation that is related to the ALEC model legislation.

Below is a list of the seven bills. Due to some legislative sessions running two years, a number of bills have carried over from 2019.

An eighth measure could also be considered in Illinois, where critical infrastructure legislation, which was tabled last year, may be taken up by the Senate.

A key provision in the ALEC model legislation would criminalize trespass near energy facilities. The measures introduced in Alabama, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and West Virginia all vary in language but each one includes a provision that would impose criminal penalties for trespassing close to oil and gas pipelines. The penalties range from up to six months to 10 years in prison and imposes fines from $500 up to $15,000. The ALEC model legislation does not mention a specific fine amount or time of imprisonment for trespass. 

Inspired by a 2017 Oklahoma law in the aftermath of the Dakota Access pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force adopted the model legislation. According to a report by Bloomberg, Marathon Petroleum, along with the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), a trade association which Marathon is a member of, led the effort to get ALEC to support the model legislation. 

Since ALEC adopted the model legislation, AFPM has played a role in crafting many of these laws in states across the country, according to a report by the Intercept. 

Committee materials and lobbying disclosures across Illinois, Ohio, and Minnesota show Marathon Petroleum and its trade associations have testified in favor of the bills in each of those states. 

Update on February 20, 2020: Since the publication of this article, Documented obtained audio from a public records request made to the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission of the Kentucky House Natural Resources and Energy Committee meeting that took place on January 30, 2020. During the meeting, the committee chairman and sponsor of HB 44, Rep. Representative Jim Gooch Jr., introduced two “presenters” on HB 44. The presenters were identified as follows: Erin Osting with Marathon Petroleum and Rusty Cress of the firm Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, on behalf of Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky Association of Manufacturers and the Kentucky Chemical Industry Council.

Fossil Fuel Industry Influence in Ohio

Last week, the House Public Utilities committee voted Ohio Senate Bill 33 out of committee, with committee Chairman Jamie Callender refusing to allow any spoken testimony on the bill. The decision resulted in a protest, where activists chanted “This is our house!” State troopers arrived on the scene, according to the Ohio Dispatch. 

Scheduling records obtained by Documented show that the lead sponsor, Rep. Hoagland, met with a number of fossil-fuel industry lobbyists shortly after he introduced the bill. On March 6, 2019, Hoagland met with Andrew Huffman, a lobbyist for Koch Companies Public Sector, Duke Energy, and the Ohio Coal Association “to discuss transportation budget and critical infrastructure.” On March 12, 2019, he met with Ohio Farm Bureau and Duke Energy lobbyists to “discuss critical infrastructure.” The American Petroleum Institute (API) Ohio Executive Director and two associate directors also met with Hoagland on March 12, 2019 to discuss SB 33. 

Records obtained by Documented show that prior to the Senate vote, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce sent out a “Key Vote Alert” urging Senators to vote in favor of the measure. In 2019, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce members included numerous energy and fossil fuel corporations, including Marathon Petroleum, TransCanada, Energy Transfer Partners, Dominion East Ohio, Columbia Gas of Ohio, American Electric Power Ohio, FirstEnergy Corp, BP America, Georgia Pacific Corp./Koch Companies Public Sector, and Spectra Energy (note Spectra merged with Enbridge in 2017), TransCanada.

Photograph of the Stop Dakota Access Pipeline protest by Peg Hunter, used under Creative Commons license.

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