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TX Pushes Pipeline Damage Bill

Thursday, May 23, 2019

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Pipeline protesters could face up to 10 years in prison if they damage the oil or gas infrastructure or otherwise interrupt operations, according to a bill that recently passed both chambers of Texas legislature. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall.

According to the Bloomberg, under the new bill, infrastructure damage and delaying pipeline construction count as a third-degree felony, which carries the possibility of two to 10 years of incarceration, a sentence that is on par with drive-by shooters who miss their target.

Texas Pipeline Bill

The measure passed the state’s House on May 7, followed by the Senate’s approval on Monday (May 20). The Texas Oil & Gas Association voiced its approval of the bill, citing that the motion facilitates better protection against “intentional damage” for property owners and pipeline companies.

Republicans have noted that the bill, yet to be titled, would not place restrictions on legal protests. Instead, the measure emphasizes deterring people from damaging property that is considered critical infrastructure. Those that interrupt operations could be subject to a misdemeanor with a fine up to $10,000, and possibly up to one year in jail.

Environmental groups have voiced criticism over the measure, however, dubbing it an assault on free speech. Cyrus Reed, interim director for the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter, told Bloomberg in an email that the bill was not about security and safety. "It was about silencing protesters trying to protect their water and land."

Gov. Greg Abbott has yet to sign the bill. If he does, the measure will become law.

“It appears that under this law, something as small as breaking a zip tie could result in felony charges punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $100,000 in fines,” said environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, which has voiced its opposition to the bill.

In a similar move earlier this year, South Dakota pushed legislation that would allow the state to request funding from pipeline companies to deal with protest-related costs.


Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Program/Project Management

Comment from Richard Doyle, (5/23/2019, 7:25 AM)

Great!!! People can still protest however destruction of property is a crime and should be treated as such.

Comment from Mark Anater, (5/23/2019, 8:33 AM)

Why did Texas feel the need to have a special law protecting pipelines? Existing laws against vandalism, trespassing and theft ought to be enough. Civil lawsuits also are available as a tool to keep would-be protesters at bay. This is yet another example of governments imposing severe penalties on individuals who harm corporate interests.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (5/24/2019, 11:32 AM)

How this law would be applied is something to watch, but I can understand, at least in part, why it is being proposed. Up here, with recent pipeline unrest, there have been large numbers of people willing to break the law and ignore court orders to protest. Many of these individuals are backed by deep pocketed if the the protesters are fined for a petty offense (vandalism or trespassing), it doesn't really cost them. They might have an overnight stay in a jail, but that's about it for flaunting the rule of law as some of these organizations provide "support" for their protesters who have been arrested (read: they pay the fine for the individual). Civil suits don't generally have the ability to stop the petty crime side or illegal actions (that's for the police and criminal courts to deal with) and is intended as a redress for damage after the fact...and again, if the organization has deep pockets, it becomes a rather inexpensive way to get publicity. I'm not against protests / protestors or even the organizations behind them....but, if you want to flaunt the law and/or openly break it, there needs to be real, meaningful consequences. Now before anyone accuses me of having an axe to grind on this particular topic, please note I've said almost the same thing about recalcitrant employers and those doing the "corporate shuffle" when it comes to OH&S regs...give the punishment the teeth it needs to encourage compliance, because a slap on the wrist or having easy ways to get around it does nothing for compliance.

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