By Bill McKibben
Nineteen-seventy was a simpler time. (February was a simpler time too, but for a moment let's think outside the pandemic bubble.)
Simpler because our environmental troubles could be easily seen. The air above our cities was filthy, and the water in our lakes and streams was gross. There was nothing subtle about it. In New York City, the environmental lawyer Albert Butzel described a permanently yellow horizon: "I not only saw the pollution, I wiped it off my windowsills."
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Update, April 20: This article has been updated to include the fact that the final Kentucky bill was amended to narrow the scope of the new penalties.
In just two weeks, three states have passed laws criminalizing protests against fossil fuel infrastructure.
Kentucky<p>The Kentucky <a href="https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/20rs/hb44.html" target="_blank">law</a>, signed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear March 16, designates "natural gas or petroleum pipelines" as "key infrastructure assets." The area designated as key infrastructure is not limited to areas that have been fenced off or marked with "no entry" signs. The law creates a new felony offense for "tamper[ing] with the operations of a key infrastructure asset... in a manner that renders the operations harmful or dangerous." The final Kentucky bill was amended to <a href="http://kyconservation.org/2020-house-bills/" target="_blank">narrow</a> the scope of the new penalties from targeting "impeding" or "interfering" with a pipeline to focus only on "tampering." It also got rid of liability for groups or people who funded pipeline tampering and restricted it to those who intentionally caused it.</p>
South Dakota<p>South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed two laws this month that could have a chilling effect on protests, according to HuffPost. The <a href="https://mylrc.sdlegislature.gov/api/Documents/69887.pdf" target="_blank">first</a>, 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 <a href="https://mylrc.sdlegislature.gov/api/Documents/69658.pdf" target="_blank">second</a>, 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.</p>
West Virginia<p>The <a href="https://legiscan.com/WV/text/HB4615/2020" target="_blank">West Virginia law</a>, 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.</p><p>These bills are not the last on the horizon, according to HuffPost. Another passed the Alabama Senate in March, and similar legislation has been introduced in Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio and Pennsylvania.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Nearly four years after massive protests drew worldwide attention to the struggle of indigenous peoples to protect their land from fossil fuel projects, a federal judge has ordered a full environmental review of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
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Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has restricted the ability to gather in peaceful assembly, a Canadian company has moved forward with construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, according to the AP.
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The Canadian company Enbridge is moving forward with plans to build a $500 million oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, which runs between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. The oil transportation company said it would go ahead with plans despite an ongoing lawsuit with Michigan, according to Kallanish Energy.
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More than 300 people were forced to evacuate and 46 were sent to the hospital after a gas pipeline ruptured in Mississippi Saturday.
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Anti-pipeline protests have shut down major rail networks across Canada as indigenous rights and environmental activists act in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people of British Columbia, who are fighting to keep a natural gas pipeline off their land.
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Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system
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The company behind the controversial and long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline announced it would proceed with the project Tuesday, despite concerns about the climate impacts of the pipeline and the dangers of transporting construction crews during a pandemic.
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The Federal Court of Appeals in Canada ruled against its First Nations tribes in a unanimous decision, allowing expansion of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline to proceed. The expansion will triple the amount of oil flowing from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific coast in British Columbia, as the AP reported.
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By Jake Johnson
The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day—coming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
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