Texas Bill Would Make Protesting Pipelines a Felony on Par With Attempted Murder
By Eoin Higgins
A bill making its way through the Texas legislature would make protesting pipelines a third-degree felony, the same as attempted murder.
H.B. 3557, which is under consideration in the state Senate after passing the state House earlier this month, ups penalties for interfering in energy infrastructure construction by making the protests a felony. Sentences would range from two to 10 years.
The legislation was authored by Republican state Rep. Chris Paddie. It passed the state House May 7 on a 99 to 45 vote, with two abstentions. The bill is being cosponsored in the state Senate by Republican state Sen. Pat Fallon.
In remarks on the state House floor during the bill's passage, Paddie sought to assuage the fears of those who believe the legislation will target non-violent protest.
"This bill does not affect those who choose to peacefully protest for any reason," said Paddie. "It attaches liability to those who potentially damage or destroy critical infrastructure facilities."
But opponents of the measure don't agree, pointing to the bill's language.
"It's an anti-protest bill, favoring the fossil fuel industry, favoring corporations over people," Frankie Orona, executive director of the Society of Native Nations, told the Austin American-Statesman.
A hearing on the law in the state Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development on Wednesday drew opponents of the measure to speak out against the law, but it's unclear if their testimony will make a difference.
The Texas bill is just the latest piece of legislation at the state level to target pipeline protests. In the wake of a spike in anti-pipeline actions over the past few years, Grist reported Tuesday, a number of states have come down on environmental activists.
The effort to punish pipeline protestors has spread across states with ample oil and gas reserves in the last two years and, in some cases, has garnered bipartisan support. Besides Louisiana, four other states — Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa — have enacted similar laws after protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline generated national attention and inspired a wave of civil disobedience.
The bill is drawing national attention as well.
"Texas aims to make pipeline protest a third-degree felony, same as attempted murder," climate activist Bill McKibben tweeted on Friday.
In a tweet, the advocacy group Public Citizen described the legislation as "an oil and gas backed effort to squash environmental protest."
"This needs to be a nation-wide story," the group said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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