Quantcast

Texas Bill Would Make Protesting Pipelines a Felony on Par With Attempted Murder

Politics
Activists in North Dakota confront pipeline construction activities. A Texas bill would impose steep penalties for such protests. Speak Freely / ACLU

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.

The legislation is "is criminalizing conscientious, caring people who are the canaries for their communities," activist Lori Glover told the Texas Observer.

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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A Greenpeace rally to call for a presidential climate debate, in front of the DNC headquarters in Washington, DC on June 12. Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

Confronting the climate crisis is the No. 1 issue for 96 percent of Democratic voters, but it clocked only around seven minutes of airtime at the first Democratic Presidential debate Wednesday, Vox reported.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

Earlier this month, a study found that the U.S. had more capacity installed for renewable energy than coal for the first time.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
Waterloo Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London. Martin Hearn / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Money talks. And today it had something to say about the impending global climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Sam Cooper

By Sam Cooper

Thomas Edison once said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A NOAA research vessel at a Taylor Energy production site in the Gulf of Mexico in September 2018. NOAA

The federal government is looking into the details from the longest running oil spill in U.S. history, and it's looking far worse than the oil rig owner let on, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Damage at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from the 2016 occupation. USFWS

By Tara Lohan

When armed militants with a grudge against the federal government seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon back in the winter of 2016, I remember avoiding the news coverage. Part of me wanted to know what was happening, but each report I read — as the occupation stretched from days to weeks and the destruction grew — made me so angry it was hard to keep reading.

Read More Show Less