The Environmental Resources and Energy Committee of the Pennsylvania House will vote tomorrow, September 25th, on SB652, which institutes severe penalties for protesting (or even supporting a protest online) of “critical infrastructure” properties, including pipelines. This bill has already passed in the Pennsylvania Senate.
The Green Party of Pennsylvania joins the Pennsylvania Sierra Club and the Pennsylvania ACLU in voicing strong opposition to SB652. This bill creates a new category that classifies 21 different types of facilities as “critical infrastructure” facilities and imposes severe penalties for anyone who enters or attempts to enter the property or “conspires with another person to commit a prohibited act.” A first offense would result in a felony offense which would be punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of not less than $5,000.
Some of the properties classified as critical infrastructure facilities include dams, refineries, manufacturing plants, power plants, truck terminals, and pipelines. Pipelines are counted whether they are above or below ground and at any stage of construction, or even just as an easement, prior to beginning construction. The entire bill can be downloaded here.
This bill is redundant in that there are already strict penalties for people who are convicted of trespassing or destruction of property in general. It is clear by the frequency in which pipelines are mentioned, that this bill is a blatant attempt to suppress peaceful, free-speech protests against pipelines and stifle online opposition through prosecution of supporters as co-conspirators, subjecting them to the same penalties for simply sharing information. The bill is in the same language as other ALEC bills (American Legislative Exchange Council), written for the corporations that authored it. It is not meant to protect our "critical infrastructure" but rather to protect corporate profits.
What you can do:
Contact representatives on the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee as early as possible on Tuesday morning, September 25th to let them know you oppose this bill and believe it is an attempt to take away your 1st Amendment right to speak out against pipelines. Contact information for Committee members can be found here.
Watch for results of the Committee vote and be ready to contact your legislators if the Bill moves forward to a full House vote.