'New laws introducing harsher penalties against protesters who target “critical infrastructure” such as oil and gas pipelines are now pending in half a dozen states in the US.
The legislation is aimed at deterring protests similar to the one that delayed operations at the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota in 2016.
Bills have been ushered through state legislatures in Minnesota and Louisiana, states that host parts of the Bakken system, a underground network of pipelines which includes the DAPL and the Energy Transfer Crude Oil system which links oil fields in North Dakota and the Mexican Gulf Coast. The laws ban protesters from trespassing into territories through which “critical” oil and gas pipelines run.
Legislation recently introduced in Minnesota carries a penalty of up to one year in prison for those found guilty of recruiting, training, aiding, advising, or conspiring with trespassers. The penalty can be increased to 10 years if the trespasser intends to “substantially disrupt” the facility.
Critics worry that the wording could be applied to peaceful protests blocking access to all kinds of infrastructure. The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law warned that, under the Minnesota law, critical infrastructure could include bus stations and bridges – effectively giving authorities carte blanche to crack down on peaceful protesters.
In Louisiana, lawmakers went further. According to a bill passed in the state’s legislature this week, people trespassing in territory containing critical infrastructure could face up to five years in prison. If it is thought the intention is to commit criminal damage, trespassers could face as many as 20 years.'
Read more: DAPL-style protesters could face jail under new 'critical infrastructure' protection laws
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