Ohio Bill Would Target Pipeline Protests

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Ohio Bill Would Target Pipeline Protests
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A proposed Ohio bill, introduced in the Senate by Frank Hoagland, mirrors attempts in seven other states to target pipeline protestors. Ohio, of course, is home to both the Nexus and Rover pipelines, which have faced stiff opposition from residents and which have already produced damaging environmental effects.

Hoagland, a Republican representing District 30, is on the Ohio Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In announcing the bill during the last week of January, a release from Hoagland's office claimed “a number of reports of tampering with valves and controls at pipeline facilities that can create extremely dangerous situations.”

Senate Bill 250 — short title: Protect critical infrastructure facilities from mischief — would "prohibit criminal mischief, criminal trespass, and aggravated trespass on a critical infrastructure facility," and "impose fines for organizations that are complicit in those offenses, and impose civil liability for damage caused by trespass on a critical infrastructure facility." If that all sounds like an attempt to deter protestors, and possibly unduly punish those that protest anyway, you're not alone. Following Trump's election and protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline, lawmakers are keen on tamping down the opposition.

Also, as The Intercept notes:

The bills were proposed less than a week after the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, which has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, finalized a model policy titled the “Critical Infrastructure Protection Act,” which calls for more severe punishment for those who trespass on facilities including oil pipelines, petroleum refineries, liquid natural gas terminals, and railroads used to transport oil and gas.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company that owns the Rover pipeline, was part of the group that crafted a similar bill in Iowa.

As for the language in Ohio's version, it hues closely to ALEC's model and language, particularly the motivation to crystalize and harden penalties after reports of tampered valves. (Worth noting, suspects who've attempted to turn off pipelines are already facing felony charges in various states.)

Some of the nuts and bolts:

- Maximum days in jail for trespassing on critical infrastructure property would increase from 30 to 180. Fines would be raised to $1,000. More, from The Intercept: "While Ohio’s aggravated trespassing law currently only applies to individuals trespassing with plans to harm or threaten another person, the bill would make a new crime out of trespassing with intent to impede a critical infrastructure facility’s operation. Violators would face sentences of nine months to three years and up to $10,000 in fines, even if they ultimately did no damage."

- The laws would also apply to drone pilots.

- Tampering with or damaging critical infrastructure would carry a first-degree felony charge with between three and 11 years in prison and an additional $20,000 fine.

- As for the vague "those found guilty of complicity," penalties would be even harsher than for offenders when it comes to fines, to the tune of ten times more.

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