PENNSYLVANIA - Oil & Gas "Critical Infrastructure" Anti-Protest Bills

  • Posted on: 18 February 2019
  • By: Connor Gibson

Updated October 18, 2019. 

See Full Report: State Bills to Criminalize Peaceful Protest of Oil & Gas "Critical Infrastructure"

2019 SB 887:

  • Introduced October 8, 2019. Referred to Senate Judiciary committee.

ICNL analysis:

Would heighten potential penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other critical infrastructure by creating a new offense of "critical infrastructure facility trespass.” According to the bill, entering or merely attempting to enter property containing a critical infrastructure facility, without permission of the property owner, would be a third degree felony punishable by up to one year in prison; remaining at the facility after being ordered to leave would be a second degree felony, likewise punishable by up to one year in prison. Entering a critical infrastructure facility with the intent to “damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, tamper with equipment or impede or inhibit operations of the facility,” would be a second degree felony punishable by imprisonment for up to one year. It would also be a second degree felony, subject to one year’s imprisonment, to “conspire[] with another person to commit” any of the above offences. An individual who commits any of the offenses a second time would face penalties of the next felony degree. The law newly defines “critical infrastructure facility” under Pennsylvania law to include a broad range of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities, such as gas and oil pipelines “buried or above ground.” The definition of “critical infrastructure facility” applies to facilities “constructed or under construction,” and includes “equipment and machinery, regardless of whether stored on location or at a storage yard, to the extent that it is used to construct a critical infrastructure facility.”

ALEC legislators:

2018 SB 652:

  • On January 17, 2019: Pennsylvania state Senator Michael Regan announced he will reintroduce SB 652 in the 2019 legislative session.
  • Died in Committee after legislative session ended.
  • Referred to House Environmental Resources & Energy committee on June 13, 2018
  • Approved by the PA Senate on May 23, 2018
  • Introduced on April 25, 2017

ICNL analysis:

Would heighten potential penalties for protests around critical infrastructure such as gas and oil pipelines by providing for the crime of "criminal trespass” onto a critical infrastructure facility. Under the bill, it is a felony to enter a critical infrastructure facility "with the intent to willfully damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, tamper with equipment or impede or inhibit the operations of the facility." The bill broadly defines “critical infrastructure facility” to include natural gas facilities and pipelines, "whether constructed or under construction," as well as "equipment and machinery, regardless of location, to the extent that it is used to construct, maintain, or operate a critical infrastructure facility." Other facilities considered critical infrastructure include cell phone towers, telephone poles, and railroad tracks that are fenced off or posted as no-entry areas. Under the bill, entering such an area with the intent to cause damage or disruption is a second-degree felony. An individual who "conspires" to do so commits a first-degree felony. 

The bill was substantially amended on 25 September 2018, including to significantly expand the definition of "critical infrastructure facility."

ALEC legislators:

CSG legislators:

  • 6 of 13 sponsors are confirmed affiliates of the Council of State Governments:

    • Sen. Mike (not “Mick”) Regan participated in the 2015 Eastern Leadership Academy by the CSG Eastern Regional Conference (CSG-ERC)

    • Sen. John Rafferty attended a CSG-ERC training in 2005

    • Sen. Pat Stefano was on the CSG-ERC Energy & Environment Committee in 2015-2016.

    • Sen. Camera Bartolotta was on the CSG-ERC Energy & Environment Committee in 2015-2016.

    • Sen. Bob Mensh was on the CSG-ERC Health Committee in 2013-2014

    • Sen. Elder Vogel was on the CSG-ERC Agriculture & Rural Development Committee in 2015-2016. Vogel attended a CSG-ERC training in 2010

Lobbying by PA pipeline companies:

$37.7 million is the grand total of lobbying expenditures disclosed to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State by the companies and organizations with financial interest in the Mariner East, PennEast, and Atlantic Sunrise pipeline projects. See PoluterWatch investigation for more details: Pennsylvania Pipeline Companies Spent $37.7 million Lobbying PA Government

Oil & Gas Campaign Contributions:

Co-sponsors of SB 652 have received $546,545 from oil & gas industry companies and executives.

Media Reports & References:

Will Bunch, The world’s on fire from climate change. Pa. lawmakers want to make it a lot harder to protest, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 17, 2019

David E. Hess, Senate Bill Creates Higher Penalties For Trespass Involving Pipelines, Critical Infrastructure; Companion To Bill Making Protesters Responsible For Response Costs, PA Environment DIgest blog, October 8, 2019

Connor Gibson, Pennsylvania Pipeline Companies Spent $37.7 Million Lobbying PA Government, PolluterWatch / Greenpeace USA, October 17, 2018

Derek Seidman and Gin Armstrong, How to Research the Corporate Forces Behind Pipeline Protest Criminalization, LittleSis, September 27, 2018

Sam Janesch, Protesters could pay for emergency response costs under new bill from Sen. Scott Martin, Lancaster Online, August 20, 2017

Alleen Brown, Will Parrish and Alice Speri, Dakota Access-Style Policing Moves to Pennsylvannia's Mariner East 2 Pipeline, The Intercept, June 21, 2017

Alleen Brown, Huge Pipeline Company Kinder Morgan Hired Off-Duty Cops to "Deter Protests" in Pennsylvania, The Intercept, May 26, 2015