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

  • Posted on: 25 March 2019
  • By: Connor Gibson

Updated December 9, 2019. 

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

2019 TX HB 3557

  • Law takes effect on September 1, 2019.
  • Signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 14, 2019.
  • Passed House on May 7, passed Senate on May 20, 2019.
  • Filed on March 6, 2019.

ICNL Analysis:

Creates new criminal sanctions and expansive civil liability for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The law provides for four new criminal offenses. One, "impairing or interrupting operation of critical infrastructure facility," is defined as entering or remaining on facility property and intentionally or knowingly "impair[ing] or interrupt[ing] the operation of" the facility. The act is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. This provision could target peaceful protests that, e.g., hinder access to pipelines or pipeline construction sites. A second offense, "intent to impair or interrupt critical infrastructure," is defined as entering or remaining on facility property "with the intent to impair or interrupt the operation of the facility." The act is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. This provision could capture peaceful protests that take place near a pipeline or other infrastructure facility, regardless of whether they actually impair or interrupt the facility's operations. The law also creates two new felony offenses for "damage" and "intent to damage" critical infrastructure. Under the law, an association that is found guilty of any of the offenses around critical infrastructure is subject to a $500,000 fine. The law also creates new civil and vicarious liability for individuals and organizations related to the criminal offenses: A defendant who engages in conduct covered by any of the criminal offenses is civilly liable to the property owner, as is an organization that “knowingly compensates" a person for engaging in the conduct. The property owner may sue for and claim actual damages, court costs, and exemplary damages.

ALEC Legislators:

Oil & Gas Lobbying:

According to witness slips filed for Texas Senate and House committee hearings on HB 3557 (reported by Grist), the following companies formally supported the bill. 

These companies and trade associations gave a combined $100,051 to the three co-sponsors of HB 3557, from 2010-2018.

Companies marked with * testified before the legislature.

  • Anadarko Petroleum
  • Association of Electric Companies of Texas
    • member companies include CenterPoint, Entergy, Exelon, NextEra, NRG, Reliant, Xcel, and subsidiaries of American Electric Power and Vistra Energy (formerly Energy Future Holdings)
  • BNSF Railway (subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway)*
  • CenterPoint Energy
  • Cheniere Energy
  • Chevron
  • Concho Resources
  • DCP Midstream
  • Dow Chemical
  • EOG Energy
  • Enbridge
  • ExxonMobil
  • Husch Blackwell Strategies
  • Koch Industries
  • Magellan Midstream Partners
  • NuStar Energy
  • Occidental Petroleum
  • Parsley Energy
  • Permian Basin Petroleum Association
  • Phillips66*
  • Plains All American Pipeline
  • Shell Oil
  • SM Energy
  • Texas Alliance of Energy Producers
  • Texas Association of Builders
  • Texas Association of Business
  • Texas Association of Dairymen
  • Texas Association of Manufacturers
  • Texas Chemical Council*
  • Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association
    • Board of directors includes executives from Encana, EOG Resources, and Occidental.
  • Texas Oil & Gas Association*
    • Board of directors includes executives from Anadarko, BP, Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Citgo, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Encana, EOG Resources, ExxonMobil (XTO Energy), Marathon Petroleum, Noble Energy, Occidental, Shell, and Valero.
  • Texas Pipeline Association*
    • Member companies include Anadarko, CenterPoint Energy, Cheniere Energy, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Enbridge, Energy Transfer Partners, Kinder Morgan, Koch Industries (Flint Hills Resources), Magellan Midstream, NextEra Energy, OneOK, Phillips66, and Williams Companies.
  • Texas Poultry Federation
  • Texas Public Power Association
  • Texas Railroad Association
  • Valero Energy*

2019 TX SB 1993

  • Replaced by HB 3557 (above).
  • Died in committee on March 27, 2019.
  • Filed on March 7, 2019.
  • Referred to Senate Natural Resource and Economic Development Committee on March 19, 2019.

ICNL Analysis:

Would create harsh new criminal sanctions and expansive civil liability for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill provides for two new offenses: "damage to critical infrastructure," defined to include actual damage or "intentionally or knowingly impeding, inhibiting, or interfering with the operation of" an infrastructure facility. This provision could target protests that, e.g., peacefully hinder access to pipelines or pipeline construction sites. Under the bill, “damage to critical infrastructure” is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A second offense, "intent to damage critical infrastructure," is defined as entering onto infrastructure facility with intent to commit "damage," as defined above. This provision could capture peaceful protests that take place near a pipeline or other infrastructure facility regardless of whether they actually impede, inhibit, or interfere with the facility. The offense of “intent to damage critical infrastructure” is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The bill would make an organization that is found guilty of damage to or intent to damage critical infrastructure subject to a $1,000,000 fine. The bill creates new civil and vicarious liability for individuals and organizations related to the criminal offenses, as well. A defendant who engages in either damage or intent to damage critical infrastructure is civilly liable to the property owner, as is an organization that “compensates" a person for engaging in damage or intent to damage critical infrastructure. For both individuals and organizations, the property owner may sue for and claim actual damages, court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, and exemplary damages. The bill expands the definition of "critical infrastructure facility" to include a "facility that is being constructed and all of the equipment and appurtenances used during that construction."

ALEC Legislators:

2019 TX SB 2229

  • Died in committee, folded into SB 1993 and HB 3557 (above)
  • Referred to Senate Resource and Economic Development Committee on March 21, 2019.
  • Filed on March 8, 2019.

ICNL Analysis:

Would revise criminal trespass and mischief law in Texas such that individuals and organizations involved in protests on infrastructure sites could be subject to harsh new penalties. The bill would create a new offense of trespass on critical infrastructure “with the intent to either damage, destroy, deface or tamper with” or the intent to “impede or inhibit the operations” of a facility. Accordingly, protesters who sought to peacefully demonstrate on a posted infrastructure facility such as a pipeline, with the intent to disrupt its operations, could be prosecuted. The offense would be a state jail felony punishable by one year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The bill would also newly criminalize critical infrastructure mischief, defined to include defacing an infrastructure facility, and make it a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Under the bill, an organization found guilty of either offense would be subject to a fine of ten times the maximum fine imposed on an individual--i.e., $100,000 for trespass, and $1,000,000 for mischief. The bill would expand the current definition of “critical infrastructure” under Texas law to include not only facilities that are completely enclosed by fencing but also property that is posted with signs that are "reasonably likely" to be seen.

ALEC Legislators:

Media Reports & References

Tom Dart, Why Texas’s fossil fuel support will ‘spell disaster’ for climate crisis, The Guardian, December 7, 2019

Jim Hightower, Who’s behind suppression of right to protest?, Muskogee Phoenix, September 26, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, Why Greenpeace activists dangled from a bridge in Texas — and face 2 years in prison, Grist, September 18, 2019

Delilah Friedler, A Judge Just Blocked South Dakota’s “Riot-Boosting” Law, But Anti-Protest Measures Keep Spreading, Mother Jones, September 18, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, Mess with a Texas pipeline now and you could end up a felon, Grist, June 17, 2019

Candice Bernd, Despite Attempts to Soften Penalties, Texas Legislature Passes Bill to Charge Pipeline Protesters with Felonies, Texas Observer, May 27, 2019

Nick Cunningham, Permian Pipeline Protesters May Face Decade Behind Bars, Oil Price, May 21, 2019

Rachel Adams-Heard, Texas pipeline protesters face 10 years in prison under proposal, Houston Chronicle, May 21, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, Texans could get a year in prison for protesting pipelines on their own land, Grist, May 21, 2019

Jack Johnson, Outrage as Texas Senate Passes 'Unconstitutional' Bill That Would Hit Pipeline Protestors With Up to 10 Years in Prison, Common Dreams, May 21, 2019

Mike Lee, Texas looks to pass ALEC-backed protest bill, E&E Publishing EnergyWire, May 16, 2019

Clarice Silber, Texas lawmakers may stiffen penalties for pipeline damage, AP News, May 15, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, After Standing Rock, protesting pipelines can get you a decade in prison and $100K in fines, Grist, May 14, 2019

Frank Hopper, ‘Kill the bill! Save the land!’ Native protectors disrupt Texas legislature, Indian Country Today, May 10, 2019

Asher Price, House backs stiffer penalties for those who damage pipelines, Austin Statesman, May 7, 2019

Candice Bernd, Pipeline Protesters Could Face 10 Years in Prison Under Bill OK’d by Texas House, Texas Observer, May 1, 2019

Video from V&M Productions on Vimeo.

Industry: