Mississippi Set To Become The 13th State To Criminalize Fossil Fuel Protests
A chevron refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi. (Photo: Jonathan Bachman / Reuters)
Mississippi is on the verge of becoming the 13th state to impose new penalties for protests against fossil fuel infrastructure in the past three years.
A bill that approved state law earlier this week makes knowingly entering land that contains oil, gas, or petrochemical pipelines or tanks an offense involving up to six months in jail and one A fine of $ 1,000 may be imposed.
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Individuals who cause damage or loss totaling more than $ 1,000; For example, by ceasing production at a refinery or stopping fuel flow through a pipeline, criminal offenses can result in up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $ 10,000.
The bill also threatens any "organization that supports, supports, requests, compensates, employs, conspires with, commits or procures to commit the crime of disabling critical infrastructure," with fines of up to $ 100,000 and civil actions by Companies to "compensate" for lost profits regardless of whether or not a fine is imposed. "
The law was passed in the Magnolia State House of Representatives between 67 and 47 in March, shortly before quarantine arrangements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic delayed the legislative period. The Senate voted 43 to 9 on Monday for approval.
Governor Tate Reeves (R) did not respond to a request for comment, but is expected to include legislation in the law.
President Donald Trump stands next to Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R). (Photo: Leah Millis / Reuters)
The measure, which complies with the laws passed by 12 other states since the end of 2017, marks locations for fossil fuels as "critical infrastructure" and increases the penalties for protests that take place near them. According to Greenpeace's International Center for Nonprofit Law and Data, it would be the youngest of several to become law since the COVID-19 crisis began in March.
Kentucky, South Dakota and West Virginia passed the law in March. A similar measure was pushed ahead in Alabama, but lawmakers couldn't send it to the governor before the end of his session. Louisiana, which already has a critical infrastructure law on its books, passed new draconian measures in late May that would have required three years of minimum hard work penalties for peaceful entry into fossil fuels in a state of emergency. The governor vetoed the bill last week.
The laws emerged in state legislation after the protests ended to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under a sacred water source in the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Hundreds of indigenous activists and environmentalists have been injured as a result of months of conflict with militarized security forces.
After the Trump administration accelerated the project to completion, the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) began buying a sample bill to increase fines for participating in similar demonstrations to cool future protests.
"Legislators in many states continue to spoil large polluters over voters, under the double coverage of COVID-19 and a nationwide uprising against a deadly racist police system," said Connor Gibson, a senior researcher at Greenpeace who is tracking anti-protest bills . said HuffPost. "Instead of protecting the lives and freedom of black people or the needs of people who have lost their jobs, politicians are helping the interests of fossil fuels to undermine the fundamental right to protest."
The industry asks and receives
While ALEC contributed to the promotion of bills, the oil and gas industry used its large network of influence to ensure its passage. This was the case in Mississippi.
Last year, American fuel and petrochemical manufacturers, a refinery trading group, hired Mississippi's well-known lobbyist Joe Sims to help legislate. This emerges from an email published by the monitoring group Documented. Sims said he was working "on laws to provide a definition of" critical infrastructure "and to provide criminal sanctions for those who deliberately and illegally intrude, disrupt, destroy, etc., on such facilities."
On February 12 this year, Sims took four Republican lawmakers - Becky Currie, Jansen Owen, Hank Zuber, and Rob Roberson - with them to a meal in an upscale steakhouse, as published by Gibson of Greenpeace. Three of these legislators - Owen, Roberson and Zuber - are members of the House Committee, where the current version of the bill was introduced five days after dinner. The trio voted to remove the bill from the committee less than a month later. And together with Currie, they supported the final passage.
Mississippi's disclosure does not indicate the legislation that companies are committed to. The fossil fuels that Gibson analyzed in 2019 and 2020 were active in the state include the petrochemical giant Koch Industries, the Mississippi Power Division of the Southern Company utility, the pipe supplier Plains All-American Pipeline, and the oil giant Chevron Corporation.
This article has been updated to reflect an additional law passed in Iowa in 2018 that was not on the ICNL list.
Another state is tacitly trying to criminalize protests against fossil fuels amid the corona virus
The Louisiana bill would require a minimum 3-year penalty for entering fossil fuel sites
States have introduced 54 new restrictions on peaceful protests since Ferguson
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