If you live in a state with any type of oil, gas, pipeline, PAY ATTENTION! In fact, if we start seeing bills like the one before the Ohio legislature it doesn’t even have to be an oil/gas producing state. The Ohio bill lists 73 different “Critical Infrastructures”.
Below you will see a letter to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine from citizens of Ohio asking for him to veto SB 33 if it comes to his desk. The letter will help you understand what is going on in many states.
To Ohio Governor Mike DeWine:
The undersigned environmental justice, racial justice, civil justice, criminal justice, and other civil society groups and individuals urge you to veto Ohio Senate Bill 33 (SB 33). The bill would undermine and silence already marginalized voices. SB 33 is an unnecessary proposal that creates new draconian penalties for conduct already covered by existing criminal statutes and could have dire unintended consequences. SB 33 is part of a national trend of so-called “critical infrastructure” legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that is intended to neutralize citizen activism around oil and gas infrastructures. We urge you to oppose SB 33.
Critical infrastructure bills disproportionately affect some of the most underrepresented communities, criminalizing their right to protest. These bills target many already marginalized voices, in reaction to some of the most high-profile protests in recent history. Communities of color, low-wealth communities and our Native American population are most affected by unchecked environmental pollution; family farms have the most to lose by unfair land-grabs for large infrastructure projects. These communities have a right to peacefully resist environmentally unsafe and unjust policies and unchecked corporate abuse.
SB 33 is purportedly designed to protect critical infrastructure, but the definition of “critical infrastructure” is overly broad and would cover large swaths of the state in urban, suburban, and rural areas, creating the unintended consequence of ensnaring many in Ohio’s already overburdened criminal justice system.
Additionally, the bill does not distinguish between criminal damages of one dollar or a million dollars. At a time when many people, including lawmakers, have recognized the deleterious effects that mass incarceration has had on society and have attempted to rectify laws that have criminalized certain conduct or imposed unreasonable penalties, SB 33 is a giant step backwards. By creating a whole new class of nonviolent offenders who could serve serious prison time, it is antithetical to criminal justice reform.
Environmental advocacy, including civil disobedience, does not threaten physical infrastructure or safety. It threatens profits. Critical infrastructure bills are based on model legislation crafted by corporate interests to establish special protections for some private industries engaged in controversial practices that attract opposition and protest. These bills, including SB 33, are rooted in governments hostile attitudes toward environmental justice advocacy because it threatens the profits of these corporations. Whenever states enact legislation based on these hostile attitudes towards particular political speech, it has a chilling effect that will be felt widely.
We urge you to veto SB 33 if and when it comes across your desk. From a criminal justice reform perspective, this bill is damaging, as it creates new steep penalties for conduct that is already covered under existing criminal law. These new steep penalties and special protections for so-called critical infrastructure are rooted in animus towards anti-pipeline protesters. It is inappropriate for states to seek to legislate in order to penalize individuals for their First Amendment-protected points of view.