Texas lawmakers are considering a bill that would reinforce penalties for damaging or trespassing around oil and gas operations. This effort comes after states around the country have introduced similar measures. This bill is considered despite the opposition from environmental groups who say it would quell peaceful protests and overly criminalize offenses.
Trespassing, damaging or destroying the facility, or impairing or interrupting oil and gas operations will be considered a third degree felony with between two and up to ten years in prison. Also a fine of up to $500,000 under another provision in the bill is also considering if organizations found guilty of breaking the law.
Gas lobbyists and environmental activists went head-to-head over the bill at a public hearing on Wednesday at the Texas capital. Both groups clashed on whether the bill would suppress Texans' right to legally protest pipeline projects and over its necessity.
Demonstrations such as those in North Dakota against the Dakota Access oil pipeline resulted in hundreds of arrests and cost the state $38 million. Republican state Rep. Chris Paddie of Marshall who is sponsoring the bill wanted to classify any oil or gas pipelines as critical infrastructure, placing them in the same category as power plants and water treatment facilities.