Extremist group Appalachians Against Pipelines is fundraising to support continued dangerous and illegal activities at pipeline construction sites, based on a man illegally chaining himself to equipment working on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Such extreme protest tactics can risk damaging heavy machinery, in turn posing a risk to workers in addition to protesters themselves.
This is precisely the type of dangerous activity that prompted states across the country to enact legislation to increase penalties for illegal acts – including violent acts, tampering and trespassing like at the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. These are not first amendment protests; they put workers at risk.
Extremists like to pretend that these laws and proposals are aimed at chilling First Amendment rights to speech and assembly. But as we see at the Mountain Valley Pipeline, they are aimed at preventing dangerous and illegal acts that put protesters and workers in jeopardy.
Earlier this month, the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed new legislation to protect pipelines and pipeline construction projects from violent protests and dangerous trespessing and tampering.
“PHMSA maintains serious safety concerns with individuals who intentionally tamper with or damage pipeline facilities, as well as concerns with respect to the safety of the actual individuals who are engaging in this conduct,” the PHMSA said. “This proposal is not meant in any way to inhibit lawful protesters from exercising their First Amendment rights, and PHMSA is committed to working with Congress to make sure that this is clear in any final legislation.”