CLAIM: Environmental critics of Ohio legislation designed to prevent protesters from damaging critical infrastructure projects claim the bill is actually aimed at ending protests and curbing free speech.
Randy Cunningham with the Cleveland Environmental Action Network says it is similar to legislation in other states backed by the oil and gas industry after the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
“They have applied it to virtually everything you can think of: railroads, refineries, pipelines, injection wells,” says Cunningham. “The goal of it is to chill the conversation, to chill dissent.”
The language in Senate Bill 33 is clearly aimed at those who “willfully cause damage to the critical infrastructure facility” or those who “compensate a person for causing damage to a critical infrastructure facility.”
The Ohio legislation does nothing to infringe upon constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and assembly. Activists remain free to protest so long as they don’t trespass or cause damage to critical infrastructure projects – including pipelines, rail lines, refineries, water facilities and more.
These laws are needed because of illegal and dangerous activities at pipeline projects across the country. Protesters have caused significant damage to pipeline projects and placed themselves and workers in danger with illegal tactics. From Virginia to North Dakota Louisiana to Pennsylvania, protesters have set fires on public roads, set fire to machinery and use torches to cut steel valves on a pipeline, chain themselves to machinery, and crawl into a pipeline, to name just a few.