CLAIM: In an article critical of new laws and proposals to crack down on illegal activity associated with protests at pipelines and pipeline construction projects, environmental extremists complain that those measures are “infringing on the rights of political expression and having a chilling effect on freedoms.” That’s especially true for indigenous protesters, according to the Sierra Club.
Proposed federal legislation and laws in states across the country are in no way aimed at First Amendment-protected rights of speech and assembly. Instead, they are aimed at illegal and/or violent crimes that routinely occur at pipelines or pipeline construction sites, including:
- Extremists set a dozen fires on a public highway while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- Activists in Florida crawled into a pipeline under construction and chained themselves together, placing themselves and public safety officials in danger.
- Activists are increasingly trespassing to turn off valves on pipelines, disrupting the flow of oil or natural gas and potentially causing “death, injury, and economic and environmental harm,” according to federal officials.
- Just last week, an extremist chained himself to equipment at a pipeline project in Virginia – jeopardizing his safety and worker safety.
While activists pretend they are concerned about their First Amendment rights, they actually are more concerned about facing serious consequences for knowingly and willfully engaging in illegal and dangerous activities. This is something admitted by Michael Loadenthal, a visiting professor of Sociology and Social Justice at Miami University admits in the article linked above
“Mainstream academia, news media, politicians, and the public have all reached the same conclusion, which is: The environment is reaching a crisis point,” (Loadenthal) said. “If we all agree that the environment is reaching a crisis point, is it surprising that [some activists] break the law?”
That’s why the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) joined states in proposing new legislation to protect pipelines and pipeline construction projects from violent protests and dangerous trespassing 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.”