Rushed to the governor's desk under the pretense of being "an emergency," a new statute signed into law in Oklahoma days ago increases penalties against protesters — specifically, it targets opposition to construction of the Diamond Pipeline — with those found guilty facing far stiffer penalties, including fines topping a mind-numbing $1-million.
Anyone caught trespassing on property considered containing a "critical infrastructure facility" will "face a felony and a minimum $10,000 fine if a court determines they entered property intending to damage, vandalize, deface, 'impede or inhibit operations of the facility.' Should the trespasser actually succeed in 'tampering' with the infrastructure, they face a $100,000 fine or 10 years of imprisonment," The Intercept reports.
Summoning the ugly specter of Energy Transfer Partners' horrendous PR imbroglio over massive camps of Native American water protectors endeavored to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin hastily signed the dissent-wrecking statute in a preemptive attempt to quash protest against the factious $900 million Diamond Pipeline — before grassroots opposition has the opportunity to mushroom.
As NewsOK describes the new rights-stomping legislation,
"Someone charged under the new law could face a $10,000 fine and up to a year in jail if they intend to halt the progress of a pipeline or otherwise interfere with operations. The penalty increases to 10 years and $100,000 if the person is successful at damaging, vandalizing, defacing or tampering with equipment.
"The fine for just trespassing at a critical infrastructure site would be at least $1,000, but the Legislature did not include an upper limit."
Inadvertently reiterating the pernicious law's definitive use against the constitutional right to protest, Republican Representative Scott Biggs — primary author of House Bill 1123 — noted its intent to put the rights of Big Oil infrastructure first, stating,
"This law isn't about lost hunters or misplaced campers. This law is about protecting our state's most important and critical infrastructure by holding those who seek to do our state harm accountable."
While the destruction of property should arguably carry harsh penalties, this draconian law — and a mirror bill currently winding its way through state legislature — make definitive the privilege the oil and gas industry enjoys by degrees of magnitude above public concern for the environment.
To wit, in addition to heightened punishments for trespassing individuals, both pieces of legislation exponentially ratchet up fines and prison time when actions are believed coordinated by an organization — increasing by tenfold the penalties when the perpetrator is a 'group' — as pro-fossil fuel advocates pegged outside entities as responsible for the immense show of opposition to Dakota Access.