Last month, Pennsylvania State Senator Scott Martin invited government officials and oil industry lobbyists from North Dakota to speak to township and law enforcement officials from Lancaster County at an emergency preparedness seminar on Skype. The seminar focused on how to deal with potential protests around the construction of the Williams Transco Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. Senator Martin told those gathered that “there is work being done in Harrisburg.”
“There is a Senate bill that is looking on upping criminal penalties in regards to and expanding the scope of what is trespassing on a critical infrastructure site,” he explained.
The bill to which State Senator Martin was referring was State Senator Mike Regan’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. Senate Bill 652 would charge pipeline protesters and anti-fracking activists with class one felony trespassing for impeding or inhibiting pipeline construction or operations at natural gas compressor stations, processing plants, distribution facilities, and other oil and natural gas infrastructure sites. The potential penalties for impeding or inhibiting operations at these facilities can carry a two-year prison sentence and a minimum fine of $10,000.
Our previous reporting stated that Senate Bill 652 was scheduled Senate Judiciary Committee vote last month, but was pulled from the agenda at the last minute when concerns as to why class one and class two felonies were warranted. It was also discovered that Senator Regan’s bill is part of a national trend to criminalize environmental and pipeline protests since it is a mirror image of a bill that recently became law in Oklahoma.
Documents obtained from the Pennsylvania Senate Clerk’s Office through the Right to Know process looking at Senator Regan’s travel expenses raises concerns as to who may be pursuing this legislation. On April 10, 2017, Senator Regan visited Range Resources’ Marcellus Shale headquarters in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. On that same day, Senator Regan began circulating a cosponsor memo asking his Senate colleagues to sign on to the legislation targeting pipeline and anti-fracking demonstrators. As of 2015, Range Resources ranked as the second largest natural gas producer in the United States. The senator billed the Commonwealth $323.89 for an overnight hotel stay and a “tour” of the five-story office building. Senator Regen does not sit on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee or the Judiciary Committee, but the Senator does have the Sunoco Logistics Mariner East II pipeline running through his Cumberland County district. The Pennsylvania Oil and Gass Association described the Mariner East II pipeline as a “behemoth” that will “move natural gas liquids (propane, butane, ethane) from Ohio, West Virginia and across Pennsylvania to an industrial complex on the Delaware River.”
Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania Communications Director Andy Hoover called Senator Regan’s bill “overkill and wholly unnecessary” and that “the bill is clearly intended to curtail demonstrations against energy producers” “Peaceful protestors who engage in a sit-in could be charged with a felony.”
Senator Regan’s office was reached for comment on the story via email. They were asked what was the purpose of the meeting with Range Resources, did the senator discuss Senate Bill 652 at the meeting and what was the original source of the bill.