Associated Press published an article on“valve-turning,” an increasingly popular protest tactic activists have incorporated into their playbook. In addition to being illegal, federal regulators have warned that tampering with pipeline valves can result in “death, injury, and economic and environmental harm.” The article references four activists who were arrested last month after targeting an Enbridge pipeline in Minnesota, and the threats posed by these actions:
But pipeline companies say so-called valve turners are dangerous — to themselves and the public — and many energy industry officials and advocates say they should be treated as domestic terrorists. Several states are considering increasing fines and prison terms for such incidents and holding associated organizations legally accountable as well.
GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens is featured in the article, joining other industry experts in calls for an end to this risky and illegal tactic, arguing “What eco-extremists fail to recognize is that their own reckless actions risk seriously harming the same environment that they claim to be trying to protect.”
Many believe the law doesn’t go far enough when it comes to protecting critical infrastructure like our pipelines. Critics of current laws believe penalties are not adequate to deter such tactics – and a number of states have taken this matter into their own hands. The AP article describes these efforts:
The American Legislative Exchange Council has created a model bill that carries stiff penalties for protest incidents targeting “critical infrastructure” such as pipelines. It’s inspired by a 2017 Oklahoma law that carries penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Louisiana last year passed a law similar to the model, and the legislatures in North Dakota , Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Mississippi and Indiana are considering similar bills this year, according to Grant Kidwell, the council’s energy policy expert. A proposal in the Wyoming Legislature failed to pass.
While there will always be a need for open dialogue regarding our energy industry, it’s clear that trespass and vandalism are not effective forms of protest.