Friday, May 5, 2017

UPDATED: Sen. Martin Proposes Bill To Impose The Public Costs Of Protests Against Pipelines On The Protesters

Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) Friday announced he will be introducing legislation to impose any public costs for dealing with pipeline or other protests entirely on the individuals doing the protesting or hosting the protest and convicted of rioting or creating a public nuisance.
Sen. Martin said in light of the costs incurred by taxpayers during other protest events across the country, like the Dakota Access Pipeline, his bill ensures protesters are held accountable for any damages they cause, as well as any other costs resulting from the demonstration.
Sen. Martin noted that local demonstrations in Lancaster County regarding the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline have been peaceful and said the legislation would be designed in a way that balances the First Amendment rights of protesters with the need to ensure taxpayers are not asked to pay “exorbitant costs for emergency response, property damage and clean-up.”
“The rights of free speech, assembly and petition are part of the bedrock of our democracy, but nobody should have the right to cause property damage or create a dangerous situation for innocent bystanders, and later expect taxpayers to pay for it,” Sen. Martin said. “Nothing in this bill will infringe upon the rights of protesters in any way. It simply ensures that when individuals or groups gather to protest, taxpayers aren’t stuck paying the tab for the associated costs.”
Sen. Martin hosted a presentation this week via teleconference with officials from areas affected by the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, which created nearly $40 million in additional costs to state and local taxpayers.
Local government leaders, law enforcement and other emergency responders were invited to participate in order to help ensure any protest directed at the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project could be handled in a peaceful manner that does not create a burden on taxpayers.
“Dakota Access Pipeline protesters created an environment that was so dangerous, the National Guard was called in and school buses could not travel through the area without a police escort. Nobody benefits from a situation like that,” Sen. Martin said. “I appreciate the fact that local protesters have remained generally peaceful and respectful of others and have committed to a non-violent approach. They deserve a great deal of credit for that.
“However, if the situation deteriorates to a point similar to the violent and destructive Dakota Access Pipeline protests, then protesters should not be able to walk away from the damage they cause without consequence and expect first responders and taxpayers to deal with the fallout,” said Sen. Martin.
Click Here to read the co-sponsor memo Sen. Martin circulated to colleagues Friday asking them to endorse his legislation.  No bill language was available Friday.
Sen. Martin can be contacted by sending email to: or by calling 717-787-5471.
Since 2000, when the Pennsylvania Environmental Immunity Act or anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law was passed, any person that “files an action in the courts of this Commonwealth to enforce an environmental law or regulation or that makes an oral or written communication to a government agency relating to enforcement or implementation of an environmental law or regulation shall be immune from civil liability in any resulting legal proceeding for damages where the action or communication is aimed at procuring favorable governmental action.”
On April 25 the Senate voted 42 to 8 to pass Senate Bill 95 (Farnese-D-Philadelphia) that would expand the anti-SLAPP lawsuit protection law to cover a broader class of actions.  Sen. Martin voted against the bill.  The bill is now in the House for action.  Click Here for a sponsor summary of the bill.
While imposing additional damages on individuals and groups protesting government actions through additional damages imposed by a court is not the same as SLAPP lawsuits, Pennsylvania lawmakers have for the last 17 years protected the right of citizens to make their opinions known about issues before the government.
Like SLAPP suits, which illegally seek to impose legal and other costs on individuals and groups opposing projects to discourage protests and opposition, imposing additional damages would do the same thing, but only with the government imposing the damages, not a private company through a SLAPP suit and court action.
Crable: Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Opponents Plan Parallel To Sen. Martin’s

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