Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Senate Passes Bill Making It A Felony To Simply Trespass Or Attempt To Trespass On Pipeline, Under Power Lines Or On Other “Critical Infrastructure” Property

The Senate voted 28 to 20 to pass Senate Bill 652 (Regan-R-Cumberland) making it a felony to simply trespass on the right-of-way of pipelines, under electric power lines, refineries or on the property of any of 21 critical infrastructure facilities outlined in the bill.
Specifically, the bill says an individual commits an offense if they do the following (it’s listed first)--  “Enters or attempts to enter property containing a critical infrastructure facility, knowing that the person is not licensed or does not have the permission of the owner or lawful occupant of the property to do so.”  There are no other qualifiers like causing any damage.
Republicans generally supported the bill, although Senators Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), Killion (R-Delaware), McGarrigle (R-Delaware), McIlhinney (R-Bucks), Mensch (R-Montgomery) and Rafferty (R-Montgomery) all voted against.  (Click Here for the final vote.)
Democratic members of the Senate generally voted against the bill expressing concerns that it would limit the First Amendment rights of people to express their opinions about a facility. In other cases, the bill language was noted as overly broad to the point of being unworkable, like in the case of “trespassing” on electric power line or railroad track rights-of-way.
Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) compared the proposal to his efforts to outlaw SLAPP suits where developers and others file lawsuits against citizens and community groups in hopes of intimidating them to drop their opposition.  Sen. Farnese’s bill-- Senate Bill 95-- passed the Senate overwhelmingly 42 to 8 in April of last year.
Like Senate Bill 652, Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) introduced Senate Bill 754 last year that would impose any public costs for dealing with any public assembly or gathering entirely on the individuals doing the protesting, if they are convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in connection with that demonstration.  The bill is still in the Senate State Government Committee.
“It is important to understand that trespassing and damaging facilities is currently illegal,” said Sen. Mike Regan. “This legislation is not banning activity that is already against the law, but instead it specifies exactly what level of crime a person can be charged with when they partake in such illegal activities.”
Senate Bill 652 would make trespassing on a critical infrastructure facility a third degree felony and doing damage or inhibiting business a second degree felony. Each would carry a maximum prison term of one year and a minimum fine of $5,000.
“Businesses that operate critical infrastructure facilities simply want to be able to do so without the interference from trespassers,” said Sen. Regan. “In the event that someone does trespass – despite signage or fences- they want Pennsylvania law to have teeth in order to hold those individuals accountable.”
Twenty-one types of facilities are included in the definition of “Critical Infrastructure Facility”--
-- Natural gas or natural gas liquids transmission, distribution facility or pipeline, pipeline interconnection, metering station, pipeline compressor station, terminal or storage facility, gas processing, treatment or fractionation of natural gas or natural gas liquids;
-- Oil and gas production facilities, well sites, separation and dehydration facilities, storage and meter stations;
-- Electric power generating facility, substation, switching station, or electrical power lines and any energy facility involved in the production, storage, transmission or distribution of electricity, fuel or other form or source of energy or research, development, or demonstration facilities regardless of whether the facility is still under construction or is otherwise not functioning, except a facility subject to the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (18 USC Section 1366(c));
-- Water intake structure, water treatment and distribution structure or wastewater treatment and collection infrastructure;
-- Dam regulated by the state or federal government;
-- Petroleum or alumina refinery; crude oil or refined products storage and distribution facility,  chemical, polymer or rubber manufacturing facility, a facility identified and regulated by the Department of Homeland Security Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program;
-- Telecommunications switching station, remote terminal, wireless telecommunications infrastructure, radio or television transmission facilities;
-- Port, railroad switching yard, railroad tracks, trucking terminal;
-- Steelmaking facility using an electric arc furnace; and
-- Any equipment and machinery stored on location or at a storage yard used to construct critical infrastructure.
“Pennsylvanians rely on many of these facilities for electricity, telephone service, clean water, natural gas, and delivery of goods,” said Sen. Regan. “Halting operations not only affects the business but the people of this Commonwealth and its economy. Damage to facilities can do the same but can also be harmful to people’s health – or even life-threatening.”
The bill now goes to the House for action.
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