Tuesday, September 25, 2018

House Environmental Committee Amends Critical Infrastructure Security Bill To Set Penalties For Intentional Vandalism

The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Tuesday amended and reported out Senate Bill 652 (Regan-R-Cumberland) which deals with the security of rights-of-way for pipelines, electric power lines, railroad tracks, refineries and the property on which of any of 21 other “critical infrastructure facilities” are located.
The goal of the amendment, said Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the Committee, is to remove the provisions in the bill related to setting criminal penalties for simple trespass and replacing it with felony penalties for the offense of critical infrastructure vandalism “if the person intentionally or recklessly damages, destroys, vandalizes, defaces or tampers with equipment in a critical infrastructure facility.”
Click Here for a copy of the Senate Bill 652 amendment.
Minority Chair Rep. Mike Carroll (D-Luzerne) said the amendment ameliorates many of the concerns with the bill as it came from the Senate, but it may need more work.
The amendment was approved by the Committee by largely a party line vote (Republicans supporting).
Several Democratic members of the Committee expressed concerns about the potential impact of the bill on free speech rights of those protesting pipelines and other energy facilities, even with the amendment.
A motion by Rep. Stephen McCarter (D-Montgomery) to Table the bill so the Committee can do further work on bill language was defeated by a party line vote (Republicans opposing).
The bill was then reported out of Committee by largely a party line vote (Republicans supporting) and now goes to the full House for action
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.
Previous Senate Action
When the Senate passed the bill in May, Republicans generally supported the bill (with 6 exceptions) and Democratic members opposed.
Democratic members expressed 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.
Other Committee Action
The Committee also reported out House Bill 2640 (Mako-R-Lehigh) requiring DEP to forward notices of noncompliance issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act or state Solid Waste Management Act to the municipality where the violation occurred (sponsor summary).
Click Here for a video of the meeting (when posted).
Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1522 or sending email to: jmaher@pahousegop.com.  Rep. Mike Carroll serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3589 or sending email to: mcarroll@pahouse.net.

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