Friday, September 21, 2018

House Environmental Committee Meets Sept. 25 On Controversial Critical Infrastructure Trespass Bill

The  House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to meet September 25 on Senate Bill 652 (Regan-R-Cumberland), which would make it a felony to simply trespass on the right-of-way of pipelines, electric power lines, railroad tracks, refineries or on the property of any of 21 other “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.
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.
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.
Also on the Committee agenda is 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).
The meeting will be held in Room B-31 of the Main Capitol starting at 9:00.  Committee meetings are typical webcast on the House Republican Caucus website.
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:  Rep. Mike Carroll serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3589 or sending email to:
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