On Wednesday, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin signed HB1123, a new "trespass" law that declared an immediate "state of emergency" allowing prosecutors to charge protesters with felonies for "trespassing" on any property containing a "critical infrastructure facility," impose fines of up to $10,000 for acts that "damage, vandalize, deface, impede or inhibit operations of the facility", and fines of up to $100,000 or up to ten years in prison for "tampering" with the facility.
Groups that are "found to be a conspirator" in such acts face ten times the fines, up to $1M. Thus a protest in which someone spraypaints a slogan on a wall could result in a $100,000 fine for an organization that called the protest.
Oklahoma calls itself the "Pipeline Crossroads of the World."
A section of the law defining “critical infrastructure” includes various types of fossil fuel facilities. Oklahoma is a center of the oil and gas industry and home of the self-styled “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” in Cushing. The state has seen a dramatic increase in earthquakes since the nation’s fracking boom began, as companies began pumping wastewater produced from hydraulic fracturing underground. The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association is a supporter of the legislation.
A second bill, passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Thursday, would permit “vicarious liability” for groups that “compensate” protesters accused of trespassing. The bill’s author reportedly called it a response to the Dakota Access pipeline protests, aimed directly at organizers fighting to stop the Diamond pipeline, a project of Valero and All American Pipeline that would transport oil from Oklahoma to Tennessee. Protests against the pipeline have already begun and construction is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.
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