House Bill 4615 is titled the West Virginia Critical Infrastructure Protection Act.  It should be known as the Pipeline Protest bill.  Iterations of this legislation have circulated around the country since the Occupy Movement and then resurfaced during Black Lives Matters protests, the protest at Standing Rock, and various other protests.  


The main feature of the bill is to increase penalties, for trespassing near certain sites or facilities that are deemed to be "critical infrastructure".  Notably—pipelines and certain public utilities.  The bill also makes it a felony to damage property, or, among other things, impede the operations of these facilities.  Impeding the operations is a very broad term, and could include something as simple as making it inconvenient for employees to get to work.  Alarmingly, there is no maximum penalty defined in the statute.    The final provision of the bill allows for conspiracy charges for organizations or individuals.  


Proponents of legislation like this will say that because the conduct— trespassing—is already illegal these laws are not problematic.  That is also one of the main arguments against legislation like this—it's already illegal.  Enhanced penalties only feed into the situation of mass incarceration. 
The history of these bills belies their intent.  This legislation is aimed at chilling protest activity.  The conspiracy charges in particular are problematic because they are they very embodiment of "guilt by association." 


For all of these reasons, the ACLU of WV opposes House Bill 4615.
 

Sponsors

Kelly, J., Anderson, Kelly, D., Westfall, Azinger, Sypolt, Jennings, Atkinson, Barnhart

Status

Active

Session

2020

Bill number

Position

Oppose

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