Industry Behind Legislation Pushing Laws Against Pipeline Protesters

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Dakota Access Pipeline Protest. Photograph by Peg Hunter. Used under Creative Commons license.

Note: The Intercept reports on the industry role in successfully criminalizing protest and provides an audio tape of a lobbyist bragging how he did so. The report:

“THE AMERICAN FUEL & Petrochemical Manufacturers, a powerful lobbying group that represents major chemical plants and oil refineries, including Valero Energy, Koch Industries, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Marathon Petroleum, has flexed its muscle over environmental and energy policy for decades. Despite its reach, AFPM channels dark money and influence with little scrutiny.

“The group is now leveraging its political power to criminalize protests of oil and gas infrastructure.

“In an audio recording obtained by The Intercept, the group concedes that it has been playing a role behind the scenes in crafting laws recently passed in states across the country to criminalize oil and gas pipeline protests, in response to protests over the Dakota Access pipeline. The laws make it a crime to trespass on public land used for “critical infrastructure,” impose a fine or prison time for violators, and hold protesters responsible for damage incurred during the protest. Many of the laws also carry heavy fines to groups and individuals who support such demonstrations.”


In May 2017, petroleum refiner and pipeline operator Valero Energy placed a phone call to then-Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, asking for support on HB 1123. The measure increased criminal penalties for those who trespass on a “critical infrastructure facility,” including pipelines, refineries, storage facilities and electrical power generating facilities.

“They think it will help deter vandalism & disruptive actions,” former Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s assistant wrote in an email to the Governor’s personal email account. Following the phone call, two days later, Fallin signed the bill into law.

Less than a year after the bill’s passage, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) adopted a “model” bill borrowing language from the Oklahoma law, and since then more than a dozen states  from across the country have followed.

The 2017 email is featured in a new report from Bloomberg, highlighting the push by oil lobbyists to make pipeline protests a felony.

The email correspondence, obtained by Documented from an open records request made to the Oklahoma Governor’s office, can be viewed here.