A few years ago, massive protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock changed the popular narrative about what climate activism looked like. The protests made clear that ramming dangerous pipelines through vulnerable communities wasn’t going to be easy anymore.
But since then, rather than scaling back their attacks on these communities, the fossil fuel industry decided to attack them even more fiercely.
Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock were subject to a violent law enforcement response. They were blasted with water cannons in the freezing cold and faced down by heavily armed police in military vehicles.
Now the industry wants to criminalize anti-fossil fuel protests altogether, pushing new laws that turn routine acts of civil disobedience into serious felonies. They’ve found willing partners in the American Legislative Action Council (ALEC). Industry and ALEC efforts have passed such laws in 13 states.
My colleague Gabrielle Colchete and I studied these anti-protest laws in our recent report, “Muzzling Dissent: How Corporate Influence Over Politics Has Fueled Anti-Protest Laws.”
We focused on three states: Louisiana and West Virginia, where these laws have been passed, and Minnesota, where bills have been introduced numerous times (one even passed the legislature, but was vetoed by the governor).
In all three states, controversial fossil fuel infrastructure has faced significant resistance from affected communities. And in every case, the fossil fuel industry has been a major source of campaign money for the legislators who introduced these bills.
For example, in Louisiana, the lead sponsor of the anti-protest bill received $6,600 from oil and gas interests, the third highest of 40 industry sectors he received campaign contributions from. And in West Virginia, the lead sponsor of the anti-protest bill received substantial contributions from Dominion Energy, owner of the failed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project that passed through the state.
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