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Lobbying group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers have boasted of their success in criminalizing pipeline protests, according toThe Intercept. The group represents chemical plants and oil refineries including Valero Energy, Koch Industries, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Marathon Petroleum.

The powerful group has now used its political influence to criminalize pipeline protests. In a leaked audio recording, members of the group admit to having helped bring about laws to criminalize these protests. The new laws make trespassing on public land used for “critical infrastructure” illegal and impose a fine or jail time for those who violate the rules. More, protesters will be held responsible for any damage the land is subjected to during protests.

Senior vice president for the federal and regulatory affairs at AFPM, Derrick Morgan, explained how his group helped to create the new laws during a June Energy & Mineral Law Foundation conference. According to James G. Flood, a Cromwell & Moring partner, Morgan was “intimately involved” in creating the new laws that were distributed to legislators in states around the U.S. the “model bill” that was distributed was called the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act.

“So you see that, and you’re reading the materials as well, that this model legislation would itemize criminal trespass and also a liability for folks that cause damage during protest,” Morgan said

“Another key aspect of it,” Morgan explained, “which you also include, is inspiring organizations — so organizations who have ill intent, want to encourage folks to damage property and endanger lives — they are also held liable.”

22 states have introduced this legislation and nine states have passed some form of the bill. These states include Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

The AFPM bill seeks to expand a federal law, which already makes it a crime to deliberately damage or obstruct pipeline infrastructure. The new bill would categorize peaceful protests as violent threats.

“We’ve seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017,” Morgan said. “We’re up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet.”

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