Down in Texas, Lawmakers Adjourn After Criminalising Anti-Pipeline Protests

Protestors gather at the National Mall in Washington calling on President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, as well as act to limit carbon pollution from power plants and “move beyond” coal and natural gas, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Meanwhile, some potential solutions are nothing more than museum relics

By Awakening News Staff

Signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 14 and slated to take effect in September, Texas House Bill 3557 is seen by indigenous nations spokespersons, environmental activists and affected landowners as the further criminalisation of protests against energy pipelines whose corporate owners have a lot of legal weight to throw around when they want to access private property through eminent domain for laying more pipeline sections. The bill was among the final actions taken by the Texas state legislature before it adjourned in latter May.

An often-profound lack of fairness—with most courts beholden to such corporate interests—already exists when it comes to balancing the prerogatives and profits of the energy corporations with the property rights, land usage and profits of farmers, ranchers, Indian nations (and their sacred lands) etc.

Julia Trigg Crawford of Direct, Texas, who made headlines in 2012 when she unsuccessfully opposed running the southern artery of the Keystone oil pipeline through a corner of her 600-plus acres near the Oklahoma border, learned the hard way that, as a rule, the courts won’t help individual landowners. That means protests are often the sole remaining avenue with which citizens can try to make a difference.

So, it’s all-the-more troubling that this bill further tilts the scales for the energy companies, which should concern a broad cross section of Americans and Canadians—liberals, constitutional conservatives, populists of whatever stripe, most libertarians etc.

Under the Texas bill, there are new crimes that qualify as felonies including: “Damaging or Destroying Critical Infrastructure Facility,” “Intent to Damage or Destroy Critical Infrastructure Facility,” and “Impairing or Interrupting Operation of Critical Infrastructure Facility.” Furthermore, a new crime called “Intent to Impair or Interrupt Operation of Critical Infrastructure Facility” would be a Class A misdemeanor.

The bill also contains provisions that would impose up to $500,000 in fines for any congregation, corporation or organization that is found guilty of an offense under this legislation.

Various critics note that as bad as that sounds—criminalizing even the “intent” to “impair or interrupt”—HB 3557 is the product of a notorious “bill mill” known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

Founded in 1973 and headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, ALEC is a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives who draft and share model state-level legislation for distribution among U.S. state governments. ALEC’s big Republican names in terms of its listed “alumni” who are now in public office include Vice President Mike Pence; Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; six state governors (Louisiana, Alabama, Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota and Georgia); 15 U.S. senators; and 56 U.S. House members.

“HB 3557 is the Texas version of model legislation developed by [ALEC] in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and other oil and gas-related demonstrations in recent years. The bill adds significant criminal penalties to any protest activity which destroys facilities or impairs or interferes with the operations of ‘critical infrastructure,’” a passage from the website RightsAndDissent.org states.

Society of Native Nations Campaign Manager Jennifer K. Falcon called the legislation “a fear tactic to dissuade environmental justice movements like Standing Rock from challenging the continued use of fossil fuels.”

That’s an interesting point. The late, great inventor Nikola Tesla showed us long ago that our energy alternatives are much broader and infinitely cheaper than even the alternative-energy industry will admit—meaning so-called “fossil fuels” could have been demoted long ago had Tesla’s realistic and profound insights on free energy not been so tightly suppressed.

PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS: WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

As it stands, hydrocarbons will be with us for the foreseeable future, even though Clara Ford, the wife of automotive magnate Henry Ford, had an all-electric car in 1914.

Clara’s car and the even more impressive EV-1—an attractively designed, super-quiet entirely electric car, of which only 1,117 were ever made before the car’s production was reportedly scuttled and the existing cars destroyed behind the scenes due to the schemes of the big established automakers—are both on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

This proves, ironically,  that sometimes time itself is turned on its head and our best accomplishments are behind us, due to the  obstacles thrown in our path by those wanting to maintain the “status quo” at all costs—a pattern that Awakening News sees over and over again across a range of critical issues, from groundwater preservation, to monetary policy etc.

Notably, a promotional post from the museum’s website notes, “In the years before World War I many women chose electric cars because they started instantly without hand cranking and had no difficult-to-shift transmission. The superintendent of the Detroit Electric factory employed his daughter, Lillian Reynolds, to sell to women, including Clara Ford, who drove this car into the 1930s.”

See this link for much more on the history of the EV-1.

COURTS ENABLING CORPORATE POWER

As for the Texas legislation, while no one should advocate for the malicious destruction of pipeline equipment, and although pipeline projects such as the Keystone (which originates in Canada and enters the U.S.) help keep Western countries more energy independent from Middle Eastern sources, there are already laws on the books regarding trespassing and defacement or destruction of property.

One thing’s for sure. As long as our courts continue their biased approach, the empowered corporations will lack the incentive to properly reimburse and treat fairly the landowners in eminent domain cases; nor will they seek new ways to power our country that would avoid protests altogether.