Harrisburg Update

Unfortunately, too often when there’s news from the legislature, its bad news. Here are two bills you can help defeat right now by contacting your legislator.

Senate Bill Would Allow Fracking in the DRBC

Senate Bill 1189, legislation cited as “The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) Eminent Domain Activity Act”, would designate the enactment of a ban on hydraulic fracturing activities in the Delaware River Basin as a “taking” and “the exercise of the power of eminent domain that entitles the owners of the property in questions to appropriate and just compensation.” Sen. Baker’s memo “Economic Justice for DRBC Takings” is here: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2017&sInd=0&body=S&type=B&bn=1189&mobile_choice=suppress

The bill, introduced by Senator Lisa Baker and approved June 12 by the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, is aimed at emboldening those who oppose the protective ban on fracking and aiding the industry’s attempts to overturn the fracking moratorium now in place in the Delaware River Watershed. A permanent ban on fracking is being currently considered by the Delaware River Basin Commission but by saying a ban is essentially an exercise of eminent domain that requires payment to landowners who wanted to have fracking on their property, fracking proponents hope to disrupt the ban’s enactment. While the bill, on its face, is illegal and shows a lack of understanding of the DRBC’s Compact and regulatory powers (the State Legislature cannot tell the DRBC what to do or not do), it is also a dangerous attempt to undermine reasonable government efforts to protect the health, safety and environment from the destruction caused by fracking through regulatory initiative. The truth is a duly adopted ban on fracking protects peoples’ health and the environment; it’s not a “taking”, it’s an important preservation of environmental rights.

To read the letter submitted by environmental groups to the Senate go here: https://bit.ly/2JBSLdd

The Senate Appropriations Committee isn’t yet scheduled to vote on it but it will be added to their agenda. The Senate is now in recess and unless they are called back for a specific reason such as a redistricting reform bill, the full Senate won’t be acting on the bill until September. Call-in days and other actions are ongoing to fight the bill. Go here to get involved: https://www.facebook.com/events/1725974617458269/

Senate Bill Would Criminalize Pipeline Protests

Senate Bill 652 SB652 or the “Criminal Trespass Act” proposes to amend Pennsylvania’s statutes to make trespass on “critical infrastructure” more serious than trespass on regular property. Disguised as a bill to protect facilities, it actually infringes on the First Amendment rights of protesters by threatening dire consequences. This bill and those like it are being pushed across the nation to try to stop the protests occurring in so many places against dirty energy pipelines and other polluting projects. The bill’s list of critical infrastructure is broad, including gas (including gas liquids) pipelines; compressors; telecommunication facilities; railroad freight yards; refineries; gas processing plants; radio and TV stations; power plants; certain manufacturing facilities, steel plants, and dams; water and sewage treatment plants; schools; hazardous liquid, gas and oil storage facilities; Homeland Security designated locations; and even metering stations and equipment that is being used to construct “critical infrastructure”. The bill enhances the penalties for trespass, making some offenses 1st and 2nd Degree felonies with imprisonment and stiff fines.

Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sent a memo against the bill to legislators stating that the bill is redundant and the actions it addresses are already covered by the law. See the memo here: https://www.aclupa.org/files/8515/2712/4259/ACLU-PA_Memo_SB_652_Senate_2018-03-27.pdf

A good source for tracking these anti-protest bills nationally is a civil liberties website: http://www.icnl.org/usprotestlawtracker/

People are working to defeat SB652 here in Pennsylvania. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Appropriations Committee and to the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in the House. Earthworks is heading up a network in opposition to the bill. Contact is Ethan Buckner [email protected]