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A Powerful Petrochemical Lobbying Group Advanced Anti-Protest Legislation in the Midst of the Pandemic
by Alleen Brown
Posted July 24, 2020

police arresting protestorOne day after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s shelter-in-place orders went into effect, the governor quietly signed into law the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the law created new felony penalties for protest actions targeting oil and gas facilities, as the state continues to confront opposition to two massive natural gas pipelines designed to cut through delicate forests, streams, and farmland.

Local landowners and residents concerned with environmental issues have attempted to stop construction by locking themselves to equipment and camping out in trees in the pipelines’ paths. Along with more conventional actions such as lawsuits, the protest efforts have cost the projects’ backers billions of dollars in delays.

West Virginia’s critical infrastructure law mimics a model policy promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, a shadowy group that encourages state lawmakers to pass industry-friendly legislation. Records provided to The Intercept by the Energy and Policy Institute reveal the natural gas industry’s hand in advancing the bill. More…