Bill would ban protesters at pipe­line site

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Bill Ret­tew bret­tew@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @wc­dai­ly­lo­cal on Twit­ter

HAR­RIS­BURG >> The Se­nate and House are grap­pling with leg­is­la­tion that would make it crime to protest at a pipe­line site.

SB652 passed the Se­nate 28-20 in May and was on Wed­nes­day’s House cal­en­dar but did not come up for a vote.

The House and Se­nate dif­fer on the ver­sions of the bill, and if the House votes af­fir­ma­tively, the bill will need to again be voted on by the Se­nate. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives meet three days next week for the last time in 2018.

Sens. Andy Din­ni­man, D-19, John Raf­ferty, R-44, and Tom Killion, R-9, voted “no,” and Reps. Becky Corbin, R-155, and Carolyn Comitta, D-156, voted against the bill in com­mit­tee.

Din­ni­man re­leased the fol­low­ing state­ment on Wed­nes­day:

“This is part of a con­certed ef­fort that is go­ing not only in Penn­syl­va­nia but across the na­tion to si­lence and sti­fle any op­po­si­tion, crit­i­cism or con­cerns re­lated to

grow­ing net­work of pipe­lines criss­cross­ing our com­mu­ni­ties. Yes, our crit­i­cal in­fras­truc­ture needs to be safe and se­cure, but this isn’t the way to do it.

Fur­ther­more, if pipe­line com­pa­nies, like Sunoco, are so con­cerned about safety why haven’t they taken the nec­es­sary steps to en­sure that our schools and lo­cal emer­gency first re­spon­ders have ac­cess to the in­for­ma­tion they need to ad­e­quately re­spond to po­ten­tial emer­gen­cies? In­stead, we want to throw peo­ple in jail for up to a year for peace­ful protests or ‘tres­pass­ing’ on an ease­ment that may be in their own back­yard? That’s not only wrong; it’s down­right un-Amer­i­can.”

Comitta is op­posed to the bill.

“I op­posed in com­mit­tee and will op­pose on the floor,” Comitta said Wed­nes­day. “I be­lieve this bill is un­nec­es­sary and serves only to bully pipe­line protesters.

“The crimes code al­ready ad­dresses penal­ties for tres­pass­ing and van­dal­ism. In ad­di­tion, this bill also adds felony charges for cer­tain van­dal­ism — that level of se­vere pun­ish­ment is not ap­pro­pri­ate for such crimes.”

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