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Texas Oil Pipeline Protesters Could Face up to 10 Years in Prison, if New Law is Passed

Oil pipeline protesters who interrupt operations or damage equipment could face up to 10 years in prison under legislation approved by Texas lawmakers.

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Under a bill approved by both chambers of the state legislature, protesters found guilty of halting service or delaying construction of an oil or natural gas pipeline could be charged with a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years of incarceration. That’s on a par with the sentences meted out to drive-by shooters who fail to hit their mark.

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The measure, authored by Republican Representative Chris Paddie, cleared the Texas House on May 7 and the Senate on Monday. The Texas Oil & Gas Association applauded its passage and said the bill provides property owners and pipeline companies “greater protections against intentional damage, delays, and stoppages caused by illegal activity.”

The bill still needs Governor Greg Abbott’s signature to become law.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, called the measure an assault on free speech. “The bill was never about safety and security,” Cyrus Reed, interim director for the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter, said in an email. “It was about silencing protesters trying to protect their water and land.”

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