The Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is warning a bill pre-filed in late August would stifle protests surrounding pipeline controversies in the state.
The bill, filed by Western Kentucky House Representative Jim Gooch, would reclassify natural gas or petroleum pipelines as “key infrastructure assets” and making tampering with, impeding, or otherwise inhibiting the operations of the lines an act of “criminal mischief in the first degree” – a Class D felony in Kentucky.
The proposed legislation comes on the heels of a deadly natural gas pipeline explosion near Danville, Ky. that killed one and injured six. The accident is not the first along the 700-mile pipeline that stretches from the Mexican border in Teax to New York City. Six people in Kentucky and nine people in total have died in explosions along the Texas Eastern Transmission Co. pipeline since 1985, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.
Meanwhile, Louisville Gas & Electric Co. is taking Bullitt County landowners to court in an effort to obtain sections of lands needed for a $39 million natural gas pipeline.
The ACLU tweeted that the bill would “silence free speech," making offenses punishable by up to five years in prison. The civil rights organization also cautions the legislation "penalize people who help protestors, including providing water or first aid," adding that the bill "mirrors one promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is funded by fossil fuel companies, incl. one tied to the Danville pipeline."