The criminalization of pipeline opposition is ramping up.

The Trump administration is seeking to dramatically escalate federal penalties for pipeline protesters. Under newly proposed changes, pipeline protesters could face up to 20 years in prison for disrupting the construction of oil and gas infrastructure. The move echoes similarly harsh penalties for anti-pipeline activists being adopted in several states.

Updates proposed to the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) released Monday would make interrupting pipeline construction or damaging existing pipelines a federal crime.

According to the proposed PHMSA updates, first reported by Politico, “vandalism, tampering with, or impeding, disrupting or inhibiting the operation of” pipelines would be met with fines or potentially many years in jail. Under current law, damaging existing pipelines can lead to up to 20 years jail time, but those “under construction” are now a consideration as well along with “disruption” to pipelines.

Other components of the PHMSA updates include changing the threshold for damages incurred by a pipeline accident before an operator is required to report a problem; the proposal would double the $100,000 threshold currently in place.

Read More