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Critical Infrastructure Bill Focuses Heavily On Industry Profit Loss

Tennessee Watson

A bill that would increase penalties for interfering with the operation of critical infrastructure like pipelines or oil and gas facilities is held up in the Minerals Committee. Wyoming legislators gathered Monday to discuss the Crimes Against Critical Infrastructure bill and delayed a vote until Friday after hearing considerable public comment.

Lander Representative Lloyd Larsen told the committee that Wyoming's current laws don't adequately deter attacks on services like natural gas, water or internet access. This bill makes it a felony if impeding the operation of critical infrastructure causes damage or economic loss of $1,000 or more.

Opponents say the bill won't actually make people safer, but that it will stifle protest and free speech. During public testimony, Henry Sollitt from Teton County proposed a hypothetical situation involving his grandmother. He wanted to know what would happen if she stepped out in front of a piece of equipment moving on an access road as an act of civil disobedience.

"How many minutes until she is a felon for taking that action, which is against the law as articulated in this bill?" asked Sollitt.

The bill does not offer specifics on who would determine economic loss, or how it would be proven.

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.
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