Critical Infrastructure Bill Focuses Heavily On Industry Profit Loss

Jan 29, 2019

Steve Lundin gave public comment on Monday in favor of the bill. He's a former North Dakota law enforcement officer who now runs his own private security company that contracts with the oil and gas industry.
Credit 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.