Valve-Turner's Motive At Pipeline Facility Unknown But Used To Justify Criminal Infrastructure Bill

Jan 30, 2019

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For the second year in a row, Wyoming lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase penalties for interfering with critical infrastructure, focusing on oil and gas facilities. It was vetoed last year by former Governor Matt Mead.

During public testimony on Monday, Mike Greear, the House Minerals Committee Chair, asked for clarification about why the bill is needed.

In response, energy industry lobbyist Matt Micheli said in 2018 there were 18 acts of interference involving oil and gas infrastructures across the nation, including one in Wyoming last October where someone illegally entered a pipeline facility and turned a valve.

Valve turning has been used by climate change activists, but the motive for the incident, which occurred in Laramie County is unknown. The Laramie County Sheriff's Office confirmed a report was received from the pipeline company Suncor, but there are currently no suspects.

Larry Wolfe, a former energy attorney and lobbyist, is against the bill. He said there's no proof that increased penalties would deter future incidents, and suggested that if the oil and gas industry wants to mitigate risk they should invest in security.

"Instead of spending all this money on lobbyists and people sitting around these rooms for hours at time, invest in better security," said Wolfe. "Build fences, put up cameras, buy stronger locks but don't come and waste the legislature's time."

The bill will be discussed again in the House Minerals Committee on Friday.