By a vote of 33 to 16, the Iowa Senate Wednesday night approved a bill to crack down on protesters who cause disruption to critical infrastructure in the state.
The bill is backed by Energy Transfer, developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was damaged along its Iowa route by protesters opposing the project.
The pipeline was built to carry crude oil from North Dakota diagonally across 18 Iowa counties.
The bill creates a new offense of sabotage against critical infrastructure.
“Sabotage is defined as any act that is intended to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of service to critical infrastructure property,” said Sen. Tom Shipley (R-Nodaway). “Critical infrastructure sabotage is a Class B felony with a penalty of 25 years in prison and a fine of $100,000.”
Critical infrastructure is broadly defined to cover not just petroleum pipelines, but water pipes, sewer lines, electrical grids, roads, bridges, airports and trains.
Democratic opponents of the bill argued it goes too far.
“Don’t turn every protester into a Class B Felon,” said Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids.) “This is an extraordinarily chilling bill to people’s freedom unless you take my amendment.”
Hogg’s amendment would have spelled out lesser penalties for protests that do not end in damage or injury.
“Save the Class B felony for really bad dudes,” Hogg said.
The amendment was rejected on a party-line vote.
Another amendment would have exempted protesters speaking out against eminent domain if a pipeline is crossing their property.
That amendment was also rejected on a party-line vote.
“This bill is about helping the big pipeline protests slap back against the protests against their flagrant abuse of eminent domain,” said Sen. Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames). “Slapping back with draconian penalties against peaceful protests.”
A similar bill is under consideration in the House. That bill is being managed by Rep. Gary Worthan (R-Storm Lake). The Dakota Access pipeline runs through his property in Buena Vista County.