Dear Editor: In response to the Standing Rock protests, the American Petroleum Institute has been working hard to pass laws that would send oil and gas pipeline protesters to jail. The Wisconsin Assembly and Senate have already passed a bill (AB 426/SB 386) that would create a new felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine for trespass on energy industry property. The bill is now headed to Gov. Tony Evers' desk to sign or veto.
Trespass is, of course, already against the law. By increasing the penalties for trespassing on lands associated with oil and gas corporations, this bill would give greater protections to a multi-billion dollar industry than to the public at large.
This bill would also have a disproportionate impact on Native American communities whose lands are affected by pipelines, oil and gas projects. It would infringe on treaty rights, access to resources and the right to be consulted as a sovereign nation. Is it just a coincidence that this bill is being pushed by Big Oil at the precise moment when the Bad River Ojibwe Tribe is suing Enbridge and calling for the decommissioning of Line 5, which crosses their reservation?
Gov. Evers should respect treaty rights and the constitutional right to protest and veto this legislation.
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