A controversial bill to create new penalties for interfering with critical infrastructure succumbed to a deadline in the Wyoming Legislature Monday night. The bill has returned after previous legislative deaths. (Elyse Guarino/WyoFile)

Beloved by industry, a bill to stifle protests against “critical infrastructure” died for the third time on Feb. 4, 2019 in the capitol when it missed the deadline for an initial House floor vote. It was two sessions old.

Bereft of its steep criminal penalties, Wyoming’s oil derricks, oil tanks, coal mines, wind turbines, solar panels, pipelines, transmission lines, fiber optic lines, irrigation lines, petroleum refineries, water treatment centers, sewage treatment centers, food processing facilities, chemical manufacturing facilities, telecommunications central switching offices, airports, rail terminals, trucking terminals, data centers, hospitals, town halls, police stations, fire departments, tribal-owned casinos, tribal government facilities, town government facilities, schools, community colleges and the University of Wyoming are left to carry on with the laws that have protected them for decades, if not longer.

The bill was born sometime before the 2018 Legislative session. It was brought to Wyoming by the Cheyenne office of law firm Holland & Hart on behalf of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a trade group  representing oil refineries and petrochemical manufacturers around the nation.

Dead in Wyoming, the bill is survived by cousins in OklahomaNorth DakotaIllinoisMissouriLouisiana, and Mississippi. It is preceded in death by cousins in WashingtonMinnesotaColoradoOhioPennsylvania and Georgia, according to a database maintained by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.

House Bill 10 – Crimes against critical infrastructure was pronounced dead Monday night just after 10:30 p.m., when House Majority Floor Leader Eric Barlow (R-Gillette) halted House debate. Barlow left 22 bills to die without debate or a vote on the House floor.

The primary cause of death was a Feb. 4 deadline for bills to pass the first of three votes in their chamber of origin. But the underlying and fatal ailment likely was Barlow. No friend of the bill, Barlow oversaw which bills lived and died last night with his authority to move them up and down in the order of debate.

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For two years, the critical infrastructure bill impressed friend and foe alike with its resilience. Staggering under the weight of amendments as proponents sought to whip it into shape in the 2018 session, the bill fell to a committee vote and a governor’s veto but rose again twice.

A veteran of drawn out House floor debates and scarred by the slings and arrows of public opprobrium, the bill survived numerous close votes. It passed out of the House Minerals Committee, which has taken three votes on the bill in two sessions, by just one vote this year. A committee amendment to the bill added many of the aforementioned categories of “critical infrastructure” in an attempt to assuage concerns of opponents who said it was written especially for the energy industry.

The bill thrilled lobbyists for the oil, gas and mining industries and ultimately lobbyists for any industry that thought they could get their “critical infrastructure” special protections. It infuriated civil rights advocates, environmentalists and representatives of the two sovereign tribes within Wyoming’s borders.

Ultimately it met the most effective resistance from ranchers in the House, like Barlow, who feared the bill would give the energy industry a leg up on them in private property battles.

Whether Wyoming has seen the last of the bill is uncertain.

Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

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  1. Thank you, Rep. Barlow. Now if you could just drive a stake into the heart of this zombie so it can never re-surface. Thanks for your coverage of this issue, Mr. Graham. You neglected to mention that the bill originated with the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council. I would like to see a legislative rule that bars bills from that source. ALEC is responsible for the bills that eat up legislative time and energy so that critical bills that are needed in Wyoming flounder without adequate debate and consideration. The important budget issues will never get proper attention when so much of the session is devoted to regulating women’s health care and protecting industry from free speech. If the legislature is serious about protecting publicly owned infrastructure, then it needs to provide funding for cyber and other security measures. Corporations need to provide their own security, not siphon off public policing funds for their benefit.

  2. My thanks to Rep. Eric Barlow for whipping this vicious bill off the floor of the House this session. Unfortunately, I doubt we’ve seen the last of this bill. It will be back in some other form. The energy industry is actually running scared as the reality of global warming is becoming more of a brute reality easily seen and painfully experienced. by millions of people. People are protesting pipelines, people are demanding that institutions divest financially from energy corporations, people are turning to renewables in ever greater numbers.

    In response, the industry is lashing out in frustration and anger, using its considerable resources to punish those who oppose it. We see this especially in the use of mercenary companies (what I call “commercial terrorist organizations”) with military special operations experience to employ counter insurgency methods against citizens who are exercising their god given rights to protect their lands, their waters, and their ways of life against a lumbering behemoth. that destroys even as it dies.

    It is my personal view that global warming has already reached critical tipping points from which there is no return to “normal” and that the future that the human species faces will be radically different than what we have experienced in the past, even during the last Ice Age. Consequently, we are going to have to organize ourselves for survival in radically different ways. This is something I have been thinking about for over a decade. It partially means old enemies and opponents finding common purpose. I have concluded that environmentalists and conservationists and those who make their living on the land–ranchers, farmers, loggers, etc.– have far more in common than we have been willing to accept in the past. We have no choice but to join together to find ways to live on the changing landscape.

    At the same time, we must bring into our new communities those whom indigenous peoples call the animal people. This includes all forms of life. They are our biological and moral relatives and we are all members of the web of life that is now endangered by human arrogance and ignorance. In short, we humans have to find ways to become what we once were thousands of years ago–indigenous .

    We also have find a way to bury the corporations.