Pipeline Protest Bill | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Pipeline Protest Bill

House Bill Number: 

House Bill 44 would make it a felony to participate in certain types of protests against natural gas pipelines. It is modeled after a surge of similar legislation across the country which attacks the right of peaceful assembly as it pertains to gas and oil pipelines. It aims to create new criminal and civil penalties for conduct, including peaceful protest, around gas and oil pipelines and other infrastructure facilities. 

HB 44 has moved through the House committee, House, and Senate committee. It now awaits a vote on the Senate Floor. Before moving through the House, HB 44 was amended to reduce some of the harm of the bill. The amendment removed some of the language that could have discouraged protests, so that now criminal penalties only increase for any activity that "tampers with a [pipeline or other infrastructure asset] in a manner that renders the operations harmful or dangerous”–while the original penalties could have applied a much wider range of protest activity. For civil actions, the amendment now only holds liable those who “knowingly direct or cause a person to engage in mischief that involves tampering with critical infrastructure.”

Although better, the amended bill ultimately makes penalties harsher for behavior that is already illegal. And because of the inherent biases of our criminal justice system, it's likely that these penalties could be enforced in a way that discriminates against people of color and indigenous folks. KFTC maintains its position that, instead of passing unnecessary legislation or trying to amend down a bill whose original intent was in clear violation of the First Amendment, our legislators should say no to HB 44 altogether.  

KFTC HB 44 handout (not yet updated with amendments)

Bill Sponsor(s): 
J. Gooch Jr., A. Bowling

House Bill 44 was approved by the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee on January 30, despite several committee members (who voted yes) acknowledging flaws in the bill. It passed the full House with a floor amendment, 71-17, on February 10 (see how House members voted).

In the Senate, HB 44 was approved by the Natural Resources & Energy Committee on February 26. On March 5, HB 44 passed the full Senate, 31-4 (see how senators voted).

HB 44 was signed into law by Gov. Beshear on March 16.

KFTC's Position: 
KFTC Opposes