November 21, 2019
A bill that would make it a felony to trespass on pipeline property or damage gas, oil, and water pipelines was signed into law Wednesday by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
The measure, Assembly Bill 426, was passed earlier by the legislature with bipartisan support.
Opponents, including environmental groups and Indian tribes, say the law will quash legitimate protests like the Standing Rock protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline two years ago. They also say the law could hinder hunting and recreation activities by landowners on land the pipelines cross.
The law exempts people participating in lawful protests, union organizing, and picketing.
Supporters say the law will discourage vandalism that damages or disrupts the delivery of oil, gas, and water, as well as protect pipeline workers from injury or worse from job-site vandalism.
Powerful special interests supported the new law including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Wisconsin Laborers District Council, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, and the American Petroleum Institute.
The law carries penalties of up to six years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine, or both. These penalties would match penalties in current law for people convicted of trespassing and damaging utility property and operations.