Oppose Ohio Sub SB 250: protect freedom of speech and association

Call your Ohio Statehouse Representative. Sub SB 250 passed in the Ohio Senate on Thursday Dec. 6. It now goes to the House. See the bill (at view current version) at legislature.ohio.gov page on the bill. See Buckeye Environmental Network’s resource page for testimonies already submitted. And please spread the word to friends around Ohio, sharing ACFAN’s fb posts if you’re on fb. Rep. Jay Edwards: 614-466-2158. 

The following is excerpted from testimony recently presented on behalf of Buckeye Environmental Network and Athens County Fracking Action Network’s Steering Committee to the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee  opposing Ohio Sub Senate Bill 250, which would criminalize certain protest activities and the support of those activities by individuals and organizations. 

Ohio Senate Bill 250 is a dangerous assault on civil liberties and free speech. It is unnecessary, since trespass is already covered by Ohio law. This bill creates a new level of penalties for trespass, with draconian fines and felony charges if the trespass is against so-called “critical infrastructure,” including corporate-owned pipelines and oil and gas wells (even if they are on someone’s own property) and Homeland Security sites, meaning that citizens supporting immigrants are also vulnerable to its penalties. The legislation is clearly meant to intimidate individuals and, even more dangerously, non-profit organizations that organize people to speak out against assaults by the oil and gas industry against our communities, climate, and public health. Under the bill, organizations can be held liable for others’ actions through guilt by association, with ten times greater penalties than penalties individuals would receive. This can only be intended to squelch environmental advocacy, so essential at this time of accelerating climate chaos.

We are especially outraged that this bill is being proposed as our planet begins to experience climate catastrophe brought about by corporate greed and government collusion. This is a time when the necessity defense is actually being successfully invoked in court to defend climate civil disobedience, which brings urgent attention to the role of fossil fuels and government inaction in the crisis. It is these government and corporate activities that threaten and destroy lives and property, not the peaceful, brave and selfless acts of those who practice peaceful climate disobedience.

It is especially alarming that this legislation is being introduced as our federal government moves toward fascism, which will be greatly facilitated by such state actions. Fascism is when government works hand-in-hand with corporations to end democracy, free speech and assembly, free press, and other constitutionally protected civil liberties. Also pertinent in Merriam-Webster’s definition is that fascism entails “severe economic and social regimentation and forcible suppression of opposition.” People are very alarmed at such behavior by our state’s elected officials.

The bill also stipulates that a person or organization who pays the person’s fines or damages in a civil action for damage caused to a critical infrastructure facility will [quote] “be held vicariously liable for damage caused” [unquote R.C. 2307.66(C]. This means that an individual or organization providing funds to support peaceful climate disobedience may be subject to severe financial consequences if the court assigns damage blame to protestors, who are of course not under the control of the organization. This clause could easily be used by agent provocateurs to actually destroy organizations whose goals they don’t like. This provision alone should make every citizen and public official oppose this insidious proposal.

See Buckeye Environmental Network’s resource page for further information. And this news from E&E News (11-15-18): “Since the beginning of 2010, interstate pipelines have exploded or caught fire 137 times, according to an E&E News analysis of interstate pipeline enforcement and incident data. In about 90 percent of those cases, PHMSA sought no fine.” Share that stat with Ohio State Senators. If they’re concerned about public safety and think penalties are the way to go, it’s the pipeline companies they should be writing legislation to sanction!  And that’s not to mention fracking and injection well explosions, spills, and leaks…See ACFAN’s research pages for more.