BISMARCK, N.D. -- A North Dakota legislator wants to increase the legal consequences for people who tamper with pipelines and any groups that help them, following a 2016 pipeline protest that shut down oil flow for several hours.
Republican Sen. Janne Myrdal of Edinburg is sponsoring the bill, The Bismarck Tribune reported .
The legislation would more clearly define that it's illegal to damage energy facilities and other critical infrastructure, such as refineries, electrical power generating facilities, natural gas processing plants or compressor stations and crude oil storage facilities.
It also would increase maximum fines from $10,000 to $100,000 if an organization is found to have conspired with individuals who tamper with infrastructure.
"If groups from outside of our state are paying for activists to come here and paying for damage, we need to make them accountable for that as well," Myrdal said.
The bill wouldn't prevent the "lawful assembly and peaceful and orderly petition for the redress of grievances."
"We worked hard on it to make sure that no First Amendment rights are trampled on whatsoever in this bill," Myrdal said.
Seattle resident Michael Eric Foster, who served jail time for turning the pipeline valve during the protest, said a more stringent law wouldn't have stopped him.
"What I did, I did to protect my family because everything else is failing. I owe it to my family tree and yours to do whatever we can think of to stop destroying this place for our kids," Foster said.
Foster said the bill is an attempt to "silence and intimidate and harass people who are looking out for the public good."
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com