Beloved by industry, a bill to stifle protests against “critical infrastructure” died for the third time on Feb. 4 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 Oklahoma, North Dakota, Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana and Mississippi. It is preceded in death by cousins in Washington, Minnesota, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania 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 with his authority to move them up and down in the order of debate.
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.