Protecting Everyday Life Means Protecting America’s Infrastructure
This winter Americans have seen the importance of well-working infrastructure as much of the country has faced freezing temperatures. For instance, 48 percent of American households use natural gas to heat their homes relying on pipelines and other forms of infrastructure across the country to do so.
Earlier this month, New Yorkers saw what happens when infrastructure fails. A frozen pipe that burst caused flooding at JFK Airport leading to many canceled and delayed flights.
But it’s not always Mother Nature that strains and damages our nation’s infrastructure; sometimes, it’s human influence.
There’s been an increasing trend of trespassing and vandalism at infrastructure sites. Last year, vandals set fire to machinery and a structure that were part of the Dakota Access Pipeline causing an estimated $140,000 in damages. The Crow Tribe in Montana had its municipal water service disrupted for months when vandals damaged the tribe’s water treatment facility. Then, there’s the group of people known as Valve Turners that coordinated trespassing, cutting padlocks and closing safety valves to stop an oil pipeline from flowing.
Whether its vandalism or protesters turned violent, a few people can cause tremendous harm to their fellow citizens by damaging critical infrastructure sites. Stopping the flow of a pipeline can cause pressure to build and puts thousands at risk of harm from an explosion. While peaceful protests are an important part of Americans right to free speech, causing damage and putting others at risk of harm is not.
States have begun to take action in response to this disturbing trend of trespassing, vandalism, and damage to critical infrastructure sites. In 2017, Oklahoma enacted two new laws designed to hold individuals and conspiring organizations criminally and civilly liable for trespassing or tampering with critical infrastructure sites and structures. Members of the American Legislative Exchange Council drew on these two laws for the crafting of a new piece of model policy, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act.
The model policy works by holding individuals accountable for damages that they incur while trespassing on property that’s critical to our nation’s infrastructure. Additionally, it holds organizations liable if they conspire with individuals that willingly trespass or damage critical infrastructure sites.
What are critical infrastructure sites? Power stations, water treatment facilities, natural gas storage facilities, and telecommunications wires and structures are all examples.
Our modern lives depend on these important pieces of infrastructure—whether it’s a hospital using electricity to run incubators for newborn babies or a family connecting virtually over Skype. Our daily activities and lives shouldn’t be put at risk because of the actions of reckless vandals. That’s why ALEC members of the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force drafted and passed the model Critical Infrastructure Protection Act policy to help ensure there are not disruptions to your daily life.