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Minutes for SB172 - Committee on Utilities

Short Title

Creating the crimes of trespassing on a critical infrastructure facility and criminal damage to a critical infrastructure facility and eliminating the crime of tampering with a pipeline.

Minutes Content for Tue, Feb 16, 2021

Matt Sterling, Office of the Revisor of Statutes, gave an overview of the bill, explaining SB172 would strike the severity level 6, nonperson felony for tampering with a pipeline, and replace it with several offenses related to critical infrastructure facilities (CIF).  It also creates the crimes of trespassing on a critical infrastructure facility as a class A nonperson misdemeanor, aggravated trespassing on a critical infrastructure facility as a severity level 7, nonperson felony, criminal damage to a critical infrastructure facility as a severity level 6, nonperson felony, and aggravated criminal damage to a critical infrastructure facility as a level 5, nonperson felony.

Additionally, any person who was arrested or convicted for a violation of any of these offenses could be held liable for any damages to personal or real property.  Any person or entity that provided financial assistance or compensation to a person to commit an act described in the bill could also be held liable for any damages to personal or real property caused by such person.

The Chairman called for Proponent Testimony on the bill.

Proponents, Oral

Gavin Kreidler, representing the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, spoke as a proponent of the bill, stating that increasing the criminal penalties on individuals who knowingly trespass or damage a critical infrastructure facility is vitally important to maintaining our everyday lifestyle, our Kansas economic output, and in some cases the defense of our State and Nation.  He said SB172 is a simple bill that seeks to do two important things. One, it creates a comprehensive legal framework with regards to what entities and industries are considered a CIF.  The new definition would include not only pipelines, but telecom, electrical generational, water treatment, dams, railroad yards and several other facilities and utilities that are critical to the State of Kansas. Two, it provides proportional criminal penalties for individuals who trespass, damage, or disrupt the operation of CIF's. (Attachment 1)

Jason Watkins, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, spoke as a proponent of the bill, stating Kansans rely on the uninterrupted delivery of power, water, and other resources, and that the government should have every tool at its disposal to protect critical infrastructure. He said this bill makes clear that knowingly trespassing on a critical infrastructure facility is a crime punishable by law. (Attachment 2)

Kent Eckles, American Petroleum Institute, spoke as a proponent of the bill, stating that recent FBI analysis indicated "an increase in criminal acts by environmental extremists against oil and natural gas related construction projects is likely," and these attacks cannot be deterred by industry security actions alone.  He also noted similar legislation was passed recently in Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin.  (Attachment 3) 

Darci Meese, Manager, Legal/Government Relations, WaterOne, spoke as a proponent of the bill, stating many of their facilities are in remote locations and protecting them with physical security measures and continuous monitoring can be difficult.  WaterOne supports SB172 as an additional tool to deter intrusions upon these facilities.  She then requested the description of "water supply facilities" in the bill be broadened to capture all the facilities that must be protected. (Attachment 4)

Written proponent testimony was provided by the following:

Randy Stookey, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and General Counsel, Renew Kansas Biofuels Association (Attachment 5)

Thomas M. Palace, Executive Director, Fuel True Independent Energy and Convenience (Attachment 6)

Kimberly Svaty, Joint proponent testimony: Evergy, ITC Great Plains, Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Kansas Electric Power Cooperative, Kansas Municipal Utilities, Midwest Energy, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation (Attachment 7)

The Chairman called for neutral testimony on the bill.

Neutral, Oral testimony 

Leo Heynos, Chief Engineer, Kansas Corporation Commission, Utilities Division, provided neutral testimony on the bill.  He stated the bill appears to limit the scope of the crimes of trespassing or causing criminal damage to only pipeline facilities which are above ground or are are clearly marked with a sign, and further stated there are also Federal laws protecting pipeline facilities. He said he is unsure if federal law applies to pipelines under construction.  (Attachment 8)

Bryan Cox, Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, provided neutral testimony on the bill.  He stated the intent of the bill is good, but abandons rights of due process with regards to restitution.  Because the bill purports to make any person "arrested" for a violation of the statute liable for any damages to real or personal property, it denys the individual of due process.  Second, it would make liable any person or entity that paid the arrested individual to carry out the alleged damage, whether or not they are actually convicted.  He stated the presumption of innocence would be abandoned. (Attachment 9)

Conferees providing written neutral testimony before the Committee:

Kelly Johnston, private citizen (Attachment 10)

Opponents, Oral

Rabbi Moti Rieber, Executive Director, Kansas Interfaith Action, spoke as an opponent of the bill, saying there are already sufficient laws on the books, and because there have not yet been any instances of sabotage to CIF's in Kansas, the bill is unnecessary.  He further stated the bill was purely political, and the underlying context of the law is to shut down political speech about the crisis of human-caused climate disruption.  He said in the absence of policy action, sometimes people take it upon themselves to bring symbolic actions in opposition to increases in fossil fuel infrastructure, knowing the actions are illegal and are prepared to take the consequences.  He stated the consequences should reflect the seriousness of the motivations for the acts and should not be "felonized".  (Attachment 11)

Zack Pistora, Legislative Director and State Lobbyist, Kansas Sierra Club, spoke as an opponent of the bill, stating there are existing laws on the books for the crimes of trespassing, property damage and tampering with energy infrastructure, and Kansas hasn't seen any issues with damage to CIF's.  He also stated he has concerns about accidental infractions, such as cows on the road obstructing the entrance to a CIF, which could now potentially be a level 7 nonperson felony.  (Attachment 12)

Kent Rowe, private citizen, spoke as an opponent of the bill, stating that "designation of a critical infrastructure cannot be determined at the behest of an irresponsible entity which knowingly seeks to impart harm to water, air, and land with known dangerous operations."  He said that a line of indigenous people standing and holding onto sweet grass, or an 80-year-old woman standing in her front yard, among other examples, "is the intended threat listed by SB172."  (Attachment 13)

Written, opponent testimony


There being no questions from Committee Members for the opponent conferees, The Chairman adjourned the hearing at 2:23 pm.