State Projections of Environmental Extremism in Anti-Pipeline Advocacy Movements: An Analysis of U.S. Critical Infrastructure Criminalization Bills

Authors: Kirk Jalbert*, Arizona State University, Sherri Wasserman*,
Topics: Human Rights, Energy, Political Geography
Keywords: critical infrastructure, pipelines, criminalization, public engagement, energy policy
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 26
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since 2017, more than 20 U.S. states have enacted or considered criminalization bills to protect oil and gas pipeline infrastructure. These bills are situated in the discourse of “critical infrastructure” where resources are considered essential to national security and economic development. A common explanation for these critical infrastructure criminalization bills is that they follow in the wake of public protests opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. While events surrounding DAPL may have inspired some states to take action, our research suggests that bills are more broadly provoked by the lobbying activities of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) working on behalf of the industry. Our study focuses on the political geographies of 60 significant pipeline projects and the operating locations of 750 advocacy organizations. Our analysis of bill language and the political/partisan composition of state legislatures finds that proliferations of pipeline infrastructure and advocacy activities are less a determining factor in the passing of criminalization bills than is the presence of conservative-leaning legislatures utilizing ALEC-based bill templates. Our findings suggest that criminalization bills are being used to justify the safeguarding of private assets by the state by interpreting public opposition to natural resource development through a rhetorical lens of environmental extremism and domestic terrorism.

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