Democrats reject stiffer penalties for damaging oil and gas wells

Rep. Jon Becker – Fort Morgan (HD 65)

DENVER—Today, Democrats on the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee rejected legislation that would have strengthened penalties for protestors who damage oil and gas wells and gathering stations. Senate Bill 35, sponsored by Representative Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan), increased the penalty for the existing crime from a class 2 misdemeanor to a class 6 felony. The bill also would have added placing another person in danger of serious injury or death to the definition of the existing crime.

Reports of tampering with oil and gas equipment as a form of protest are increasing, with activists even using social media sites like You Tube to promote their behavior. Supporters of the bill stressed that in addition to damage, simply closing valves can create highly volatile and dangerous pressure levels in gas lines.

“I wholly support peaceful protest, but putting peoples’ lives in danger and damaging property is not self-expression, it’s a serious crime,” said Becker. “Since a modest fine is not deterring protesters’ increasingly brazen behavior, stronger penalties are clearly needed before someone is seriously injured or killed.

“I hope tragedy does not have to be the catalyst to address this growing problem in Colorado.”
During committee, Democrat committee members and witnesses testifying in opposition to this bill argued that strengthening penalties for tampering gave the oil and gas industry preferential treatment and could make protesting more difficult.