South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has signed legislation to toughen the state’s riot laws with criminal and civil penalties for those who urge rioting against pipeline projects, Kallanish Energy reports.
Noem says the bill does not apply to peaceful protests. She said the bill uses the “narrowest” definitions of rioting and inciting a riot and only goes after people who commit violence or cause damage. She had told legislative leaders for months that she intended to revive the riot penalties.
Critics say the so-called riot boosting law is an attempt to silence peaceful protests against TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline in 2020.
The latest legislation removed provisions that led a federal judge to declare last year’s similar legislation to be largely unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol found portions of last year’s South Dakota riot boosting laws to be unconstitutional because they violated free speech protections and were aimed at Keystone XL protesters. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The South Dakota legislation allows the state, counties or municipalities to make people or organizations liable for rioting or inciting riots. The civil penalties in the law would make it possible for those parties to recoup damages from riots.
The original bill was aimed at dealing with problems caused by out-of-state rioters funded by out-of-state interests, the state said. The bill was designed to avoid the 761 arrests that occurred at Standing Rock in North Dakota beginning in late 2016 in connection with the Dakota Access Pipeline.
TC Energy is expected to begin construction on the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline in early 2020. The pipeline would run 1,179 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to pipelines to Illinois and to the Gulf Coast. It would transport 830,000 barrels per day.
In 2015, the project was blocked by President Barack Obama. In 2017, President Donald Trump approved the project. It is a key link in Canada’s efforts to move additional Alberta oil to markets.
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