New Article: Petro-Security State Power and the Imaginaries of Extremism: An Analysis of U.S. Critical Infrastructure Trespass Bills Targeting Anti-Pipeline Advocacy Movements

Petrochemical pipelines have taken center stage in public debates about the impacts of resource extraction dependencies and calls for greater participation in environmental governance. However, these concerns can run counter to the interests of the petrochemical industry and state security imaginaries that frame critics as threats. These imaginaries are evident in a suite of critical infrastructure (CI) trespass bills introduced by U.S. state legislatures implicating the activities of anti-pipeline protest movements. In a comparative analysis of 51 CI trespass bills, we find significant patterns in how criminal activities are defined across bills, as well as how individuals, aiding organizations, and the tactical practices of activists are positioned as threats. Additional findings show that CI trespass bills are more likely to emerge from states with heavy investments in pipeline infrastructure, states with contested pipelines, and states dominated by conservative political parties. Finally, we illustrate how major components of bills are authored by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that supports the interests of petrochemical companies. We argue that, by broadly designating those who resist pipelines as threats, trespass bills serve to strengthen petro-security state powers, thus transforming sites of resistance to petrochemical development into sites of acceptable risk for the externalities of free market industrialism under the pretense of protecting national security. We suggest that these developments may have multiple negative effects, including eroding the public’s right to question pipelines and exacerbating patterns of social injustice, as well as unintended positive effects in strengthening organized resistance. This research was supported by JPB funds, find here the full article.