Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony in opposition to HB 4615, the West Virginia Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. Please accept this letter on behalf of Earthworks. We are a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of energy development, while seeking a managed decline from fossil fuels and a just transition toward sustainable solutions.
HB 4615’s purpose is to intimidate individuals, communities, and organizations lawfully exercising their First Amendment and other fundamental rights. This bill would amend West Virginia’s Code Charter 61, Article 10 by extending potential liability to innocent landowners, passersby, peaceful protestors, and community organizations advocating for stronger safeguards for public health and the environment.
Under HB 4615, trespassers on so-called critical infrastructure facilities become subjected to greater punishment than similarly situated defendants.
We oppose this bill for the following reasons:
I. HB 4615 is susceptible to legal challenge under the Due Process Clauses of the West Virginia and United States Constitutions.
II. HB 4615 Inflames Eminent Domain Disputes Between Private Landowners and the Infrastructure Facilities That Have Been Built on Seized Private Property
III. HB 4651 Unreasonably Impinges on Constitutionally Protected Freedoms