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10 Days to fight Pennsylvania "Ecoterrorism" Bill!
by Karen Wood-Campbell Wednesday, Apr. 05, 2006 at 12:36 AM

Please call the governor's office at (717) 787-2500 TODAY. We have only TEN DAYS to stop this bill from becoming law!!

Pennsylvania is poised to turn nonviolent environmental and animal rights protesters into "ecoterrorists." House Bill 213, which has successfully passed the House and Senate and is now heading to the Governor's desk, would increase the severity of charges and sentencing of civil disobedience activities if they interfere with people engaged in resource extraction, agricultural research, or animal experimentation. The exact wording of the bill is available here:

This bill, should it become law, will term those who engage in civil disobedience on certain issues "terrorists," while not affecting those who engage in the same actions on other issues. For example, if a group of protestors were to block a logging road to protest logging in a National Forest, they would be termed "ecoterrorists" under this legislation, and be subjected to stiffer charges than could otherwise be brought against them. Another group of protesters, engaged in the same activity, but blockading an abortion clinic instead of log trucks, would be unaffected by this law.

HB213 unfairly and unconstitutionally singles out those with particular political viewpoints for increased penalties and "terrorist" labeling. The Governor needs to veto this un-American, special-interest-based, legislation.

Please call the governor's office at (717) 787-2500 TODAY. We have only TEN DAYS to stop this bill from becoming law!!

Please forward this alert far and wide! Thank you!

Karen Wood-Campbell

More information - also, please write letters to the editor!
by Karen Wood-Campbell Friday, Apr. 07, 2006 at 1:28 PM

Here is some more detailed information on the bill:

-The bill does not create additional offenses, or give law enforcement any tools they do not already have at their disposal to prosecute people who break the law. ALL it does is to increase the severity of charges and sentences for those convicted of committing offenses that are already on the books, if they are committed against certain special interests.

-Supporters of the bill include the PA Forest Products Association, pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and universities that engage in animal experimentation research. If they are successful in imposing this repression against their opponents, other special interests won't be far behind.

-This is a civil rights issue. No matter whether you agree or disagree, or are just plain indifferent to the points of view targeted in this law, you must take action now. Your point of view will be next.

-Under this bill, Martin Luther King Jr. would have been a terrorist, as criminal trespass (refusal to leave property after being directed to do so) is included in the list of "terrorist" offenses, if his cause had been a different one. A clearer case of political discrimination would be difficult to find.

-An excellent statement against the bill was given in testimony by Larry Frankel of the ACLU - you can read it here:

-The "immunity clause" tacked onto this bill by the Senate only exempts legal activity. (You have to figure a bill is questionable if they have to specifically exempt legal activity from being called terrorism!) No one is arguing that people who break the law shouldn't face the consequences. Only that those consequences should be based solely on the offense committed - not on the political viewpoint of those committing it.

-The governor can also be contacted by writing to 225 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120, or by visiting, and clicking "Contact the governor" on the left sidebar. There is an online contact form that can be filled out.

-"Ecoterrorism" is a term invented by PR firms representing major polluters, and cultivated by right-wing anti-environmentalists. It is currently being misused by the FBI to marginalize people accused of environmentally-motivated arsons.

-Not a single fatality has occurred as a result of environmental or animal-rights related activity in the state of Pennsylvania (or in the country as a whole, for that matter.) The impetus for this bill is not public welfare, but rather an attempt by certain special interests to suppress dissent against their activities.

-While the stated purpose of the law is as a response to arson activity, such crimes comprise a tiny fraction of the offenses listed as "ecoterrorism" in the bill, which range from the use of explosives to the use of spray paint. Anything from graffiti to classic nonviolent civil disobedience will be swept up into the "ecoterrorism" bin.

-The countdown has begun! Please don't hesitate - write those letters and make those phone calls TODAY. Write a letter to the editor. Spread this around - especially to Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Rendell is facing re-election, and needs to hear from Democrats that allowing political repression in this state will not help his cause.

Eco-terrorism bill
by Janis Trubic Monday, Apr. 10, 2006 at 10:59 AM

I agree with Karen on this bill. I have demonstrated against unethical logging practices myself and am certainly no terrorist. As Americans, it is our right, if not our duty, to protest in any issue we feel strongly about. If this bill passes, it will soon leech out into other states, affecting our children and all future generations. Please call the governor and express your views. Time is short.

Letter to Rendell from Tom Buchele, Director, Environmental Law Clinic, Pitt
by Thomas C. Buchele Monday, Apr. 10, 2006 at 10:27 PM

April 7, 2006

Via Fax and Regular Mail
Governor Edward G. Rendell
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120

Re: A Request For You to Veto HB 213, Which Creates the Crime and Civil Cause of Action for “Ecoterrorism”

Dear Governor Rendell:

My name is Tom Buchele and I am the director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Although this letter is written on the Clinic’s official letterhead, I am in fact writing as a private citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I am using the Clinic letterhead because my status as the director of the Clinic is directly related to why I believe you should veto House Bill 213 and I want there to be no question that this letter is being written by me, the director of that Clinic.

HB 213 should be vetoed because it targets and punishes those citizens who have a specific viewpoint about a controversial issue, how and where we extract natural resources, including in particular how those resources are removed from our public lands. Under this proposed law, those who object to how such extraction is currently conducted can be arrested, prosecuted for a fairly serious criminal offense and labeled as an “ecoterrorist” simply for engaging in non-violent civil disobedience. However, those who support such resource extraction activities and who might engage in exactly the same sort of non-violent protests would only be guilty of “summary offenses” under existing law and would not be labeled as “terrorists”. It is fair to ask how such disparate treatment based on an individual’s views could possibly be consistent with the First Amendment? Moreover, why is it that only those who engage in resource extraction, often on public land, are deemed entitled to such enhanced protection? As I explain below it is certainly not because there is no need to protect those who oppose the current methods for logging and mining our natural resources.

After this proposed legislation surfaced, legal experts repeatedly noted that the proposed bill was drafted so broadly that it included “criminal trespass” within its definition of the existing offenses that would now be considered as the enhanced crime of “ecoterrorism”. Criminal trespass is of course the “summary offense” that those engaging in non-violent civil disobedience are usually charged with. It would have been very easy to amend this bill to exclude any acts of non-violent civil disobedience from its coverage, but its supporters would not allow that. Instead the proposed bill has been amended only to exclude certain actions on public property ( see Section 3311 (c.1)), and “criminal trespass” on private property remains as one of the existing offenses that can constitute “ecoterrorism” if you engage in such non-violent trespass with a disfavored point of view. See Section 3311 (d) (Definition of “specified offense against property” includes “Section 3503 (Relating to Criminal Trespass)”). There really is no basis for doubting that, if you sign this bill, citizens of the Commonwealth who engage in entirely non-violent protests, such as conducting a “sit in” at the entrance to a logging site or a mine, will be arrested and charged as “ecoterrorists”. That is simply wrong and, frankly, inconsistent with this country’s long history of punishing lightly and even honoring those who engage in non-violent civil disobedience.

Finally I want to address why this proposed bill is grossly unfair to me. As you may recall, when I was hired as the director of the Clinic here at Pitt in 2000 it caused quite a bit of controversy. I in fact was called an “ecoterrorist” by many of the same people who are now supporting this bill. What was my “terrorist” crime? I decided that the Clinic would help a not-for-profit environmental group challenge a very large timber sale on the Allegheny National Forest in federal court. In response to that decision representatives of the timber industry threatened my job and the very existence of the Clinic. Moreover, individuals who supported the timber industry called me at home, came onto my private property at night and even entered my office at the University, “just to let me know that they knew where I worked and lived”. Of course if the police had been able to detain any of those individuals before they scurried away ( none of them had the courage to stay around for very long) they could have been charged with “criminal trespass” under the existing law, a summary offense. However, even though their clear intent was to threaten and terrorize me, under current law they would not be labeled as a “terrorist”. HB 213 offers me no additional protection and would not in any way enhance the criminal offenses of

those who seek to intimidate lawyers like me who simply offer pro bono legal services on behalf of legal causes that are unpopular in certain circles. Incredibly HB 213 instead targets those who engage in entirely non-violent civil disobedience and enhances their “crimes” simply because they target certain natural resource extraction industries who apparently have great influence in Harrisburg. I will be deeply ashamed if the man whom I voted for as our governor would sign such a law. Please veto HB 213.


Thomas C. Buchele, Professor of Law
and Director, Environmental Law Clinic


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