After the East Palestine derailment, government officials in states have been worried that eco-terrorists will also ramp up their efforts to sabotage energy infrastructure while media attention is high.

Utah just became the 19th state to pass the infrastructure equivalent of a hate crimes law; HB 370 provides greater penalties for environmentalists who damage railroads, energy plants, pipelines, or infrastructure leading to those. Utah had already been concerned after attacks during the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2017 so a judge can now sentence those caught attempting to go beyond peaceful protests to five years in prison.

Many acts of sabotage will now be felonies instead of the fuzzy-wuzzy misdemeanor of criminal trespass no matter how much damage was done, or who was threatened. And if it is found that environmental groups are fomenting sabotage, they are liable as well.

States are doing it because Congress would not. Yet they now know they should have drawn a line between peaceful protests and violence. Because the health of the nation relies on strategic resources like energy. As we found in 2022, calls to cut oil production by the federal government were just smoke and mirrors to placate constituents, the Biden administration was simultaneously telling oil companies to add more infrastructure at the same time. The Democrat in New York who ran the House Oversight Committee was telling oil companies to cut production as Russia invaded Ukraine got trounced in her primary a few months later, losing by 30 points.

Civil protest is a tenet of US culture. Violence and destruction are not; not in Portland, not on Capitol Hill, nowhere, and more states should treat sabotage like any other act of violence.