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Michael Foster cuts a lock at a TransCanada pipeline valve site near Walhalla on Oct. 11, 2016, before turning the emergency valve and stopping the flow of oil. The incident has prompted a North Dakota legislator to introduce a bill that seeks to be a stronger deterrent for damaging critical infrastructure.

The North Dakota Senate advanced a bill on Friday that seeks to deter people from tampering with pipelines and other critical infrastructure.

Members voted 42-3 in favor of Senate Bill 2044, introduced in response to activists who tampered with an oil pipeline valve in northeast North Dakota in 2016.

“We’re sending a clear message this is not something we can have happen here,” said Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, the primary sponsor of the bill.

Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, said the bill amends state law to better define that it’s illegal to willfully tamper with or damage energy facilities and other types of critical infrastructure.

As initially proposed, the bill would have made a fine 10 times greater for an organization found to be a conspirator with an individual who damages infrastructure. In the bill approved Friday, the fine for an organization was amended and capped at $100,000.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota opposed the bill, raising concerns that the legislation is unconstitutional and would stifle free speech.

The bill moves to the House for consideration.

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(Reach Amy Dalrymple at 701-250-8267 or Amy.Dalrymple@bismarcktribune.com)

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