- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2017

DENVER (AP) - A Republican proposal to increase penalties for tampering with oil and gas equipment has cleared an important hurdle.

But Democrats are likely to block the attempt to make it a felony, not misdemeanor, to tamper with or vandalize drilling equipment.

Sponsoring Republicans say that extremists are breaking locks and otherwise damaging drilling equipment. But Democrats countered that the crime is very rare and that the increased penalty is an attempt to stifle legal protests.

Several states are considering bills this year to make it easier to shut down protests deemed a nuisance.

Colorado’s measure would make it a Class 6 felony to tamper or attempt to tamper with oil and gas equipment.

The bill faces one more formal vote before heading to the Democratic House, where its prospects are dim.

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