UC Law Environmental Journal


Zoe Gallagher


Although definitions of “terrorism” vary around the world, one visceral feeling is constant: terrorists are morally corrupt individuals who commit heinous acts of violence, and they deserve to be punished accordingly. However, the reality is far more nuanced. Currently, United States law defines a terrorist as any person who commits an act of violence to advance a political or social agenda. Under this law, some radical environmental activists have been unfairly designated as eco-terrorists, even though their actions have not caused widespread destruction or death. In contrast, oil and gas company executives have largely escaped any criminal or civil liability, despite the fact that their actions have devastated entire regions and killed thousands. In Part I, this note examines the actions of convicted eco-terrorists and the existing eco-terrorism framework that led to their convictions. Part II details the actions of oil and gas companies and their far-reaching impacts on both the regions in which they operate and on the global community. Part III outlines the current legal framework for holding oil and gas companies accountable for their actions and demonstrates its limitations. And finally, Part IV proposes a new legal framework to shine a light on the questionable practices of oil and gas companies and outlines how these corporations could be convicted under eco-terrorism laws.