Proposed bill could increase penalties for trespassing at pipelines

Posted at 10:45 PM, Apr 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-05 23:45:54-04

Arrests at a protest against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline today in Calcasieu parish.

Three people were arrested and are facing trespassing charges.

Now, lawmakers are considering a bill that could affect protests against the project.

At the capitol, a New Roads lawmaker is proposing a bill that would increase the penalties for trespassing on certain sites.

Among the proposed sites are pipelines.

If HB 727 passes, protestors arrested at places like pipeline construction sites would face felony charges, punishable by up to five years in prison or a $1,000 fine.

Even conspiring to trespass on these sites would result in the same penalties.

"The company behind the bayou bridge pipeline has a terrible track record of accidents, but we’re saying let’s protect our crawfish, let’s protect our water, let’s protect our state for our children’s future," said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline, isn’t without controversy.

Under construction right now, the 163-mile pipeline will link refineries to hubs in Texas.

It’s part of a larger interstate pipeline that includes the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, which was also the scene of protests.

Protestors like Rolfes, aren’t discouraged by the pending bill. They say their work is too important.

"If you go into the Atachafalya Basin you will see that significant parts are dead because the oil industry has laid so many pipelines there. But even now every day in our swamps, every day in the places we like to hunt and fish there are spills, there are leaks, there are problems," she said.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the bayou bridge pipeline released a statement expressing strong support for the bill.

"We understand there are varying opinions about critical infrastructure projects like the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, and we respect the rights of all to peacefully protest.  However, safety remains our top priority and in this instance, local law enforcement was called due to protestors creating a potentially unsafe situation for our workers and for themselves. When completed, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline will be the safest, most environmentally sensitive and least expensive way to transport domestically produced energy…"

But protesters think the bill is a bullying tactic and are concerned about potential impacts to the environment.

"You know, we’re on the right side and it’s hard to see exactly how we’re going to win because the odds are against us but we have faith that we will," said Rolfes.

ACLU has also released a statement saying they are in opposition to the bill and the national organization is tracking it.

Right now it has passed through the committee and is pending house floor action.