Louisiana Governor Vetoes Harsh Pipeline Trespass Bill

“Activists had argued that the law, if enacted, would intimidate opponents of pipelines and chemical plants by threatening prison sentences for minor infractions.”

“Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday vetoed a bill that would have stiffened penalties for trespassing on pipelines, levees and a long list of other facilities in the state. The veto handed a victory to civil liberties advocates and local organizers, who said the bill would have trampled on their right to protest industrial development.

The legislation would have imposed a mandatory minimum three-year sentence for stepping onto “critical infrastructure” during a state of emergency and expanded the list of what falls under that definition, to include flood control structures, which criss-cross the state.

Advocates said the bill would have extended the reach of an already vague law that imposes harsh penalties for trespassing on oil and gas industry land and other sites. They argued that the law would intimidate activists who have fought pipelines and chemical plants across the state, by threatening prison sentences for minor infractions. In St. James Parish, west of New Orleans, residents who have been fighting a planned petrochemical complex had regularly stepped onto a levee adjacent to the site, an action that could have qualified as a felony punishable by a minimum sentence had the law gone into effect.”

Nicholas Kusnetz reports for InsideClimate News June 13, 2020.