It’s illegal to trespass on critical infrastructure sites in Louisiana, like a refinery or a nuclear power plant. Representative Major Thibaut’s bill would add pipelines to that list.
The bill was brought in response to protests last year in North Dakota. For several months, demonstrators tried to halt construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.
It would deter protesters from damaging oil pipelines across Louisiana — making it a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a $10,000 fine.
“Should they blow it up, or poke holes into it, or start turning valves the wrong way and cause some problems, it absolutely puts more stringent penalties on those people," says Thibaut.
It’s also a safety concern — given that pipelines carry hazardous materials.
“Not only does it pose a big danger to the people who are working in that area, the people themselves who are causing the damage but also the communities that are surrounded by these pipelines,” he says.
His proposal comes at a time when environmental groups are rising up against the construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, which would carry oil across much of south Louisiana and through the Atchafalaya Basin.
Anne Rolfes is the Founding Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, one of the environmental groups who opposes the pipeline. She says this bill is not necessary.
"It would create penalties for things that are already illegal — we don’t need it," Rolfes says.
And, she says, its designed to protect the oil industry by discouraging public demonstrations.
"The reason that we engage in civil disobedience is because the system isn’t protecting people in Louisiana."
The bill has already gotten the approval of the full House. It’s expected to be heard by a Senate Judiciary committee today.