LOUISIANA - Oil & Gas "Critical Infrastructure" Anti-Protest Bills

  • Posted on: 18 February 2019
  • By: Connor Gibson

Updated June 22, 2020. 

See Full Report: State Bills to Criminalize Peaceful Protest of Oil & Gas "Critical Infrastructure"

2020 HB 197 - VETOED

  • Vetoed by Governor John Bel Edwards on June 12, 2020
  • Pased by Senate on May 29, 2020
  • Passed by House on May 22, 2020
  • Prefiled on February 24, 2020

HB 197 is not based on an ALEC model bill. It expands upon Act 692 of 2018 (below), which closely resembled ALEC's model bill criminalizing protests of fossil fuel infrastructure.

ICNL analysis:

Would build on a 2018 law that heightened penalties for protesters near pipelines and other “critical infrastructure” (see HB 727). The bill further expands the definition of “critical infrastructure” to include “water control structures, including floodgates or pump stations.” This would expand the universe of places where protesters could face felony charges and 5 years in prison for "unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure" — e.g. for protests near dams and levees, as well as such structures that are under construction. The bill also provides heightened penalties for “unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure” during a state of emergency: Under the bill, if a state of emergency is in effect, unauthorized entry onto critical infrastructure (for instance during a peaceful protest) is punishable by at least 3 and up to 15 years’ imprisonment, along with a fine of $5,000-$10,000. As such, protesters could face even harsher penalties for protesting on infrastructure property—or infrastructure construction sites—during a state of emergency.

Apparent Motivation for HB 197: Targeting Black Activists Opposing Formasa Plastics Complex Built on Burial Grounds of Enslaved Plantation Workers.

The bill appears designed to uniquely intimidate activists with the organization RISE St James, who have opposed the contruction of a $9.7 billion plastics and petrochemical complex that has been proposed by Formosa, a Taiwanese plastics manufacturing company. RISE St James revealed evidence of a cemetaries where enslaved plantation workers were burried on the site of the proposed Formoa plant, which the company claims to have missed in its own land assessments. According to a report by HuffPost:

[Gail] Leboeuf, a gray-haired woman in her late 60s, was among more than a dozen gathered on a dirt road amid an expansive sugarcane field in St. James Parish, an hour’s drive west of New Orleans, that Thursday to protest the construction of a 2,300-acre, $9.4 billion petrochemical complex that would double toxic emissions in a region already known as “Cancer Alley.” The public health concern was compounded by the desecration of what she declared that day to be “hallowed ground.”

Her ancestors ― enslaved Black workers ― were buried in unmarked graves not far from where she stood. For generations, they tilled and scythed, suffered and died to enrich a local plantation owner and the commodities traders up north. Even death couldn’t stop the indignities. A petrochemical company had already dug one pipeline through the cemetery a decade ago.

[...] Leboeuf wasn’t charged with a crime. She could have been. Under a state law enacted two years ago, even gathering near the underground pipeline without permission could have landed her up to five years in prison and $1,000 in fines.

Now a new bill hastily making its way through the Louisiana State Legislature would dramatically increase those penalties for trespassing on fossil fuel sites during a state of emergency, setting a mandatory minimum of three years in prison “at hard labor” and a maximum of 15 years, and up to $5,000 in fines. [...]

The new bill in Louisiana illustrates how legislation originally meant to protect pipelines benefits plastic and chemical manufacturing, one of the fastest-growing sectors of the fossil fuel industry. The pipeline that runs under the slave burial ground is not part of the 14-factory complex Taiwanese petrochemical giant Formosa Plastics Corp. proposed building. But the pipeline’s existence offers a legal cudgel to pressure Lavigne and her activist group to back off.

HB 197 adds levee's the the state's definitions of critical infrastructure, setting prosecutors up to charge people like Levigne with felony penalties. Reporting by InsideClimate News further suggests that HB 197 was designed to appease Formosa's concerns about RISE St James activists, specifically, in spite of both Formosa and the bill's sponsor denying the company's involvement:

"But in February, [Sharon Levigne] said, a sheriff's deputy came to house to tell her Formosa didn't want her on the land, or on the nearby levee."

Industry Lobbying:

Lobbying reports disclosed to the Louisiana Ethics Administration are not required to disclose positions taken on specific bills, including HB 197.

Jim F. Harris of Harris, DeVille & Associates is the only lobbyist in Louisiana registered to lobby on behalf of Formosa, whose proposed plastics complex in the St James Parrish is a likely impetus for HB 197 (see details above). Harris was retained by Formosa in 2017, the first year it registered to lobby in Louisiana, and he has represented it each year since, according to Jim Harris' lobbyist registration reports, obtained from the Louisiana Ethics Administration:

Mr. Harris also represents numerous oil, gas, and petrochemical companies in 2020, including several companies that have lobbied for anti-protest laws in other states. These include:

  • Marathon Petroleum Corporation
  • Koch Industries and subsidiary Flint Hills Resources
  • Colonial Pipeline Co (majority-owned by Koch Industries)
  • Shell Pipeline Co
  • Valero Energy
  • Phillips66
  • The Louisiana Oil & Gas Association (LOGA)
    • LOGA board of director member companies include ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Halliburton, Chesapeake Energy, EOG Resources, and Hilcorp Energy
    • Other LOGA members include oil producers Cheniere Energy, Continental Resources, Enbridge, Hunt Oil, LLOG, and Williams Inc, and oil markers CenterPoint Energy, Plains All American, Range Resources
  • The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association (LMOGA)
    • LMOGA member companies include Anadarko Petroleum (Occidental Petroleum subsidiary), BP, Cheniere Energy, Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Colonial Pipeline Co (majority-owned by Koch Industries), Enbridge, Energy Transfer, EOG Resources, ExxonMobil, Hess, Koch Industries, Marathon Petroleum, Phillips66, Sempra Energy, Shell Oil, Southern Company Gas, TC Energy (TransCanada), Williams Companies, and two Valero refineries.

For reference, many of these companies are named on the Harris, DeVille & Associates website, and in Jim Harris' lobbyist registration reports filed in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Lobbying expenditure reports filed by Harris disclose the following total expenses that benefitted Louisiana legislators in recent years:

Additional funds were spent benefitting government officials from Louisiana's Executive branch.

According to InsideClimate News:

Among those supporting the bill as it moved through the Legislature, though, was the Louisiana Landowners Association, which represents oil and gas producers, among other developers.

Campaign Finance:

The sole legislator sponsor of HB 197, state Representative Jerome Zeringue, received $16,566 from oil, gas, and petrochemical companies since 2015. Most of this money is from 2019, the year after Zeringue helped champion the 2018 law that HB 197 is expanding.

Zeringue received a total of $1,435 from Harris, DeVille & Associates in 2017 and in 2019. At the time of these payments and in-kind contributions, the firm's namesake lobbyist Jim Harris represented Formosa and numerous oil & gas companies that have broadly supported anti-protest legislation in multiple states (see details, above).

2018 Act 692 (HB 727):

  • Introduced March 26, 2018
  • Signed by Governor on May 30, 2018
  • Effective on Aug. 8, 2018

ICNL analysis:

Targets protests around gas and oil pipelines by expanding the definition of “critical infrastructure” and providing for the offense of "unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure." Under the law, "critical infrastructure" is amended to include "pipelines," "any site where the construction or improvement of [pipelines or any other listed infrastructure facility] is taking place," as well as "all structures, equipment, or other immovable or movable property located within or upon" such facilities. Unauthorized entry onto critical infrastructure property as defined above is punishable by imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to five years and a fine of $1,000. As originally introduced, the law included a new crime of “conspiracy to engage in unauthorized entry” of a critical infrastructure facility, punishable by imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to five years and a fine of $10,000, such that individuals who only planned to hold a peaceful protest on infrastructure property could be prosecuted. The amended and enacted version of the bill removed the provisions on conspiracy, however. In addition, prior to the law’s enactment, provisions were added to mandate that the law would not apply to "[l]awful assembly and peaceful and orderly petition, picketing, or demonstration for the redress of grievances or to express ideas or views regarding legitimate matters of public interest." 

ALEC legislators:

At least 17 of 64 co-sponsors are confirmed LA ALEC affiliate legislators: Primary sponsor Rep. Major Thibaut, Rep. John Anders (D-21), Rep. Paula Davis (R-69), Rep. John Guinn (R-37), Rep. Chris Hazel (R-27), Rep. Bob Hensgens (R-47), Rep. Frank Hoffman (R-15), Rep. Bernard LaBas (D-38), Rep. Jerome Richard (I-55), Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-05), Rep. Kirk Talbot (R-78), Sen. Norby Chabert (R-20), Sen. Dale Erdy (R-13), Sen. Neil Riser (R-32), Sen. Francis Thompson (D-34), Sen. Michael Walsworth (R-33), and Sen. Mack White (R-06).

  • Rep. Stuart Bishop is unconfirmed as an ALEC member, but was the primary “author” of an ALEC model bill in 2015.

  • Rep. Julie Emerson is unconfirmed as an ALEC member, but has been featured on ALEC’s website.

  • Rep. George “Greg” Cromer (R-90) was a member of ALEC who announced his departure in 2012; it is unclear if he has since re-joined ALEC.

CSG legislators:

5 of 64 co-sponsors are confirmed participants of events conducted by the Council of State Governments, and CSG’s regional subsidiaries:

  • Rep. John “Andy” Anders, ex-officio member and chair of the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) Agriculture & Rural Development Committee, 2015.

  • Rep. John “Johnny” Guinn, attended SLC 2009 and 2010 annual meetings

  • Rep. Valerie Hodges, attended SLC event in 2014

  • Sen. Dan Claitor, member of SLC Energy & Environment Committee in 2013

  • Sen. Francis Thompson attended 2004 CSG Leadership Forum, presented to the  SLC Agriculture & Rural Development Committee in 2009,

Oil & Gas Lobbying:

As reported by The Intercept,

The Louisiana law was drafted by Tyler Gray, president and general counsel of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association

Louisiana does not disclose positions that companies take on specific legislation. Energy Transfer Equity lobbyist Thomas Williams disclosed expenditures on two legislators in 2017, both of whom co-sponsored HB 727: $43.19 total spent on two occasions with Sen. Norby Chabert, and $8.48 spent on Rep. Beryl Amedee. Williams also disclosed a $168 payment for a cookout party for the Louisiana House of Representatives, in April, 2017.

Williams has represented ETE since 2012, and and he has represented two other ETP subsidiaries: ETC Tiger Pipelines, and Regency Energy Partners.

Oil & Gas Campaign Contributions:

Co-sponsors received $1,082,573 from oil & gas companies and employees

2015 Act 366:

  • Prefiled as HB7 on February 6, 2015
  • Signed by Governor on July 1, 2015
  • Effective on August 1, 2015

Analysis:

Expanded and clarified definitions of criminal activity at critical infrastructure sites, including obtaining access using fraudulent identification. Pipelines were not mentioned specifically.

ALEC legislators:

Sole primary sponsor Rep. Major Thibaut was a confirmed LA ALEC member from 2010-2011

2004 Act 157:

  • Prefiled as HB 561 on March 18, 2004
  • Signed by Governor and effective on June 10, 2004
  • Initially sponsored by Rep. Michael Walsworth.
  • Re-engrossed bill added two co-sponsors: Rep. Kay Katz [now retired] and Rep. Francis Thompson [now a LA state Senator]

Analysis:

Created a maximum fine of $1,000 and maximum imprisonment of five years for trespassing on critical infrastructure sites. Pipelines were not included among examples of critical infrastructure, such as refineries, LNG terminals, natural gas compressor stations, chemical plants, power plants, and water plants.

ALEC legislators:

  • 3 of 3 sponsors were confirmed LA ALEC members as of 2011: Rep. Michael Walsworth, Rep. Kay Katz, and Rep. Francis Thompson. It is unclear if these legislators were affiliated with ALEC in 2004.

CSG legislators and model bill:

Act 157 was basis of CSG model bill “Unauthorized Entry of a Critical Infrastructure." The model bill was included in CSG 2006 Suggested State Legislation Vol. 5, from CSG’s Public Safety and Justice committee.

North Dakota state Rep. Kim Koppelman attended the November 20, 2004 meeting of the SSL committee in Dana Point, CA, when the “Unauthorized Entry of Critical Infrastructure” model bill was approved. Rep. Koppelman was also chair of the CSG Public Safety and Justice committee that was responsible for producing the model bill (CSG Suggested State Legislation 2006, Vol. 5).

LA state Sen. Francis Thompson (at the time, a state Representative) attended a September, 2004 CSG SSL committee meeting as a guest.

CSG’s corporate sponsors from 2004-2006 include Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, Sunoco, Encana, and Williams Companies

A 2003 CSG report on Critical Infrastructure was sponsored by BP, DuPont, and other companies.

Media Reports & References:

Tyler Bridges, Will Republican legislators override any of John Bel Edwards' vetoes? Not for now , The Advocate, June 19, 2020

Stephanie Grace, Between the pandemic and the protests, current events made this John Bel Edwards veto the obvious call, Times-Picayunne / NOLA.com, June 15, 2020

Sara Sneath, St. James residents seek permission to hold Juneteenth ceremony at possible slave cemetery, Times-Picayunne / NOLA.com, June 15, 2020

Louisiana governor vetoes bill to boost trespass penalties, Kallanish Energy, June 15, 2020

Johnna Crider, A Win For The First Amendment (And Clean Energy) In Louisiana — #HB197 Vetoed, Clean Technica, June 15, 2020

Nicholas Kusnetz, Louisiana’s Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Have Imposed Harsh Penalties for Trespassing on Industrial Land, InsideClimate News, June 13, 2020

Mark Ballard, John Bel Edwards vetoes controversial car insurance bill; here are the next steps, The Advocate, June 12, 2020

Julie Dermansky and Sharon Kelly, Formosa Plastics Opponents Ask Louisiana Governor to Veto Bill Over Harsh Sentencing Concerns, DeSmog, June 11, 2020

Nicholas Kusnetz, In Louisiana, Stepping onto Oil and Gas Industry Land May Soon Get You 3 Years or More in Prison, InsideClimate News, June 10, 2020

Austin Kemker, Coalition Against Death Alley calls on Gov. Edwards to veto bill labeling water control measures as critical infrastructure, WAFB 9, June 10, 2020

Johnna Crider, Louisiana Bill Would Punish Black Protesters For Opposing Big Oil, June 10, 2020

Mark Ballard, Column: Louisiana lawmakers' excessive pride raises issues with flawed bills passed, The Advocate, June 6, 2020

Mark Ballard, Groups seek veto of bill proposing harsh sentences for protesters at petro-chemical plants, The Advocate, June 4, 2020

Alexander C. Kaufman, Louisiana Bill Would Mandate 3-Year Minimum Sentence For Trespassing On Fossil Fuel Sites, HuffPost, May 29, 2020

Sara Sneath, How Louisiana politicians undermine efforts to fight the petrochemical industry, Times Picayunne, February 7, 2020.

Co-published with ProPublica: How Louisiana Lawmakers Stop Residents’ Efforts to Fight Big Oil and Gas

Anne White Hat, ALEC-Crafted Laws Could Send Me to Prison for a Decade for My Activism, Truth-Out, December 5, 2019

Sharon Kelly, Louisiana Law Turning Pipeline Protests Into Felonies Violates Constitution, New Lawsuit Alleges, DeSmog, May 22, 2019

New Lawsuit Challenges Anti-Protest Trespass Law, Center for Constitutional Rights, May 22, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, After Standing Rock, protesting pipelines can get you a decade in prison and $100K in fines, Grist, May 14, 2019

Derek Seidman and Gin Armstrong, How to Research the Corporate Forces Behind Pipeline Protest Criminalization, LittleSis, September 27, 2018

Alleen Brown and Will Parrish, Recent Arrests Under New Anti-Protest Law Spotlight Risks that Off-Duty Cops Pose to Pipeline Opponents, The Intercept, August 22, 2018

Alleen Brown and Will Parrish, Louisiana and Minnesota Introduce Anti-Protest Bills Amid Fights over Bayou Bridge and Enbridge Pipelines, The Intercept, March 31, 2018

Alleen Brown, Will Parrish and Alice Speri, Dakota Access-Style Policing Moves to Pennsylvannia's Mariner East 2 Pipeline, The Intercept, June 21, 2017