USA: Advocates say energy companies using anti-protest laws to criminalize demonstrators; inc co. comments

Dozens of bills and executive orders that aim to restrict high-profile protests have been introduced in at least 31 US states and in the federal government since November 2016. According to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Fifteen have been enacted including a critical-infrastructure pipeline bill in Oklahoma and similar bills in Iowa and Louisiana. Human rights and environmental advocates believe that these bills are aimed at criminalizing protest, intimidating demonstrators, and portraying environmental activists as terrorists.

Activists have alleged that Energy Transfer Partners and local authorities are using the new law to crack down on protests against the Bayou Bridge pipeline, as at least nine people have been arrested within weeks of the law's entry into force.  A spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, has said that "while we respect that there are a variety of opinions about pipeline infrastructure, we do not tolerate illegal activity on our right-of-ways, nor activities that would put our workers in danger," and that the company hires private security to protect its workers. ETP spokeswoman Alexis Daniel has also said, "any claims that our company or our security contractors have inappropriately monitored protestors in false."

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Autor/in: Anya Kamenetz, The Nation

L’Eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) see this fight [against the Bayou Bridge pipeline] as the continuation of the struggle that began at Standing Rock... the Bayou Bridge Pipeline is part of the same network of pipes as those that make up the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is meant to ferry crude oil that comes all the way from the fracking sites in North Dakota. The destination: refineries in the predominantly African-American town of St. James, known for decades as Cancer Alley for the toxic impact of that process. Part of this fight is to get a safe evacuation route secured for that town in the event of a spill or other accident... L’Eau Est La Vie activists have kept up a constant drumbeat of resistance... [- they] have blockaded construction sites in kayaks, conducted tree sits, and chained themselves to equipment... “Our construction activities have been and will continue to adhere to the stipulations of our permits,” Alexis Daniel, a spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners [said] via e-mail. “Bayou Bridge believes that it has the necessary rights to move forward with construction.”

... In recent weeks, the stakes for the activists have risen, thanks to new state legislation criminalizing protest. This legislation draws on a sample bill drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council... [and] makes trespassing near “critical infrastructure” a felony carrying several years in prison, rather than a misdemeanor... Versions of this felony protest bill have been introduced in IowaPennsylvaniaOklahomaWyomingVirginiaNew YorkOhioMinnesotaColorado and Washington.  

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Autor/in: Nicholas Kusnetz, inside climate news

An oil pipeline developer and local authorities in Louisiana are using a controversial new law to crack down on protests there, with at least nine people arrested this month within weeks of the law's entry into force. So far, none of the protesters has been formally charged with a crime, and their arrests are raising questions about the ambiguity of the law... Cherri Foytlin..., [an] organizer with L'eau Est la Vie, a group that formed to coordinate protests against the Bayou Bridge pipeline... said that as activists were setting up tree-sits along the pipeline construction route in July to try to prevent the developer from cutting trees, sheriff's deputies warned them that come Aug. 1, they'd be facing felony charges. Foytlin said protesters were well aware of the new law and designed their activities to avoid violating the statute once it took effect. On Aug. 9, three protesters paddled their boats on a small waterway in the basin close to where construction was underway... [and then were arrested]. Alexis Daniel, a spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, said in an email that "while we respect that there are a variety of opinions about pipeline infrastructure, we do not tolerate illegal activity on our right-of-ways, nor activities that would put our workers in danger," and that the company hires private security to protect its workers. She said that in this case, however, local or state authorities had detained the protesters, and she referred questions to them.

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Autor/in: Nicholas Kusnetz, The Washington Post

Only days after... [activists] announced their plans to resist the Diamond Pipeline construction, an Oklahoma state lawmaker introduced a bill to stiffen penalties for interfering with pipeline projects and other “critical infrastructure.” The law, which the governor signed, imposed punishments of up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines — and up to $1 million for any organization “found to be a conspirator.” Merely stepping onto a pipeline easement suddenly risked a year in prison... Law enforcement and private companies have surveilled pipeline campaigners in Louisiana, Virginia, Washington, North Dakota and other states, according to public records obtained by environmental groups and news organizations... In 2017, 84 members of Congress wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking if protesters who tamper with pipelines could be prosecuted as domestic terrorists. Sponsors of the state pipeline bills have also invoked terrorism... Advocacy groups fear the legislation uses a handful of dangerous incidents as a pretext to intimidate mainstream advocates.

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Autor/in: Nicholas Kusnetz, inside climate news

In at least 31 states, lawmakers and governors have introduced bills and orders since Standing Rock that target protests, particularly opposition to pipelines... Across the country, activists... are feeling increasingly under assault as energy companies and their allies in government have tried to turn the law—and law enforcement—against them... In Louisiana, which enacted a similar law in May, at least nine activists have been arrested under the new law since it went into effect on Aug. 1 [2018]... "The clear attempt there is to bring environmental justice, environmental advocacy organizations into a realm of criminal liability," said Pamela Spees, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents activists in Louisiana. "They're basically trying to silence and minimize the impact of environmental organizations."

... Anne Rolfes, an organizer of the [Bayou Bridge] pipeline resistance and founder of the advocacy group Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said activists also suspected they were being watched... Rolfes' group this year also obtained a handful of documents through a public records request that indicate state officials were tracking their efforts... Louisiana State Police declined to comment. Mike Steele, a spokesman for the state Homeland Security Department, rejected the notion that his agency spies on activists... Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman Alexis Daniel issued a statement saying, "any claims that our company or our security contractors have inappropriately monitored protestors in false." 

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Autor/in: Alleen Brown & Will Parrish, The Intercept

Over the weekend, four opponents of the Bayou Bridge pipeline and an independent journalist covering their activities were arrested and charged under Louisiana House Bill 727, which makes trespassing on "critical infrastructure" facilities — a category that explicitly includes oil pipelines — a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of $1,000, or both... [This] is one of numerous anti-protest laws that states have considered or enacted in the wake of the mass mobilization against the Dakota Access pipeline... The arrests also expose the blurred line between private security and public law enforcement that has become typical in the policing of anti-pipeline struggles.

... On August 9, the first three arrests under the law were carried out by probation and parole officers with Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections moonlighting as security guards for Bayou Bridge pipeline parent company Energy Transfer Partners. Ken Pastorick, communications director for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, told The Intercept that the department’s director authorized the officers to work on behalf of the Bayou Bridge pipeline as a form of “extra-duty employment.” “They have the ability to enforce the law in Louisiana even when off-duty and working extra-duty security details,” he said... Given the complex land ownership and public access rules that govern the bayou, handing discretionary arrest powers to a private company is particularly controversial... [According to]... Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson Vicki Granado wrote in a statement to The Intercept. “Any entry on our right-of-way by those not associated with our project is trespassing. These situations are dealt with by local law enforcement. We are thankful for the work they do to ensure everyone’s safety. Beyond that we don’t discuss specifics related to our security... Regarding recent laws that have been past [sic] relative trespassing on right-of-ways, we support any actions that will help to ensure the safety of our country’s infrastructure." [also refers to Enbridge, Leighton Security Services, Phillips 66, TigerSwan, Transcanada]

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