Saturday, June 27, 2020

Two Louisiana Activists Charged with "Terrorizing" a Lobbyist for the Oil and Gas Industry

By James Bruggers
Jun 26, 2020

Two Louisiana environmental activists face up to 15 years in prison after they were arrested Thursday for terrorizing an oil and gas lobbyist by leaving a box of plastic "nurdles" on his front porch.

Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade turned themselves in at 8:30 a.m. and were held for nearly nine hours by Baton Rouge police, their attorney, Pam Spees, said Thursday evening.

"These charges have zero legal merit," Spees said in a written statement earlier. "They do not even pass the laugh test."


olfes and McIntosh are part of a broad coalition fighting to stop the Taiwanese Formosa Petrochemical Corp. and its subsidiary, FG LA LLC, from constructing a massive, $9.6 billion plastics and petrochemical complex, proposed on 2,400 acres in a predominantly Black portion of St. James Parish.

The plant is part of a planned plastics expansion in the United States that's facing fierce opposition from grassroots activists, environmentalists and members of Congress.

An analysis by ProPublica found the complex could more than triple the level of cancer-causing chemicals that residents of St. James are exposed to. It also found that the area around the site is already more saturated with those toxins than more than 99 percent of industrialized areas in the country.


In 2018, the state enacted a law that made trespassing on pipelines or industry sites a felony, punishable with up to five years in prison. This year, Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a bill that would have imposed a mandatory minimum three-year sentence if the trespassing occurred when the state is under a state of emergency.


A press release from the newly formed Alliance to Defend Democracy said the plastic nurdles had come from a Formosa plant in Port Comfort, Texas, which had, according to a federal lawsuit, spilled massive amounts of the pellets into Lavaca Bay.

"The sealed package was labeled with a written disclaimer," explaining what was in it, and advocating that Formosa's air permit be denied, the alliance said.

In early January, the plant was granted the air quality permits it needed by the state of Louisiana.

In December, a federal judge in Texas approved a $50 million settlement in a citizen-lawsuit over the spilled nurdles and other pollution.


The women were not booked under the law that made trespassing on oil and gas facilities illegal, but a different statute that prohibits "terrorizing," according to the new alliance's press release. Spees said both face a punishment of up to 15 years in prison.


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