Governor vetoes penalties for protesters

Gov. John Bel Edwards. (AP Photo/Lee Celano, File)

The governor of Louisiana has vetoed a bill that would have upped the penalties imposed on environmental protesters who trespass on energy company property.

The legislation, House Bill 197 introduced by Republican Rep. Jerome Zeringue, was vetoed last week by Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.

The bill, passed last month by the Louisiana Legislature, would have imposed a mandatory minimum sentence of three years of hard labor in prison to oil and natural gas facilities that are classified as critical infrastructure.

Zeringue wanted to to require a stronger trespassing penalty during a “state of emergency,” eliminating judicial discretion with a mandatory sentence from 3 to 15 years and a potential fine of $5,000.

Edwards noted the measure would have made the stiffer sentence automatic, as Louisiana is currently under 11 different states of emergency. “Since Louisiana is in a constant state of emergency,” the governor noted in his veto, “there would likely never be a time when the lesser penalty is in effect.”

Read the bill and the veto.