pipeline_protest

Dressed in a crawfish costume, Sue Prevost protests construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Calcasieu Parish on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Photo via Facebook 

Two women from New Orleans on Thursday morning dressed up as crawfish and chained themselves inside

Two women from New Orleans on Thursday morning dressed up as crawfish and chained themselves inside barrels parked in front of an industrial yard about 200 miles from their homes.

By the end of the day, Renate Heurich, a retired teacher, and her friend, Sue Prevost, an active teacher, said they were facing counts along with two others who joined them in protesting construction of the 163-mile Bayou Bridge Pipeline across south Louisiana.

The industrial yard in Iowa, which is outside Lake Charles, is stocked with railroad ties that trucks use to access muddy construction sites along the pipeline route, said Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which organized the protest.

About 20 protesters blocked access to the industrial yard for more than three hours starting at 6 a.m., Rolfes said.

About five trucks were trapped inside, she said, until the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office arrived about 9 a.m. All but two — Heurich and Prevost, the crawfish-festooned teachers in the barrels — complied with an order to disperse, Rolfes said. The protesters remained at the site but moved a distance away.

Sheriff’s deputies eventually pushed aside the barrel containing Heurich, who willingly left the barrel.

The five trapped truck drivers managed to leave once deputies removed the first barrel, Rolfes said, but she figured the lack of other trucks attempting to enter signified a wider disruption. Rolfes said her group regularly monitors pipeline supply sites such as the one in Iowa.

“This is a busy yard on a usual day,” Rolfes said. “They are usually in and out of this yard every 10 minutes.”

The disruption in activity at the yard did not last, however, when two trucks arrived about noon or shortly thereafter.

Heurich, who said she felt conflicted about leaving Prevost, still in a barrel, on her own, said the first truck passed dangerously close to Prevost, prompting another protester to try to stand in the way of the second truck.

“He had to jump away because the truck had no intention to stop,” Heurich said, speaking by telephone later in the afternoon. “That truck sped by also very closely.”

At that point, Heurich said, Prevost followed the advice of a lawyer in the group and decided to call it quits.

Activists reported four arrests with criminal charges, but it was unclear what counts they may be facing. A Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office press officer did not return calls Thursday.

Heurich, who said she retired in 2006 after a 25-year public teaching career in the New Orleans area, said she was protesting the fossil fuel industry’s role in climate change, as well as what she sees as the risk the pipeline will pose to those who live near it. Climate change is personal for Heurich, she said, in part because her adult daughter is debating whether she wants to have kids.

“She is really thinking it could be irresponsible to have any children and expose them to the kind of world they will inherit,” Heurich said.

Energy Transfer Partners said in a statement Thursday the company understands “there are varying opinions about critical infrastructure projects like the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, and we respect the rights of all to peacefully protest.”

The company says the pipeline, which is an extension of one that runs from Nederland, Texas, to Lake Charles, is “the safest, most environmentally sensitive and least expensive way to transport domestically produced energy.”

In a March 27 statement, the company said one of its contractor’s equipment had been vandalized along the pipeline route in Assumption Parish, with “potentially harmful environmental impacts.”

A pending Louisiana House bill sponsored by Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, would create the crime of “criminal damage to critical infrastructure,” while adding pipelines to a list of critical infrastructure categories in state law and expanding the definition to include related property and equipment.

The law also would create a conspiracy crime related to unauthorized entry and criminal damage of critical infrastructure. The new crimes would come with prison sentences ranging from one to 20 years, with heavier penalties for damage that is life-threatening.

Thibaut said on Thursday he has no qualms with peaceful protest, but that he wants to stiffen penalties for those who endanger others by damaging infrastructure, including the nearly 50,000 miles of pipelines crisscrossing Louisiana.

“We can’t have people (protesting) the wrong way, damaging those pipelines, and putting our people and workers at risk,” Thibaut said.

Heurich and her fellow protesters say they too want to protect Louisianans, albeit from powerful industry forces who are unconcerned with effects on public health. Heurich said she is particularly concerned about her friends in St. James Parish, which is in the thick of the petrochemical corridor along the Mississippi River west of New Orleans.

“I know people who are getting sick and dying,” Heurich said. “I see how they are suffering from the existing infrastructure there already.”

barrels that were parked in front of an industrial yard about 200 miles from their homes.

By the end of the day, Renate Heurich, a retired teacher, and her friend, Sue Prevost, an active teacher, had been arrested along with two others who joined them in protesting construction of the 163-mile Bayou Bridge Pipeline across south Louisiana.

The industrial yard in Iowa, which is outside Lake Charles, is stocked with railroad ties that trucks use to access muddy construction sites along the pipeline route, said Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which organized the protest.

About 20 protesters blocked access to the industrial yard for more than three hours starting at 6 a.m., Rolfes said.

About five trucks were trapped inside, she said, until the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office arrived around 9 a.m. All but two — Heurich and Prevost, the crawfish-festooned teachers in barrels  — complied with an order to disperse, moving back a distance, Rolfes said.

Sheriff’s deputies eventually pushed aside the barrel containing Heurich, who then willingly got out of the barrel around 9 a.m.

The five trapped truck drivers managed to leave once deputies removed the first barrel, Rolfes said, but she figured the lack of other trucks attempting to enter signified a wider disruption. Rolfes said her group regularly monitors pipeline supply sites such as the one in Iowa.

“This is a busy yard on a usual day,” Rolfes said. “They are usually in and out of this yard every 10 minutes.”

The disruption in activity at the yard did not last, however, when two trucks arrived around noon or shortly thereafter.

Heurich, who said she felt conflicted about leaving Prevost on her own, said the first truck at noon passed dangerously close to Prevost, prompting another protester to try to stand in the way of the second truck.

“He had to jump away because the truck had no intention to stop,” Heurich said, speaking by telephone later in the afternoon. “That truck sped by also very closely.”

At that point, Heurich said, Prevost followed the advice of a lawyer in the group and decided to call it quits.

A Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office press officer did not return calls Thursday.

Heurich, who said she retired in 2006 after a 25-year public teaching career in the New Orleans area, said she was protesting the fossil fuel industry’s role in climate change, as well as what she sees as the risk the pipeline will pose to those who live near it. Climate change is personal for Heurich, she said, in part because her adult daughter is debating whether she wants to have kids.

“She is really thinking it could be irresponsible to have any children and expose them to the kind of world they will inherit,” Heurich said.

Energy Transfer Partners said in a statement Thursday the company understands “there are varying opinions about critical infrastructure projects like the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, and we respect the rights of all to peacefully protest.”

The company says the pipeline, which is an extension of one that runs from Nederland, Texas to Lake Charles, is “the safest, most environmentally sensitive and least expensive way to transport domestically produced energy.”

In a March 27 statement, the company said one of its contractor’s equipment had been vandalized along the pipeline route in Assumption Parish, with “potentially harmful environmental impacts.”

A pending Louisiana House bill sponsored by Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, would create the crime of “criminal damage to critical infrastructure,” while adding pipelines to a list of critical infrastructure categories in state law and expanding the definition to include related property and equipment.

The law also would create a conspiracy crime related unauthorized entry and criminal damage of critical infrastructure. The new crimes would come with prison sentences ranging from one to 20 years, with heavier penalties for damage that is life threatening.

Thibaut said on Thursday he has no qualms with peaceful protest, but that he wants to stiffen penalties for those who endanger others by damaging infrastructure, including the nearly 50,000 miles of pipelines crisscrossing Louisiana.

“We can’t have people (protesting) the wrong way, damaging those pipelines, and putting our people and workers at risk,” Thibaut said.

Heurich and her fellow protesters say they too want to protect Louisianans, albeit from powerful industry forces who are unconcerned with effects on public health. Heurich said she is particularly concerned about her friends in St. James Parish, which is in the thick of the petrochemical corridor along the Mississippi River west of New Orleans.

“I know people who are getting sick and dying,” Heurich said. “I see how they are suffering from the existing infrastructure there already.”


Follow Ben Myers on Twitter, @blevimyers.