Louisiana lawmakers eye harsher penalties in pipeline damage

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 BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – A fight over a crude oil pipeline in southern Louisiana has spilled into the Legislature.
    
A proposal to stiffen penalties for damaging or trespassing around the equipment is nearing final passage.
    
A Senate judicial committee on Tuesday approved a bill 5-1 that would classify pipelines as critical infrastructure.
    
That means anyone who damages a pipeline could face up to 15 years in prison and someone who unlawfully enters pipeline land could get up to five years if the measure becomes law.
    
Rep. Major Thibaut says his House-backed bill isn’t meant to stifle protests but to ensure the equipment is protected.
    
Opponents say the measure is intended to criminalize pipeline protests and to argue that fishermen who have to work near pipelines could be criminally charged.
    
 

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