Early Thursday morning, two activists who have opposed a planned $9.4 billion petrochemical complex in St. James Parish, Louisiana, were arrested for “terrorizing” an oil and gas lobbyist connected to the Taiwanese plastics manufacturer responsible for the development. While the protest action leading to the charges occurred six months ago, the arrests come just a week after residents of the parish won a court battle against the company, allowing them to host a Juneteenth prayer ceremony on a slave burial site on the company’s property.
The charges against Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh — two members of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the environmental health and justice organization that’s been fighting the plastics company, Formosa, alongside RISE St. James, another grassroots environmental justice group — carry a punishment of up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $15,000.
Last year, a judge ruled that Formosa had illegally dumped billions of plastic pellets called nurdles into Texas’ Lavaca Bay and other waterways. The company agreed to pay a $50 million settlement as a result of complaints and lawsuits filed by Texas residents and environmental groups. In December, Louisiana activists sent a sealed container filled with the company’s nurdles to the home of an oil and gas lobbyist in Baton Rouge, as an act of protest against the company’s planned development in Louisiana. The package was accompanied by a letter explaining the box’s contents.