The Houston Ship Channel is the lifeline to one of the busiest ports in the United States, and it’s a critical part of the nation’s energy infrastructure. In a protest to bring attention to climate change last September, 31 Greenpeace USA activists tied themselves to a bridge that spans the ship channel and dangled over the water, closing the waterway for 18 hours.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office sought convictions under Texas’ new critical infrastructure law, which makes it a felony to interfere with oil and gas pipelines and ports, and other “critical infrastructure,” but a grand jury saw it differently. Instead, the jury opted instead for 25 misdemeanor indictments for obstructing a highway or other passageway. Six cases were dismissed before submission and two people still face separate federal misdemeanor charges.
Tom Wetterer, general counsel for Greenpeace USA, said:
“No one violated Texas’ critical infrastructure statue.”
He might be right, but there was an alternative. Instead of bringing charges or anything else, Harris County officials could have simply left the activists hanging there. It was September in Texas, which is hot and uncomfortable. Eventually, they would’ve figured out it was a badly planned protest.