Senate Drones Bill Crashes in House Committee

Apr 30, 2014

A Senate-approved bill to prohibit the camera-equipped unmanned aircraft known as drones from overflying chemical plants and refineries crashed and burned in the House Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday.

“Drones are becoming more and more prevalent,” explained the bill’s author, Baton Rouge Senator Bodi White. “And it’s just an effort to try to at least have some rules or laws for the state of Louisiana with our critical infrastructure.”

White added he authored the bill at the request of the Louisiana Chemical Association.

Opposition to the measure centered on the bill’s definition of what constitutes “critical infrastructure”. The list included far more than just refineries and chemical plants. It would also prohibited drones from flying over power lines, highways and pipelines. Kathy Wascomb with the Atchafalaya Basin Keepers says her group uses drones to spot spills and contamination, and they report those things to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

“Because of the complicated definitions of ‘critical infrastructure’ it may put people in jeopardy who are just trying to do good work,” Wascomb told committee members.

New Orleans Representative Helena Moreno, vice-chair of the committee, was also frustrated by the “critical infrastructure” list.

“These are all over the place: water supply and treatment systems; telecommunications networks—which could be anywhere; power generation or delivery systems; finance or banking systems; highways, mass transit, airlines and airports; on and on and on,” Moreno read from the bill. “This just seems like it’s an overall ban on these unmanned craft.”

Moreno asked Senator White to slim down the list, but he was not amenable to doing so. She then made a motion to shoot the bill down, and force it to be involuntarily deferred. A majority of the committee agreed.