Frontline community leaders are racking up wins against polluters in the heart of what’s known as Cancer Alley in Louisiana. Last Week, South Louisiana Methanol’s planned petrochemical facility to be built in St. James Parish was declared dead thanks to the state refusing to move forward with an application review on the project, which would’ve generated more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually had it been built. On Wednesday, St. James Parish leaders scored another key victory—this time against Formosa Plastics, the multi-billion dollar company that RISE St. James has been fighting for years.
A ruling issued that day Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District Court vacated Formosa’s permits, citing numerous enforcement failures from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ). LDEQ all but ignored the impact of dangerous emissions like benzene and ethylene oxide, which Formosa would emit at a level placing it near the top of all industrial emissions in the state and nation, respectively. Both are considered carcinogenic and would be a death sentence for a community already overburdened by polluters.
As RISE St. James Founder and President Sharon Lavigne said in a press release, “stopping Formosa Plastics has been a fight for our lives. “Today David has toppled Goliath,” Lavigne continued. “The judge’s decision sends a message to polluters like Formosa that communities of color have a right to clean air, and we must not be sacrifice zones.” Were it not for RISE St. James’ incredible work, along with Healthy Gulf, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and others, Louisiana would once again be sacrificing people for profits.
“Formosa had plans to emit 12 million tons of greenhouse gasses a year, yet the company never even mentioned climate change in its air permit application—and the state didn’t ask,” Louisiana Bucket Brigade Executive Director Anne Rolfes explained in a statement. “Formosa set its sights on Louisiana because the facility’s massive pollution made it illegal to build in its home country of Taiwan. Yet that didn’t matter to Gov. Edwards and parish officials, who four years ago announced the arrival of Formosa without having consulted with the nearest neighbors.”
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a series of initiatives aimed at holding fossil fuel companies and polluting manufacturers accountable in Cancer Alley. Though these two plants will luckily not see the light of day, there is still much to be done to address the relentless environmental racism that has made it so difficult for communities like St. James and St. John Parishes to thrive, much less recover from major storms worsened by climate change. Air quality monitoring is a key component of those initiatives. I’ve reached out to the EPA to see where they’re at with the pilot program and am hoping it’s almost up and running. No one is free to breathe if anyone in this country or on this planet is plagued by pollution.
Abortion rights, climate change, and gun safety are all on the ballot this fall, and there are literally thousands of ways to get involved in turning our voters. Plug into a federal, state, or local campaign from our GOTV feed at Mobilize and help Democrats and progressives win in November.