Activists Force Withdrawal Of Bid To Build $1.2 Billion Chemical Plant In Louisiana

Activists in Louisiana are claiming victory after they were able to get a Chinese chemical company to withdraw plans to build a $1.25 billion chemical plant in the small town of Convent. Convent is already home to a factory that spews toxic emissions and is believed to have contributed to higher rates of cancer in the area.

According to The Guardian:

“The site for the proposed site was in St James parish, just outside Reserve, which is the focus of a year-long reporting series by the Guardian, Cancer Town, which is examining local residents’ fight for clean air in a locality the Environment Protection Agency says has a cancer risk that is 50 times above the national average. The plant in Reserve, the PontchartrainWorks facility, is the only place in America to produce the synthetic rubber neoprene, and emits the chemical chloroprene, which is classed as a ‘likely carcinogen’ by the EPA.”

The plant that was scheduled to be built as part of a project by Wanhua Chemical of China, and would have also released “benzene and toluene, which can have both acute health impacts, such as rashes, wheezing, upset stomach, and nervous system effects, and chronic health impacts, like cancer and damage to developing fetuses,” according to Desmogblog.

Barbara Washington, a member of the group Rise St James, lives near where the plant was to be built and said residents don’t want businesses that will pollute their community:

“My great-great-great-great grandmother came out of slavery and bought my family’s land. Our hard work has paid off. We will not stop till all those industries who want to come in here change their plans. We are tired of being sick. We refuse to be sick any more. Don’t even try to come into St James. We will not allow it.”

Sharon Lavigne, president of Rise St James, echoed Washington, saying residents will not let companies do as they please at the expense of people:

“We aren’t just going to sit back and accept that it’s open season for industry to build in St James parish. We are ready to fight.”

Wanhua was set to produce the type of plastic used in car parts, The Guardian notes:

“Global oil and chemical industries are preparing for a surge in plastics production, even as the material streams into the oceans and piles up in developing countries. The Trump administration supports the industries’ growth.

“Rise, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and other campaign groups have been fighting for clean air in Convent and in Reserve, predominantly black towns.

“The groups also oppose another far bigger planned plastics facility from the Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics in St James parish. The project would consist of 14 plants.”

Most political figures in Louisiana were supportive of building the Wanhua plant. They were scolded in an op-ed written by Kendall Dix, with Healthy Gulf, who wrote:

“The true beneficiary of this build-out — other than mostly foreign-owned chemical companies themselves — has been the construction industry. In a typical chemical plant or oil terminal project, only 10-15 percent of the jobs will be permanent. The rest are construction workers who get a few months of employment before they’re sent packing.”

Creating a few new jobs should not be a justification to make our living conditions more dangerous than they already are.”

Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons

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Andrew Bradford

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