Opponents to Expanding Petrochemical Industry in Louisiana Fight Back

“Take a deep breath” is common advice for helping people to relax. However, that advice has the opposite effect on some citizens who live in heavily polluted Louisiana communities along the Mississippi River. There, a new coalition is emerging from a growing awareness of — and discontent with — the potential health impacts of living alongside the expanding petrochemical industry lining the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The 80-mile stretch along the river known as Louisiana’s “Petrochemical Corridor” is often referred to as “Cancer Alley.” Simmering frustrations among its communities, which are exposed to the industry’s pollution, recently led the new coalition of environmental and civil rights activists and Louisiana residents to rebrand it “Death Alley.”

The government is not doing its job to protect us,” Robert Taylor, a resident of St. John the Baptist Parish, and part of the group, Coalition Against Death Alley (CADA), told me. “By not acting they are signing our death warrants.”

The coalition formed early this year as the number of companies seeking approval to build fossil fuel-hungry plastics manufacturing facilities along the Mississippi River has grown. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has identified the sites as hot spots for toxic chemical releases in its latest National Air Toxics Assessment. Those hot spots include parts of St. James Parish and St. John the Baptist Parish.

To call attention to the area’s environmental injustices, CADA announced ambitious plans to march about 50 miles from St. John the Baptist Parish to Baton Rouge, stopping in communities impacted by fossil fuel industry pollution along the way….

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