Louisiana - A years-long battle to stop the chemical company Formosa from building a massive petrochemical complex along the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana swung in favor of residents on Wednesday when a state district judge withdrew the air permits that the company needs to operate. The Taiwan-based chemical giant first announced its plans to build the $9.4 billion petrochemical complex on a sprawling 2,400-acre site in St. James Parish in April 2018. If approved, the so-called “Sunshine Project” would have been one of the largest and most expensive industrial projects in the state’s history. Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, celebrated it as a boon for economic development that would bring 1,200 new jobs to the region. But the project encountered swift opposition from the local community.
Louisiana - Along a winding stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the sugar cane fields that have surrounded small neighborhoods for generations have been gradually replaced by smokestacks and chemical flares. Residents have protested the industrial plants for years, saying the facilities affect their health. Now, several companies and the State of Louisiana are proposing new industrial facilities that they say will be carbon neutral through a process called carbon capture. But after years of industrialization, many local residents and environmental activists are skeptical of the proposals.
If you had ventured down a dirt road running through remote marshland along the Gulf Coast in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, at just the right time back in late February, you might have come across a pit of gray muck. Down in that pit, you’d find a contractor welding a steel cap about the size of a dinner plate onto a stub of pipe jutting up from the mud below. That pipe was the last visible sign of an old oil and gas wastewater well that once dropped over a half-mile deep into the earth, now plugged up and sealed by contractors hired by the state. For decades, oil and gas companies disposed of millions of barrels of waste down that hole, ringed with cement and steel, dubbing the wastewater well Freshwater City SWD 01, according to state records. Experts told DeSmog the well was defective and that using it put underground supplies of drinking water in the area at risk.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana - On May 3, the Louisiana House of Representatives Education Committee struck down this state’s version of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by a seven to four vote. This decision came after a mass upsurge of students, parents, teachers, social workers and LGBTQ+ community members demanding to shut the bill down. HB 837, the “Don’t Say Gay” or “Classroom censorship” bill, attempted to prohibit all discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in K-8 classrooms. On top of this, it was an effort to ban teachers from disclosing their gender identities or sexual orientations to students. Once a legislator introduces a bill in either chamber of the legislature (House or Senate), it must meet the approval of a legislative committee before going for a full floor vote.
New Orleans, LA - Around 250 community members gathered at New Orleans City Hall, March 25, to forcefully voice their opposition to a string of legislation introduced by Louisiana Republicans in recent weeks. This includes bills that would restrict trans minors’ access to healthcare, their ability to participate in school sports, and could criminalize LGBTQ+ students and educators for being “out” in Louisiana schools. The demonstration was attended mostly by students from three New Orleans high schools who have taken the initiative in organizing bold actions both on and off their campuses. Earlier in the day students at Benjamin Franklin High School held a walkout where hundreds of their classmates marched to the front of the school chanting “We say gay!”
As Sojourner Gibbs pulled out of her parking space at a Sam’s Club in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, one afternoon last summer, she felt the familiar, sickening symptoms of diabetic shock. Weakness, confusion. She began to sweat and shake uncontrollably. And then, Gibbs said, panic set in. Her car lurched forward a few feet. She slammed on the brakes. The groceries she had just purchased for her family’s Juneteenth barbecue jostled in the back. People started honking their horns. A concerned woman walked up to her car. “I’m a diabetic! I need help!” Gibbs yelled. The woman called 911. Dispatcher notes show a report of a “Black female sitting/screaming” in a gold Ford Expedition. “Appears scared.” Moments later: “Needs EMS.”
The US government has placed further delays on a proposed multibillion dollar plastics plant in south Louisiana, marking a major victory for environmental activists and members of the majority Black community who have campaigned for years against construction. The planned $9.4bn petrochemical facility, owned by Formosa Plastics, would roughly double toxic emissions in its local area and, according to environmentalists, release up to 13m tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, the equivalent of three coal-fired power plants, to become one of the largest pollution-causing plastics facilities in the world. The 14 separate plastic plants, spread over a gargantuan 2,300 acres of land in St James Parish, could also emit up to 15,400 pounds of the cancer causing chemical ethylene oxide.
A new round of uprisings has kicked off across the so-called United States following the police killings of Trayford Pellerin, “a 31-year-old Black man who was fatally shot Friday night” in Lafayette, New Orleans and 29-year-old Jacob Blake, also Black, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Pellerin was killed after police were called to the scene of a convenience store after someone called in reports of a man walking around with a knife. Police responded by first tasering Pallerin and then shooting him after he walked toward a gas station door.
There has been plenty of discussion about whether prison is more about rehabilitation, punishment or keeping society safe. However, for Black people especially, it often seems like there’s a fourth option: Prison is about throwing undesirable people away. More than 20 years ago, a Black man was given a life sentence for stealing a pair of hedge clippers. Last week, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied that man a request to have his sentence reviewed citing prior bad acts, most of which were nonviolent. Only one of the seven justices on the bench agreed that his sentence should be reviewed—the Black one.
Two Louisiana environmental activists, Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh, were taken in handcuffs and leg irons from a Baton Rouge police station to jail after they voluntarily surrendered themselves on felony charges after months' earlier delivering plastic pollution pulled from Texas waters to fossil fuel lobbyists' homes. The two posted bond and were released later the same day. “The women are accused of terrorizing oil and gas lobbyists by giving them a file box full of plastic pellets found in Texas bays near a plastic manufacturing facility owned by Formosa Plastics,” NOLA.com reports. Rolfes and McIntosh are being charged with felony “terrorizing” under Louisiana Revised Statute 14:40.1, according to their attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pam Spees. The charges carry sentences of up to 15 years imprisonment.
Four coastal Louisiana tribes that claim the U.S. government has violated their human rights by failing to take action on climate change submitted a formal complaint Wednesday to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Sea-level rise and coastal erosion are drowning tribal burial sites in South Louisiana, according to the complaint. Continued land loss further threatens the tribes' source of food, said Shirell Parfait-Dardar, chief of the Grand Caillou and Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians.
I was just 17 years old when I was sent to solitary confinement in “Camp J,” one of the most severe lockdown units at one of America’s most brutal prisons, the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. I languished in solitary for 16 months. Back then I didn’t know that Louisiana was the solitary confinement capital of the world. All I knew was that I’d been convicted of a crime I didn’t commit, and I had to maintain my humanity in one of the most dehumanizing places on earth. It’s called “23 and 1” because you spend 23 hours alone in your cell, with one hour to take a shower or make a phone call, if allowed.
May 31, 2019, Baton Rouge, Louisiana – Today, a judge in Louisiana denied an emergency request by community leaders to march across two Mississippi river bridges as part of a five-day march through Cancer Alley. During the hearing, an attorney for the state police said that such marches are against the law and subject to felony charges, citing a law that carries up to 15 years imprisonment. The march, organized by the Coalition Against Death Alley, seeks to bring attention to the poisoning of Black communities in Louisiana’s Mississippi River parishes by hundreds of petrochemical companies.
On May 30, around 100 people took part on the first day of a planned five-day march for environmental justice in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. Amid sweltering heat, the march kicked off in St. John the Baptist Parish, but extreme obstacles have developed on their route to Baton Rouge, about 50 miles away. Today a judge ruled that the organizers did not have permission to cross two bridges along the route. Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, an 80-mile stretch along the Mississippi River, is also known as the “Petrochemical Corridor,” where there are over 100 petrochemical plants and refineries.
A lawsuit filed today in federal court in Louisiana challenges the state’s “critical infrastructure” law, used to press felony charges against fossil fuel pipeline construction opponents, as unconstitutional. Louisiana’s critical infrastructure law is unconstitutionally vague and broad, the suit alleges, because it lets “any authorized person” exclude people from public places like sidewalks and roads if the state’s 125,000 miles of mostly unmarked pipelines cross there. The law could even be used to bring felony charges against a landowner for being on their own land, the lawsuit alleges.