This week the state of Louisiana was expected to transfer a group of mostly Black boys out of the former death row unit of Louisiana State Penitentiary — a maximum-security adult prison also known as Angola. But a federal appeals court on Wednesday temporarily paused a judge’s order requiring the state to move the children out of Angola by Friday. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and several law firms, pushed for a year to stop the state from detaining children at the prison, which is located on a former slave plantation. The legal advocates praised a federal judge’s mandate last week that Louisiana officials move the teens out of Angola and back to a juvenile-focused facility by September 15.
Thick black smoke billowed and flames rose from two chemical storage tanks at the Marathon Petroleum refinery between Reserve and Garyville, Louisiana, on Friday. Geraldine Watkins saw the towers of smoke through the passenger seat window of a car that morning, while she was on her way to a court hearing about whether another tract of land in St. John the Baptist Parish, where Garyville is located, would be zoned for heavy industrial use. Despite the alarming view, no community-wide alarms had sounded when a naphtha leak started a fire at the refinery earlier that morning.
Wallace, Louisiana - There are only a handful of homes situated on Alexis Court, but there are a whole lot of memories. At one end of the short street, facing the Mississippi River, is Fee-Fo-Lay Café, run by twin sisters Jo and Joy Banner. The Fifolet, according to local lore, is a spirit that haunts the swamps and guards the treasures of pirate Jean Lafitte. Growing up, the Banner sisters heard a variation of the myth from their grandmother, and the café bears its name as an homage to their grandparents’ stories. Inside, the walls hold the stories and pictures of at least four generations. Many of their family members live around Fee-Fo-Lay — the family has been in the town of Wallace since its beginnings.
New Orleans, Louisiana - On Friday, March 31, hundreds marched from Washington Square Park to Jackson Square to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility. The marchers also gathered in response to nine anti-LGBTQ bills being considered by the Louisiana legislature. These bills reflect a growing crisis of targeted attacks against LGBTQ youth. The Deadname bill, HB 81, would mandate that public school teachers misgender trans students and use their birth names. Students could appeal for their real names and pronouns to be used with a parental note, but staff would still be allowed to ignore that appeal based on “religious and moral” reasons.
Sliska Larry read the proposed operating permit for the expanded Clean Harbors hazardous waste disposal site, less than 2 miles from her home, with her 9-year-old grandson at her side. She instinctively pulled him closer, as if to shield him, as she absorbed its details. “It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Larry said. The preliminary draft permit, which the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality issued last week, allows Clean Harbors to continue the open burning and open detonation of materials for at least another eight months. The facility disposes of outdated munitions from several military bases, including the shuttered National Guard training site at Camp Minden, and old fireworks from Disney World.
A discrimination lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Eastern District of Louisiana alleges that the St. James Parish Council steered polluting facilities into Black neighborhoods along the Mississippi River. As a result, Black residents there are forced to breathe in more pollution and face a higher risk of related health problems, according to the suit filed by Inclusive Louisiana, Mount Triumph Baptist Church, and RISE St. James. “We’re being ignored and we have to do whatever we have to do to stop it,” said Myrtle Felton, a lifelong resident of St. James Parish and co-founder of Inclusive Louisiana, a community group focused on environmental injustices.
Their effort to unionize really got underway in 2018 when thousands of workers came forward to allege wage theft totaling $100 million. Eventually the Department of Labor found wage and hour violations affecting 2,224 workers. The federal contractor at the time, General Dynamics Information Technology, agreed to pay $553,131 in back wages, according to a CWA spokesperson. Maximus bought the company out in November 2018. But despite the hefty settlement, the organizing began to fizzle because of high turnover. Then last year, workers walked off the job in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Virginia in March, May, and November, demanding voluntary recognition of their union and higher pay.
Louisiana - Louisiana Democratic Party leaders are accused of funneling thousands of dollars from utility companies to the campaign of a fossil fuel–friendly candidate who ran for reelection on the state’s utility regulatory committee. Campaign finance records filed this week show that the Party received more than $90,000 in donations from utility companies, energy producers, and their executives during the elections for two Louisiana Public Service Commissioners. The same utility companies — Entergy, Cleco, and CenterPoint Energy — also donated directly to incumbent Lambert Boissiere III, whose campaign was largely sponsored by industry groups. Entergy, Cleco, and CenterPoint Energy did not respond to requests for comment for this story. Despite these industry donations to his opponent, climate candidate Davante Lewis won the District 3 Commissioner seat, which represents parts of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Louisiana - I live in South Louisiana on the front lines of the climate crisis and cover the fossil fuel industry and impacts related to the warming planet, so facing gaslighting is a regular occurrence for me. So it resonated with me that Merriam-Webster dictionary chose “gaslighting” as the word of the year. This year saw a 1,740 percent increase in lookups for gaslighting, according to a post by the dictionary company, which defines gaslighting as “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” I would add to that, that gaslighting is a driver of disorientation and mistrust, and a common practice used by the fossil fuel industry — one that DeSmog is committed to countering by drawing connections to those funding misinformation.
Louisiana - In a rare victory, Louisiana recently reached a $100 million settlement with the mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc., for contributing to the erosion rapidly devouring the state’s coast. And this is just the beginning. Recently, a federal court ordered a nine-year-old lawsuit to return to state court. The suit was filed against Chevron USA, Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co. and BP America. Over 40 similar legal challenges may follow against the oil and gas companies that have caused, and are causing, Louisiana’s wetlands to disappear at an alarming rate. These lawsuits could win billions of dollars in damages. The call for accountability against oil and gas companies is critical, but the dominant narrative misses an essential component: There’s no mention of financial reparations for Indigenous and historically Black communities in southern Louisiana who suffer the most loss and damages due to land loss and climate change and who are being actively displaced.
Call center workers employed by Maximus went on strike at four locations—in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Virginia—on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Maximus is a federal contractor, and during the open enrollment period, workers there handle a nonstop stream of high-stakes calls from people trying to navigate the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid systems, but they have been pushed to their limit. As stated in a Twitter thread posted by Call Center Workers United, “We’ve been saying for years: during ACA open enrollment, we’re dealing with constant back-to-back calls. Some frustrated callers become abusive and subject us to racist and sexist slurs. We’re paid wages so low it’s nearly impossible to support a family. We’ve had enough.
Cancer Alley, Louisiana - Environmental justice activists from "Cancer Alley" on Monday held a funeral procession in Washington, D.C. to remember victims—overwhelmingly Black people—killed by petrochemical industry pollution and to demand that U.S. President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency and do more to stop deadly fossil fuel projects. Activists led by the frontline action group RISE St. James held a second-line march—the procession, replete with brass band musicians and parasol-toting dancers, that rallies behind relatives of the deceased in a traditional New Orleans funeral—to the White House, where they held large photos of dead cancer victims and pleaded with Biden to take action to protect their lives and their environment.
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.