Louisiana’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on Biden administration to shut down further proliferation of the petrochemical industry in the so-called “Cancer Alley”, adding to growing calls among advocacy groups in the region for a moratorium on new polluting factories.
The heavily industrialized region between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is lined with more than 100 factories, producing the most polluted air in America. According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some census tracts in St John the Baptist Parish have the highest risk of cancer from air pollution in the United States – more than 50 times the national average.
Joe Biden put the region at the center of his environmental justice policy platform during the 2020 election and referred to “Cancer Alley” when signing new climate ordinances in February.
But activists continued to urge the president to take targeted action to reduce toxic emissions and end construction of new factories. In August, the administration suspended construction of a gargantuan plastic complex project in the parish of St James, which would emit a range of carcinogenic pollutants and emit 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year, the equivalent of three coal-fired power stations.
Local organizers have long urged the EPA to regulate emissions of chloroprene, a cancer-causing pollutant, emitted by a synthetic rubber plant, Pontchartrain Works, for more than half a century to dangerous levels.
Cancer Alley is also an area once littered with plantations once dependent on slave labor.
ACLU Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms referred to the story in a video message on Monday.
âThis sacred land should legally belong to the descendants of black men, women and children who labored until their death as slaves,â Odoms said.
âInstead, the earth has been mined by dangerous plastic and chemical factories that have destroyed air quality, accelerated climate change, and exposed descendants to unreasonable rates of disease and cancer. The Biden administration has a duty to intervene. “
The region was also severely affected by Hurricane Ida in August. Activists from St John the Baptist Parish and St James Parish suffered extensive damage to their homes.