The EPA is investigating whether the Louisiana state departments of Environmental Quality and Health illegally discriminated against black residents in permitting decisions regarding two chemical plants and a grain export terminal. Petitions to the EPA seeking an investigation allege the state departments failed to provide proper notice and comment opportunities to residents and also failed to review, renew, or strengthen air pollution requirements in a manner that discriminated against Black residents of the area. The Denka Performance Elastomers and the proposed Formosa Plastics Sunshine plant are part of what is known as “Cancer Alley” for its high concentration of air pollution and highest in the nation prevalence of cancer. The EPA’s decision to investigate does not constitute a determination of fault, but it does come after a preliminary review of the allegations brought by community and environmental groups.
Next month, Sharon Lavigne, founder of Rise St. James and one of the activists leading the fight against environmental racism in Cancer Alley, will receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal. “Why would they put the [Formosa Plastics Sunshine] plant over here? Because they knew that people weren’t going to speak up,” Lavigne, a lifelong member of St. James Catholic Church, told Notre Dame. “And they were right. The people weren’t going to speak up. That’s when God touched me and told me to fight — and that’s what I did.” (NOLA.com, AP, E&E $; Lavigne: AP)