Corporations Chemically Polluting our Communities
Saint James Louisiana - America’s “Cancer Alley”
Residents of the Saint James Louisiana, a predominantly neglected Black Community are fighting back and now they finally have the support of the federal government. The 85 mile stretch between New Orleans and Baton Rouge has become the nation’s Cancer Alley.
After decades of neglect residents of Cancer Alley are suing their legislature for failing to protect them from environmental destruction. Almost every household has had someone diagnosed with cancer. The lawsuit is being brought by Black Women. The federal lawsuit accuses local government officials of civil rights and religious liberty violations by repeatedly approving the construction of petrochemical plants in two majority Black districts.
The lawsuit, part of a wave of litigation in the heavily industrialized corridor known as “Cancer Alley”, also calls for a moratorium on the construction of new plants and the extension of existing facilities in St James parish. The lawsuit argues that the approval of more than a dozen facilities in majority Black areas bears a direct correlation to the vestiges of slavery and segregation.
The lawsuit states that despite pleas from Black residents to halt new approvals in the districts, the local government has approved “every single request by heavy industrial corporations to locate their facilities in majority Black districts in the parish while rejecting requests to locate them in white districts”. In recent years the parish has approved land use plans which have designated swaths of the majority Black districts in St James as “industrial” or “future industrial” despite communities living there.
UN News Mar 02 2021 excerpt: Environmental racism in Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’, must end, say UN human rights experts
Originally dubbed “Plantation Country”, Cancer Alley, which is located in the southern state of Louisiana along the lower Mississippi River where enslaved Africans were forced to labor, serves as an industrial hub, with nearly 150 oil refineries, plastics plants and chemical facilities. The ever-widening corridor of petrochemical plants has not only polluted the surrounding water and air, but also subjected the mostly African American residents in St. James Parish to cancer, respiratory diseases and other health problems. “This form of environmental racism poses serious and disproportionate threats to the enjoyment of several human rights of its largely African American residents, including the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to life, the right to health, right to an adequate standard of living and cultural rights”, the experts said
According to the experts, federal environmental regulations have failed to protect people residing in “Cancer Alley”. In 2018, St. James Parish Council approved the industrialization of toxic chemical development through the “Sunshine Project” – a subsidiary company of Formosa Plastics Group that would create one of the world’s largest plastics facilities – and the building of two methanol complexes by other manufacturers. Formosa Plastics' petrochemical complex alone will more than double the cancer risks in St. James Parish affecting disproportionately African American residents.
Guardian Feb 28 2023 excerpt: US justice department sues two companies over pollution in Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’
Earlier this year the US Government brought lawsuits against the two major polluters in Cancer Alley: Denka (Japanese firm) and Dupont (US firm). These two petrochemical giants are responsible for the highest cancer risk rates caused by air pollution in the US in a major federal lawsuit that seeks to substantially curb their plant’s emissions.
Unveiled on Tuesday, the lawsuit alleges emissions at the Pontchartrain Works facility in Reserve, Louisiana, violate the Clean Air Act and “present an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health and welfare”.
The move marks a significant escalation of the Biden administration’s enforcement action in the Cancer Alley region, and was instantly hailed by members of the predominantly Black community around the plant as a major victory in their ongoing campaign for clean air.
Suing on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the justice department is now seeking a federal court order to compel Denka (DPE), the Japanese chemical giant operating the facility, to “immediately take all necessary measures” to curb emissions of the compound chloroprene, labeled by the EPA as a likely human carcinogen.
The lawsuit contains further details of the plant’s recent chloroprene emissions, which fell after Denka constructed emissions offset technology after its purchase of the plant, but still remains dangerously high and in some locations 14 times over the recommended exposure limit.
According to EPA calculations in the suit, current chloroprene emissions present a risk “that is especially grave for infants and children under the age of 16”. The suit claims that emissions remain so high that a child breathing air near certain monitors around the facility’s fence line would exceed their lifetime excess cancer risk within two years.
“In the aggregate, the thousands of people breathing this air are incurring a significantly higher cancer risk than would be typically allowed, and they are being exposed to a much greater cancer risk from Denka’s air pollution than the majority of United States residents face,” the suit states.
Mary Hampton, another founder of Concerned Citizens of St John Parish, said the lawsuit was the culmination of years of advocacy from community members and represented that “finally we have a little hope”. “This makes me feel like we have something to look forward to, not five or 10 years from now – we need it to happen now.”
Hampton urged both Denka and DuPont to comply with the federal government’s demands set forth in the lawsuit. “They know they can comply,” Hampton said. “And either they use their money and do it right or face the power of the EPA.”
NBC News Apr 06 2023: EPA chief travels to ‘Cancer Alley’ to announce proposal to curb toxic air emissions
East Palestine - Norfolk Southern Train Wreck Derailed the Lives Of Residents Forever
Norfolk Southern Train Derailment Released Dangerous Chemicals
In February 2023 the unthinkable happened to the community of East Palestine, Ohio. This event will have long reaching impacts that are unknown. Shockingly this catastrophe was preventable. Norfolk Southern could have purchased a brake system that costs $5000-$8000 per car. In total it would have cost $9 billion across the railroad industry. They failed to do so and instead used billions of dollars to enrich the pockets of the shareholders with stock buybacks. Their negligence led to one of the major environmental destruction in America’s history.
World Socialist Website Apr 11 2023 excerpt: Trace compounds of vinyl chloride found in East Palestine residents after derailment and chemical spill
Following the catastrophic train derailment and chemical spill in early February, several East Palestine, Ohio residents have tested positive for traces of vinyl chloride in their bodies. Linda Murphy told Pittsburgh based WTAE that test results show the byproducts of vinyl chloride in her body and that she is now consulting with specialists about the issue.
Linda and her husband Russell live about a mile from the crash site. She and her husband have been using a portable water tank for their drinking water since the crash, but the very volatile substance can also enter the body through the air. “I know there’s risks of liver cancers,” she said. “I know there’s risks of brain cancers. I know there’s central nervous system disorders that come along with this,” she told WTAE.
Late last month, seven members of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) team that went to East Palestine to document the health concerns of residents, became sick themselves and had to leave the area until their symptoms disappeared. A local veterinarian told the World Socialist Web Site that she is frustrated because they have not been given any information on what to expect or how to treat farm animals and pets who have been poisoned.
Some sites showed no elevation, but sites labeled “CMS-05″ and “CMS-06″ show levels above EPA standard of 0.025 PM2.5. The highest level was a 0.064 at site CMS-06, at 10:10 p.m. which was about two hours after the initial derailment and fire. Keep in mind this site was approximately five miles to the northeast of the crash location.
The second set of data released by the EPA was for air readings in the minutes and hours after the burn-off of vinyl chloride on Monday. There are far more monitoring sites and the levels jumped from 0.064 to as high as 0.273 PM2.5. Meaning, the particles in the air from the site labeled “PCR-10A” was more than four times higher than the previous high, before the chemical was ignited.
According to Dr. Brian Krupp, a professor at Baldwin Wallace University who has studied these mobile monitoring systems, the problem for East Palestine residents isn’t so much the increase in particles in the air, but what are those particles. The EPA devices measure how many particles are in the air but they do not breakdown what’s in the air.
Spectrum News 1 Apr 22 2023 excerpt: Ohio sues fake charity that claimed to benefit East Palestine residents
The lawsuit alleges that Mike Peppel solicited contributions through his Ohio Clean Water Fund, which presented itself as a nonprofit acting on behalf of Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley. It said that it would provide residents with bottled water and other emergency aid. Yost claimed Peppel and other individuals pocketed around $131,000 of the estimated $141,000 they received from more than 3,000 donors.
Yost said the Second Harvest Food Bank confronted Peppel twice, asking him to stop advertising the non-authorized partnership. Yost said Peppel paid only $10,000 to the food bank, "a mere 7% of what Peppel admits he raised."
CNN Business 3/14/2023 excerpt: Norfolk Southern balks at compensating homeowners in East Palestine
Stewart, 65, recently voiced his fury and sadness about what he lost to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw on a February 22 Town Hall about the derailment on CNN. “You burned me,” he told Shaw. “We were going to sell our house. Our value went phoom,” pointing his hands down. Shaw was asked point blank by another resident if Norfolk Southern was ready to buy Stewart’s house, he replied only, “we’re going to do what’s right for this community.” That wasn’t satisfactory for Stewart or many of the other participants at the Town Hall.
“I lost everything now,” Stewart says he told Shaw. Stewart works as a manager at a commercial baking company. “I worked hard. I’m still working,” he says he told Shaw. “I’m in the 44th year at my job. I wanted to get out. Now I’m just stuck.”
Stewart fears he lost a tremendous amount of the value of his home, which he bought in 2016 for $85,000. The property was worth about $135,000 a month ago, according to an estimate from Zillow. Lack of transactions since then make a current estimate difficult. Taken together, the value of all residential real estate in the town adds up to about $380 million, including single family homes and multi-family properties. Those values are only a fraction of the money that Norfolk Southern earns. Last year it reported a record operating income of $4.8 billion, and a net income of $3.3 billion, up about 9% from a year earlier. It had $456 million in cash on hand on its books as of December 31.
It’s been returning much of that profit to shareholders, repurchasing $3.1 billion in shares last year and spending $1.2 billion on dividends. And it announced a 9% increase in dividends just days before the accident. A year ago its board approved a $10 billion share repurchase plan, and it had the authority to buy $7.5 billion of that remaining on the plan as of December 31.
And the company also invests a great deal of money in lobbying, spending $1.8 million on lobbying in 2022, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks lobbying and political contributions expenditures.
Canton Rep.com Feb 23 2023 excerpt: East Palestine train derailment killed roughly 40000 fishes
Fox Business 2/17/2023: Ohio train crash forces Norfolk Southern to pay ‘inconvenience fees’
Bay Area – Hazardous Fallout in Martinez
Martinez, CA, is a small community 30 miles North East of San Francisco, in Contra Costa County. It is very similar in size and population to Morgan Hill with about 38,290 (2020) residents and an area of 13.13 sq miles. This tight knit community has been hard hit with hazardous chemical and toxins as a result of the oil refineries near the community.
April 2, 2023
Thanksgiving 2022 Martinez residents noticed their homes, vehicles and yards blanketed by a pale residue. Residents reached out to local officials and learned nothing.
Five days later the Contra Costa County Health Department published a press release informing residents that the powdery substance was a hazardous material released by the Martinez Refining Company on the northern edge of the city. Residents were told to contact their health providers if they were having trouble breathing.
One month after the incident, the health department recommended residents not eat food grown in the soil that was exposed to the material.
Today, nearly 4 months later, residents are still demanding to know what risks they face after 20 tons of spent catalyst were lofted over their area. While the county has launched an investigation into why the refinery failed to issue an alert, residents have accused county health officials of failing to properly inform residents of potential health hazards long after the incident. Four months after the release, some are demanding that health officials expedite soil sampling to determine just how far the fallout spread.
October 15, 2021
Shell hit with $433,000 penalty for emission violations at Martinez refinery
Company cited for 44 infractions between 2017 and 2019
Shell Oil has agreed to pay air quality regulators a $433,000 penalty for dozens of environmental violations at the oil refinery it once operated.
The refinery amassed 44 violations between 2017 and 2019, largely for emitting excessive amounts of pollutants that studies have shown to cause long-term health problems.
PBF Energy acquired the refinery from Shell in 2019 for $1 billion.
It’s the second settlement reached in a month involving environmental violations at one of Martinez’s two oil refineries. Marathon Petroleum agreed September 2021 to pay $2 million to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District over violations at its then idled Martinez oil refinery, previously operated by oil company Tesoro.