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China Is Building a $1.85B Methanol Plant in ‘Cancer Alley’ Louisiana But No One Bothered To Inform Its Predominantly Black Community

If a $1.85 billion methanol plant were being built in your neighborhood—between a high school, two churches and a senior citizen assisted living facility—you’d probably want to know about it. And if the company doing the building had already been cited and fined in China for running plants that had caused rising cancer rates, undrinkable water and polluted air, you might actually want to put a stop to the construction of the plant.

But Black residents in the southern Louisiana region where the plant is to be built, St. James Parish, didn’t even find out about the project until after local and state officials and Chinese diplomats decided to move forward with it last July—helped substantially by a $9.5 million incentive package from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.

“We never had a town hall meeting pretending to get our opinion prior to them doing it,” Lawrence “Palo” Ambrose, a 74-year-old black Vietnam War veteran who works at a nearby church, told Al Jazeera America in an investigative report on the project prepared by the website. “They didn’t make us part of the discussion.”

The project is a classic example of how Black residents in the U.S. bear the significant brunt of potentially dangerous industrial projects that are much more often placed in Black communities.

Already in the region between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that is heavily African-American, there are so many dangerous plants operating that local residents and environmentalists have started calling it “Cancer Alley,” according to Al Jazeera America, which reported that the 150 petrochemical companies and 17 refineries in the area were releasing dangerous levels of toxic chemicals into the air and water. For instance, in a predominantly Black community a few hours west of Baton Rouge in southern Louisiana called Mossville, a staggering 91 percent of residents said they were experiencing health complications they believed to be related to the 14 facilities that manufacture, process, store or discharge toxic or hazardous substances in the small area.

But these projects often move forward with little to no impact from local residents, who are barely informed that they are happening. This has long been a problem in Black communities in the South, as explored by Robert D. Bullard in the book, “Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality,” which explored how the South became the preferred region for the placement of environmentally questionable industries. Bullard found that when he tracked the location of hazardous dump sites, they were invariably in predominantly Black communities.

“Polluting industries were brought into poor communities with little input from local community leaders,” he wrote. “When questions were raised by concerned citizens, the argument of jobs for local residents was used to quell dissent. Environmental risks were offered as unavoidable trade-offs for jobs and a broadened tax base in economically depressed communities. Jobs were real; environmental risks were unknown. This scenario proved to be the de facto industrial policy in ‘poverty pockets’ and job-hungry communities around the world.”

The company slated to run the plant in St. James Parish, Yuhuang Chemical Inc., is a subsidiary that Chinese natural gas giant Shandong Yuhuang formed in 2012. The company is seeking expedited permits to construct and operate a plant on the sprawling 1,100-acre site and is awaiting the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s determination of the environmental impact of the project, a decision that is expected on March 6, 2015.

There was a town hall meeting in July at St. James High School where local residents began hearing about the project—but it took place only after the majority-white St. James Parish Council approved the project.

Edwin Octave, 92, who lives with his family in the area, told Al Jazeera America, “I don’t think the way they went about getting the plant was right. They bought the property before they tell people it’s going to happen.”

The neighborhood where the plant will be located is 90 percent Black, according to Ambrose, who was a member of the parish council in the 1990’s. When asked why the community wasn’t consulted, Ambrose said, “I think it’s because we’re black. But I can’t put my finger on that alone to say that was the only reason … Blacks are still somewhat second-class citizens.”

A spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said community members were given notice during the company’s application process. Where was the notice posted? On the DEQ website—if you happened to know the number the agency has assigned to the project.

“You have to know to read the legal pages and superfine print,” said Darryl Malek-Wiley, an environmental justice organizer in New Orleans for the Sierra Club. “We have talked about the need for the community to be noticed right at the beginning [of negotiations]. They don’t know about something until they get a press story saying it’s a done deal.”

Asked if the information is available anywhere else besides the DEQ website, Kelly told Al Jazeera America in an email, “I’m not sure on this, as it has not been public noticed yet, but for an air permit, it is a local public library, the DEQ public records room and in EDMS [the DEQ electronic document management system]. It could also be procured through a public records request.”

What people are saying

97 thoughts on “China Is Building a $1.85B Methanol Plant in ‘Cancer Alley’ Louisiana But No One Bothered To Inform Its Predominantly Black Community

  1. They need to be stopped!

  2. Sara Devine says:

    I hope they received funds to relocate to somewhere safe…But I'm sure they didn't…This is so unfair and at least, there should be a petition against these types of things.

  3. How is the city council all white but the community is 90% black Or should I ask why? I saw a documentary with a story similar to this and it was in the south as well and that is really sad when a person has literally trade their lives for a job.

  4. It happens in poverty stricken regions, all over the world. Unfortunately, Blacks happen to be the poorest, and nobody likes poor people; even Obama cares only for the middle class and above…

  5. That is true brother the A continent has been exploited like that since forever but one would think that with more restrictions here it we be harder to do.

  6. Hank Wilson says:

    Passing on this…will wait until kemet nu's speak.

  7. This is how they do it there. In Bienville Parish hundreds of people need assistance walking, the tap water is yellow, slimy, stinks, & irritating people's skin when they bath; utility companies act as if they are testing it but telling everyone everything is fine. A few years ago the tap water was better than bottled spring water. There were also small earth quakes that go un-mentioned. A lot of those residents don't possess the mind set to inquire and protest; they just walk around and let it be.

  8. so what do we do?! Inbox me if any of you are intrested in shutting this down.

  9. Rita Dimes says:

    Rev. Al. Sharpton should mention this on his tv and radio shows, at least twice a week. The residence in " cancer alley" should be awarded at least $50,000 each so that they can relocate to much better locations.

  10. Damn Shame it is like so many other heath hazard facilities placed in our predominately Black communities.

  11. Damn Shame it is like so many other heath hazard facilities placed in our predominately Black communities.

  12. I'm praying for the demise of the natural gas industry cause fracking is an unconventional way to get the gas that has the life of the wells production come out of the ground mostly in the first year or so…then its basically peanuts after that – production wise…so when all these wells peter out…the price of NG will go up so much that the reason they came here in the first place (cheap/abundant natural gas as feedstock) will be a reason they go bankrupt!

  13. Brent Miller says:

    If you think St. James is bad, just look at Narco, La., and that is exactly what is going to happen.

  14. Louis Nelson says:

    That's a great question Daren!

  15. Al Jazeera some source !

  16. First, for clarification, it is a Parish Council, not a City Council.
    Second, of the 21,754 people, they are 49% White and 49% Black per US Census figures from 2013.
    Thirds, the Parish council is not 'all-white'. The man said 'majority-white'. The current members can be viewed here.

  17. Of the seven member council, three are black. Ralph Patin. Charles Ketchens. Ken Brass.

  18. South Louisiana Methanol is building a $1.3 billion dollar methanol plant in the same parish.

  19. And Methanex just relocated a Methanol plant from Chile to Iberville Parish.

  20. But they dont care about the blacks. This is just another way to kill of the blacks by not getting their hands dirty. The residents should have been well inform about all the risks and downsides.

  21. How in the hell did the Black people and fair minded people ever elect Bobby Jindal as Governor. It on his watch that we had The desaster of hurricane Katrina. I tell you I live in California with a huge East Indian population and the people are not for us. One word comes to my tongue when discussing these "Slum lord", caste driven people. And that word is REPATRIATION!!!

  22. Dee Jones says:

    Until Black people get out and VOTE, unethical whites WILL always vote to KILL US! They don't use ropes, as much anore, now they are using chemical ants in our own backyards! Get out and VOTE. It DOES make a difference. To have all whites representing you is always to your own demise.

  23. Dee Jones says:

    Rita Dimes, we must be careful of the people we choose to speak for us. Al sharpton has to get paid too!

  24. LaDonna Cole says:

    Why can't they just bring a huge class-action lawsuit, charging the state with having endangered their communities?

  25. Vote that bum ass Governor out he is just messing up our economy

  26. Selective memory Bobby, Kathleen Blanco was Governor when Katrina hit.

  27. Michael Kearns Fine, Mea Culpa! But it still doesn't take from the fact that these people(east indians) like Dnesh Dsouza, and Bobby Jindal, and Benny Hinn are nothing but money grubbing, power USURPING FOB's. They have contributed very little to this COUNTRY in Art, Law, Music, Civil rights or Human rights. The audacity of the people to insult our first black president or Americas' INDIGENOUS MINORITIES! REPATRIATION, REPATRIATION, REPATRIATION!

  28. Lynda Gurr says:

    They need to be stopped and race has nothing to do with it. It's not a good decision for Americans or America — period!

  29. Tom Miller says:

    Bobby Richardson You must be another racist liberal that has so much hatred that you let your mouth overload before you get the facts. Gov Jindal was born in the US, attended Baton Rouge Magnet High and is a Rhodes scholar. I do not like the man but you seem to have a problem with anyone not from the perverted state of California or that's not from the Communist Party. There is a reason why so many educated people are moving out of California and letting the state collapse in bankruptcy and self-destruction. Look at who you have in congress; Palosi, Waters, Boxer, Lee, etc; nothing but egotistical, self-centered, self-serving, racist, Marxist liberals that don't care about the people, just their own power and wealth.

  30. Gary Currie says:

    Bwire Vincent President Obama does care about poor people. Much of his domestic policy decisions benefit poor people. In order for the poor to continue receiving taxpayer subsidies, the President is making a concerted effort to increase the taxpaying base which is the middle class. Mr. Obama faces tough politics from a partisan congress. As a president of "all the people" he is doing the best he can. Its shameful that many Blacks can't see how they are benefiting from the President's bold actions that keep many poor afloat in turbulent economic waters!

  31. Gary Currie says:

    Bwire Vincent President Obama does care about poor people. Much of his domestic policy decisions benefit poor people. In order for the poor to continue receiving taxpayer subsidies, the President is making a concerted effort to increase the taxpaying base which is the middle class. Mr. Obama faces tough politics from a partisan congress. As a president of "all the people" he is doing the best he can. Its shameful that many Blacks can't see how they are benefiting from the President's bold actions that keep many poor afloat in turbulent economic waters!

  32. Your reply, Mr. Miller, sounds just as prejudiced and unreasonable. Your name-calling makes you sound uneducated, propagandized, and small.

  33. Bwire Vincent It's called gerrymandering the voting districts to restrict the poor, blacks, and Democrats to one congressional district and limit their influence on the state. It is why Louisiana has only 1 Democrat in Congress.

  34. St James Parish is very rural and made mostly of sugar cane fields. The level of education is low and they welcome plants because they supposedly offer jobs that will pay more than minimum wage. They do not realize the danger they are being placed in and no one wants to tell them. It is time for the churches to raise a whole lot of cain. China is one of the most polluted countries in the world. We don't need Louisiana to be the same. Another plant in St. James being built was also offered a charter school so that the kids whose parents worked at the plant would not have to go to school with the locals.

    I find it interesting that this article is from a paper in Atlanta rather than in The Drum or one of the other Black papers in Louisiana. It just shows how much help the people here need.

  35. Transportation and lack of education in addition to the gerrymandering. A few years ago in more affluent Ascension Parish I asked a co-worker whether a public official was black or white. She looked at me like she had no conception of black public officials. Louisiana is way, way, behind even the rest of the South, like 20-30 years.

  36. Nicholas James : A "Parish" is like a county in other states. Louisiana is heavily Catholic and we have parishes. Cities do sometimes have City Councils but the capital city, Baton Rouge has a city/parish Metro Council and a Mayor.

  37. That would be a fortune for the folks in St. James. But where would they go. South Louisiana has essentially two cities, Baton Rouge and New Orleans and about 3 small cities. It is mostly rural.

  38. Whites whites whites…you sound so racist it's sad

  39. Bobby hindal isn't white btw

  40. Jim Harkness says:

    Great story about a Chinese company doing what US corporations have been doing for a long time: trying to make a buck by putting their polluting plants in poor, largely African American communities. They learn fast! This plant will be converting the gas extracted through fracking into a liquid for export to China. How could this community's fight be strengthened through some coordination with anti-fracking movements upstream? Unfortunate title, by the way. It's not "China" building this facility. The company is privately owned. And it has been heavily fined in China for violating that country's environmental laws. Maybe there's a way to work with environmentalists who are fighting this company inside China to embarrass Jindal into canceling the deal or put more pressure on the company?

  41. Rather than educate all Louisiana children, plantation government elected not to educate any children.

  42. Bobby diddles them with religion. Since their education was stolen, they are still living in the 19th century. On a plantation.

  43. Kevin J. LaCroix – but it's true, true, true.

  44. money and lack of education.

  45. The whole community knew about this for thepast 5 years at least, and the council is actually 60%-40% black…so there is that.

  46. They didnt tell you how said company is actually paying to relocate said high theres that also

  47. Keller Bell says:

    Holy shit you people are fucking stupid and I don't mean you people as in black people because there is plenty more intelligent black people then there is ignorant ones. I mean you people as the people that read this shit and act like white people are constantly fucking you over this same company is building two other factories and both other factories are in predominantly white areas( according to the census beurau) but you don't hear ab that. the plants have to be in low income areas because in is a giant fucking plant on acres of land they arnt gonna pay 20x as much to please you dumbfucks. It also creates hundreds of jobs for the same community they are suppository destroying. I doubt they give a fuck whether the plant is in a black,white,Asian, purple or any other fucking race all they care ab is their profit margins. If you wanna say it's bad for the environment blah blah blah go ahead that's atleast true. But acting like there is some conspiracy by the upper 1% to keep the black man down is fuckin ignorant. Stop finding excuses and start looking at ways to fix the godamn problems

  48. Betty Eyer says:

    Jindahl's got the money for this, but not for LSU.

  49. The story of Louisiana in one paragraph:

    "Polluting industries were brought into poor communities with little input from local community leaders,” he wrote. “When questions were raised by concerned citizens, the argument of jobs for local residents was used to quell dissent. Environmental risks were offered as unavoidable trade-offs for jobs and a broadened tax base in economically depressed communities. Jobs were real; environmental risks were unknown. This scenario proved to be the de facto industrial policy in ‘poverty pockets’ and job-hungry communities around the world.”

  50. Kevin J. LaCroix After years of oppression and being treated unfairly, especially your whole life. You just might start hating other races as well. Ijs

  51. Bryan Brooks says:

    They're just now finding out…read the article

  52. Paul Eno says:

    and. look who originally posted the article.. who wrote n published it. and then look at the raical over tones too it. hint Al Jeezera news the muslum network , now read it again and think how it was written.

    Like · Just now.

  53. Mike McCrae says:

    Two things stand out as I read this. First reporting by Al Jezera? No American reporting? Sad.

    The second China building plants in America. Demonstrating the decline or America. The rise of China, Thanks to American Corporations.

    Both demonstrate the the decline of America. Better fix things soon.

  54. I did read he article, stupid.

  55. Bryan Brooks says:

    Im sorry you feel that way about me Mary….
    But i bet i could read and comprehend what I've read better than you could (:

  56. Susan Slater says:

    Mary A. Diamond-Stockwell please use social media with respect – don't get personal and call others names- Tks.

  57. I tried to read this, but damn ads kept popping up and blocking it/ Would have liked to read it. Oh well

  58. Three out of the seven council members are black.

  59. Mia Glenn says:

    This article would've been allot better if it would have been about the shit that the company is doing, what kind of effects it has on the environment and some possible way to stop them, not all about location and race.

  60. Wrong Paul. It was written to point out how minorities in this country are treated, and how local and state governments will usually totally ignore them. As far as their reporting, Islam has nothing to do with it. One of their best reporters is Greg Palast, one of the best investigative reporters in the world. He is probably better known in England for his work with the Guardian newspaper. Race has a lot to do with things like this; how would you feel if you lived in a small corner of "cancer alley" and you had not been notified of such a large and dangerous plant? Don't bother to answer, I don't believe you would be truthful.

  61. I wonder why white people from Louisiana defend the actions of a few that would harm a whole community? How dumb of me, white people in Louisiana are still fighting the civil war, thinking they can get their slaves back.

  62. Perhaps they didn't report that because it either isn't known or it isn't true.

  63. Al Jazeera America is turning into a good source of unbiased news. They can serve as a model for other so called news outlets.

  64. Tom, start preparing yourself for a long, long term of democrats in the WH. With the clown car being nothing but a method of make believe gopper presidential wannabes to get other people's money, and not one of them really presidential material, I think the gop is going to be in for a shock. Also, just think about how YOU will be in the minority within the next 35 to 40 years; now, let that sink in. Racists like you will find that there is no platform for your hatred any more.

  65. Well it is true, so if it isn't known maybe these reporters should inform themselves before the put out an article like this.

  66. Defending actions? Meaning agreein with te company buying out all the homes in the area, and relocating the school to a nice, open property with plenty of room for expansion? I live in this community and i went to thwe high school that they are talking about, so before you start pulling race cards maybe you should look into what you are talking about.

  67. If. You really want to bring up the civil war and slavery though, you should check your history on that. There were 4 states in the union who had slaves during the war. After the war was over, two were allowed to keep there slaves,Deleware and Maryland(which are not in the south just in case you cant read a map). Also the last 6 times a city burned in this country, that city was not part of the south.

  68. I don't have to pull the race card. I grew up seeing the awful truth about racism, and I didn't like it, and segregation was and still is a very ugly thing, and it still harms people. History was a favorite subject and still is, but the civil war was fought over what people like to call "states rights", which in 1860 meant slavery. It meant slavery because slaves were the power that ran the plantations. You will have to prove that only 4 states had slaves because every book that I have ever read on the subject states something different. Delaware and Maryland had already ended slavery before the end of the war, in case you don't understand what the issues were. As far as cities being burned, you are talking about more recent history, although Memphis had a hot summer in 68. but I am sure you are too young to remember that. If you would like, I will send you a list of good books to read, they just don't take the southern "vision" of events, which means they are, without a doubt, far closer to the truth. But I do wish you well, Jonathon, and hope you do not have to work in that poison plant.

  69. Paul Eno says:

    it was written and posted by nick chiles not your boy greg and it was a fabricated story duh wake the hell up.

  70. Rob Hartel says:

    You are a very hate filled person. it's people like you who keep racism fresh and current in this country!

  71. Since you read books that take the "northern" part of view, if course it wont be in there, since it was the north who started the war. Its 2015 now, so memphis in 68 was before my time…but guess what wasnt, los angelos, d.c., ny., chicago, st. Louis, baltimore, cincinatti. I could give you some books to read that dont tell you the northern view of " they are racist in the south" like you are so used to hearing. Or you can find my councilman…who by the way is a black man and he can tell youwhat he tinks about your bullshit propaganda. But then you would call him an uncle tom who is sidedby the white man right. Juat working that agenda. Since you habe it all figure out, why dont you come here and show us how we should be living, because apparently we have been doing it wrong the whole time

  72. Why would this community not want jobs?

    Chemical CEO Charlie Yao, the company announced its investment will create 400 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $85,000 plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development says in a press release the project will create another 2,365 new indirect jobs in southeast Louisiana and surrounding areas. At peak construction, the company estimates the project will employ 2,100 construction workers. Construction is set to begin in 2016,

  73. The people in this neighborhood do not have the skills to dothis work and so the company will hire HB-1 visa people (Chinese) to come in and do the work for peanuts on the dollar. The fat cats (CEO's) will get rich and everybody else will suck the gas and die early from it.

  74. Paul, you will just have to prove that. If it came from fox entertainment, I would believe that part of it was made up, but it didn't. I didn't say Greg wrote it, just that he contributes to Al-Jeezera, and I saw the author's name at the title of the article. This is typical of Louisiana, and your answer is typical of Louisiana, and that is why the delta is being destroyed, oil is all over the section of the Gulf from the eastern delta area to the Florida panhandle, the sugar cane industry is almost gone, there is no regard for the lives of workers in Louisiana, and a long list that I am not going to do. Louisiana's citizens have allowed a "plantation" mentality to run their state since the 1830s, and it still goes on. Paul, if you are from Louisiana, take a good look around before telling someone to wake up; the people of Louisiana have been asleep for a long time now, and it is time for them to wake up, as well as a number of other red states.

  75. You aren't the smartest kid on the block, are you? I am from North Carolina, and there are several writers who now do actual research before writing, so your notion that I am reading books with a slant is correct, you just have the wrong slant–it is southern. Try reading James Lee Burke sometimes; I believe it will open your eyes. Again, you show your lack of knowledge; the forces in SC fired on Fort Sumter, there by starting the civil war. For what it is worth, one of my grandmothers decided to join the Daughters of the Confederacy, and was admitted on her first presentation of documents. I had many relatives fight for the south. I don't have it all figured out, but I know that what was does not have to be what is now. Sometimes a little criticism helps people see things from a different light, and sometimes people will refuse to see anything other than what they have been told to believe. Your choice.

  76. Kevin Brintnall what exactly is unreasonable about what tom Miller said?

  77. Its been in the papers for.the last few years, its been on the internet as well.

  78. John Webb says:

    This is one of the most misleading lie filled article I've ever read and you idiots that believe it are just as bad. Get off the racist websites, read up on it and educate yourselves on facts. I'm literally laughing reading some of these comments.

  79. John Kennedy says:

    Organize, find out what officials are responsible and ruin them. They are trying to do the same thing in Tacoma Wa. and they WILL be stopped.

  80. Roisin Elder says:

    America needs to get out and vote out your right wing corporate government, under whom this will only get worse. Vote, people, don't give up on the crappy electoral system, it's still better than nothing. But every single one of you needs to register and vote.

  81. Ronan Dex says:

    Gary Currie The Republicans in Congress have given Obama and the Democrats everything they have proposed. They feign opposition so they can claim to their constituents that they tried. How else has so many proposals been passed under a majority Republican House? Both parties are only concerned with two things: Money and Power.

  82. Joe Barry says:

    This article in essence is total BS. Yes the industrial projects they are talking about are in communities that one of them I live in, and two, I know people who live in the other. The black communities they are talking about very small community between mixed communities. Mossvile is a mile from my house. I am less than two miles from the construction of the plant. We have plants all around us and we are doing just fine. The same thing with St. James.

  83. Nick Milano says:

    This article is racist, i live in south louisiana and I'm not black. Come on, if you want to end racism stop making everything about race and you will find that its not as prevalent as you think.

  84. You fail at reading comprehension. Race has everything to do with it

  85. Jindal is no longer governor

  86. The people of Louisiana need to find a good lawyer that can sight laws that were broken and take there argument the the governor. If they can't get response go to Louisiana Supreme Court dont just except what was done with no regards to your human rights. As for the DEQ request all documents filed related to there approval. Who got paid under the table tlo approve there application and did their home work on this company. Many questions needs to be asked and confirmed seek legal advice.
    God bless and good luck.

  87. Lynda Gurr a lot to do with it read the story

  88. Lynda Gurr Yeah just dismiss the fact that it's in areas where poor black people live. No it's not good for America, but it's actually worse for some Americans. You can atleast admit that right?

  89. Ed Aubry says:

    Received funds to relocate??? Not likely.

  90. They are building three on the west coast. Two in WA and one in OR. We are just starting our fight, esp. when 5.4 billion is being spent and we were left in the dark about this! We must all unite our citizens to save our children and our ecology and fight for our country!

  91. They are trying to do this right now in Tacoma, WA!!! They almost snuck it by, but the local residents found out and now we are fighting the city. Please follow our fight, spread the word! Support us!

  92. OK…just wondering John, are you too lazy to complete intelligent reasons for your bias opinion here? You can do better than calling names; "idiots" "racist". Why don't you educate us John Webb. Give us the facts since you have obviously read up on them yourself before commenting—-commenting and ridiculing with self-righteous laughter. Help us out here John. Second thought…. you don't possess the kind of humanitarian personality we need in our world today.

  93. This article is over a year old Atlanta Star…What's Up? Is your dot com site satire (fake or outdated) because you're short readers, or just pushing any news leaning democrate, which I am, but please try to think of us as having a little more intelligence. We can read the date.

  94. Rhonda Bosby says:

    Lynda Gurr, Race has Everything to do with it!!!!

  95. Rhonda Bosby says:

    The South majority are white, believe me Blacks did not vote Bobby Jindal in!

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