FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Washington, D.C) – Earlier today, RISE St. James, a faith-based, grassroots environmental organization led by The Goldman Prize winner, Sharon Lavigne, hosted a funeral procession across D.C to honor lives lost to the fossil fuel industry and demand more action from the Biden Administration on environmental justice. Organized as a New Orleans second-line style marching band and ending at the White House, the procession of activists carried photographs of fellow community members who died because of the toxic impact of fossil fuels.
“We are dying, struggling to breathe polluted air and without clean water to drink. Our gardens are producing inedible vegetables, and our bath water leaves us itching for days,” said Sharon Lavigne. “As a fellow devout Catholic and grandparent, I am making a personal plea to you, President Biden. Please save us. Use your power to declare Cancer Alley a State of Emergency, declare a climate emergency, halt the petrochemical build out in the Gulf South and help our children and grandchildren to live long, healthy lives.”
Located alongside the Mississippi River, St. James Parish is commonly referred to as “Cancer Alley” for its prevalence of petrochemical plants, with roughly 200 plants along an 80-mile stretch of the river. The Parish, largely made up of Black residential communities, has among the highest concentrations of toxic chemicals in the country, with cancer rates found to be 50 times higher than the national average. Deemed a “sacrifice zone”, this community is one of the clearest examples of environmental racism in the country.
At the start of his term, President Biden gave hope to the St. James Parish by signing an executive order representing the biggest federal commitment to environmental justice in the nation’s history and referring to “Cancer Alley” by name. Several months later Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Reagan met with RISE St. James and other environmental advocates in St. James Parish, vowing to deliver “bold actions,” to protect families and restore clean air and safe driving water. Despite this, the state of Louisiana plans to build or expand over 100 petrochemical facilities across the state, with St. James Parish at the epicenter of this toxic boom.
The group called on President Biden to stand true to his previous statements and acknowledge the millions of residents within “Cancer Alley ” and across the country that are being subjected to the devastating health effects of the fossil fuel industry. Sharon Lavigne in particular has been making an ongoing personal plea to President Biden to meet with her one-on-one, and was able to have a meeting with the Council on Environmental Quality this afternoon.