Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel said she won’t support a vote to rezone the proposed barge cleaning facility in South Baton Rouge, because preventing the barge from doing business at the current site could mean it would later end up in North Baton Rouge where low-income residents have suffered from industrial sites for years.
“It’s time to go south, to ease to concentration on the north,” Banks-Daniel wrote in an e-mail to Metro Council members and a few residents of Riverbend subdivision who emailed their opposition to the project. “Among the affected groups of environmental justice, those in high-poverty and racial minority groups have the most propensity to receive the harm of environmental in-justice. Poor people account for more than 20% of the human health impacts from industrial toxic air releases, compared to 12.9% of the population nationwide.”
Council members Chandler Loupe and John Delgado proposed rezoning the site where barge cleaning industrial company Tubal-Cain has been developing land for two years. Rezoning the property from heavy industrial to commercial would prevent Tubal-Cain from being able to do its intended operations there.
The site is located within a mile of BREC’s Farr Park, Riverbend neighborhood, and is down the road from LSU. The Planning Commission voted Monday to recommend the rezoning.
In Banks-Daniel’s email, she highlighted other industrial projects in neighborhoods she represents including Scotlandville and Alsen, which have been plagued by a sewer treatment plant and a planned industrial landfill, among other facilities. She said black communities are disproportionately affected by “Cancer Alley” as a result of being located next to “hazardous facilities, as well as their low socio-economic status and limited political influence.”
“I can’t refute the passions of those I serve and their concern that a vote of ‘yes’ will open the possibility of this being our fight in the future,” she wrote. “History has shown that in my District, residents have had to stand mostly alone in the environmental fight and usually come up short!”
The Metro Council meets at 4 p.m. today to vote on the rezoning.
Click here for an article explaining the background of industrial sites in north Baton Rouge.
Here is the full text of her email which she sent Wednesday.
I represent the northern part of the parish, including Scotlandville and Alsen. Some of you may be aware of the history of environmental injustices that have plagued these residents for over the last 50 years. Recently, I am bombarded with request not to approve the re-zoning the property from heavy industrial to commercial. The majority of the request stem from not only the history previously mentioned, but concern that Tubal-Cain Marine or some other barge cleaning facility will come north.
We all know the Mississippi River is the largest industrial river in the country. In District 2, we are heavily hit with industrial units because of the river, two train tracks, and multiple chemical companies already aligned.
It’s time to go south, to ease to concentration on the north. Among the affected groups of environmental justice, those in high-poverty and racial minority groups have the most propensity to receive the harm of environmental in-justice. Poor people account for more than 20% of the human health impacts from industrial toxic air releases, compared to 12.9% of the population nationwide.
There is still a need to bring an end to the contamination of Devil’s Swamp in Alsen. Just last week, three state agencies reported that nobody should eat fish or crawfish from the Devil’s Swamp and Bayou Baton Rouge area, or swim or boat there, because of mercury and PCB pollution. This was a beautiful property when I was growing up, but not anymore. The EPA has said a nearby 190-acre hazardous waste dump was the apparent source of PCBs. Rollins Environmental Services Inc. ran the site for decades starting in 1971. Current owner Clean Harbors Inc. This is a fight the residents of Alsen have had to endure with little or no help from anyone locally.
Just last year in 2014, in spite of the opposition, no different from the Riverbend residents. Genesis Energy, built a rail station to transport crude oil right across from my subdivision in Scotlandville. Genesis Energy has been good community partners and there has been no incidents, but the risk of a spill or explosion exists. Genesis was drown to the location because the land is near the Port of Greater Baton Rouge and is connected to the Port’s existing deep-water docks on the Mississippi River. Similar to the reason Tubal-Marine Services wants to build on the port owned property.
In spite of the recent unified fight including the Mayor and Metro Council, etc. Louisiana Land Acquisitions, LLC had three opportunities to apply for the same site, beginning in 1997, again in 2008, and successfully in 2014, LDEQ gave the green light. The LDEQ state the company had all there paperwork together for approval. I can only assume Tubal will have all their paperwork together and yield LDEQ approval as well. This landfill is being built on the north side of Brooklawn Drive, about two miles west of Scenic Highway, just down from the Alsen community. Nevertheless, our residents don’t want more waste being brought into our community.
Residents are constantly reminding me of the city-parish wastewater treatment facility located in University Place, near Southern University. It took two decades of fighting, but finally residents prevailed and the city-parish moved them away from the sewage plant. The last resident moved just a couple of months ago.
African-Americans are affected by a variety of environmental justice issues. One notorious example is our own “Cancer Alley” region of Louisiana. This 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is home to 125 companies that produce one quarter of the petrochemical products manufactured in the United States.
The United States Commission on Civil Rights has concluded that the African-American community has been disproportionately affected by Cancer Alley as a result of Louisiana’s current state and local permit system for hazardous facilities, as well as their low socio-economic status and limited political influence.
This is a difficult decision for me and I sympathize with the residents living near this proposed site. However, I can’t refute the passions of those I serve and their concern that a vote of “yes” will open the possibility of this being our fight in the future. History has shown that in my District, residents have had to stand mostly alone in the environmental fight and usually come up short!