The petrochemical situation in Louisiana

The Louisiana Cancer Alley, where St James is located, is a corridor located in the southern state of Louisiana along the lower Mississippi River, historically a plantation site where enslaved African Americans were forced to labour. Today, it serves as an industrial hub, with nearly 150 oil refineries, plastics plants and chemical facilities. 

An emblematic example of environmental racism.


The petrochemical corridor has not only polluted the surrounding water and air, but earned its nickname by subjecting its mostly African American residents to cancer, respiratory diseases and other adverse health effects. 


  • According to a recent report by the Center for International Environmental Law, the census tract in St James Parish, where some of the key petrochemical complexes in the area are, has a cancer rate 20% higher than the Louisiana state average. Louisiana’s cancer incidence rate, in turn, is already 9% higher than the US national average.


  • According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Air Toxic Assessment map, this affects predominantly African American Districts in St James Parish. The cancer risks in predominantly African American Districts could be at 104 and 105 cases per million, while other districts with predominantly white population, could have a cancer risk ranging from 60 to 75 per million. 


  • United Nations independent human rights experts have raised serious concerns about further industrialization of Cancer Alley and denounced the development of petrochemical complexes in Louisiana as a form of environmental racism


  • In addition to vastly increasing toxic emissions in St James’ communities, the construction of the proposed facility would desecrate numerous likely gravesites of enslaved African American peoples.


Among the key petrochemical players in the Cancer Alley is the Formosa Plastics Group, a Taiwanese conglomerate that has become the world’s fourth-largest producer of petrochemicals and plastics. In 2018, St. James Parish Council approved the “Sunshine Project“, which would be one of the largest plastics facilities in the world to be developed by FG LA LLC, a subsidiary company of Formosa Plastics Group. 


Along with other petrochemical companies in the area, Formosa is facing increasing scrutiny and backlash as a result of the impact of their activities on the human rights of fenceline African American communities.