January 29, 2015 | Posted by Nick Chiles
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.