Marginalized groups suffer the most from corporate pollution. Many of those affected lack the resources to fight back or reach relevant authorities for help. One such community is Reserve, a predominantly black neighborhood of about 8,000 people, which sits at the heart of Cancer Alley between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
This week, members of this community had a chance to meet Michael Regan, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Regan is the first high-ranking person that has given them a listening ear, despite years of fighting to get their case heard. Regan’s actions come at a time when the Biden administration has pledged to enforce environmental justice in its new reforms.
According to data provided by the EPA, Cancer Alley is plagued by toxic chemicals such as chloroprene, produced by Denka, a nearby Japanese petrochemical plant. Chloroprene is known to be carcinogenic and increases the risk of cancer among locals. Studies have shown that residents of the region are 50 times more likely to get cancer than the national average.
Regan’s visit to Reserve was just part of a long journey. Regan has been on trips around the American South to meet and talk with many marginalized groups affected by pollution. After hearing from Reserve community members, Reagan told the press that the government had started a journey of rebuilding trust with the people.
“I know that we have to rebuild trust. I know that this didn’t happen overnight and won’t be resolved overnight. So our commitment is to do better, leverage our enforcement, work with Congress to get the toughest laws in place that are adequate and protective. And to do this in concert with community members who have been advocating this for decades,” Regan said, as reported by The Guardian.
Regan also visited Jackson, Mississippi, where thousands were left without running water last year after a storm destroyed the water piping system. On Wednesday, Regan visited the residents of Gordon Plaza, an affordable housing project in New Orleans built on toxic landfills in the 1980s
For years, environmental justice has been elusive for many marginalized groups. Although most of the communities have leaders championing their rights, progress has been slow. With the renewed efforts, communities hope that justice will be served.
Via The Guardian
Lead image via Pixabay