Julie Dermansky's blog

Another Death in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley Brings Environmental Activists Together to Honor One of Their Own

Read time: 7 mins
Casket with Geraldine Mayho’s body being laid to rest in St. James, Louisiana.

On August 7, after Geraldine Mayho’s funeral, her body was laid to rest in the St. James Catholic Cemetery in southern Louisiana, across the street from a cluster of oil storage tanks. The tanks are like those that surround the Burton Lane neighborhood in St. James where she had lived, and are emblematic of the type of polluting industry she spent her last years rallying against.

New Concerns Raised by Opponents Delay Wanhua’s $1.25 Billion Plastic Complex in Louisiana

Read time: 7 mins
Pastor Harry Joseph speaking at a St. James Parish Council meeting on July 24.

Look at what is coming into the Parish, instead of saying ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’—it is time to say ‘No,’” Pastor Harry Joseph told the St. James Parish Council on July 24. He implored councilmembers to consider freshly unveiled public health and economic concerns before they reaffirmed a permit allowing yet another petrochemical plant in a southern Louisiana community fed up with its already rapid industrialization.

Joseph, pastor of Mount Triumph Baptist Church in St. James, is one of the plaintiffs appealing the parish council’s permit granted May 20 to Wanhua Chemical, which is planning to build a $1.25 billion plastics factory on the banks of the Mississippi River. During the appeal, new information about the project caused the council to halt a vote on repealing the permit. Instead, it sent the matter back for reconsideration to the parish planning commission, which had previously granted the project permission.

Latest Gulf Storm Brings Tough Choices for Residents of Disappearing Isle de Jean Charles

Read time: 9 mins
Resident returns home amid floodwaters on Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana

While most of Louisiana was spared Barry’s wrath last week, Isle de Jean Charles, a quickly eroding strip of land among coastal wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico, was not. A storm surge swept over the island, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans, early in the morning on July 13 before Barry was upgraded from a tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane.

On July 15, I met with Albert Naquin, Chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC) and Wenceslaus Billiot Jr., the Tribe’s deputy chief, to travel to the island and assess the damages. That afternoon, we made our way through the receding waters that still covered Island Road, the only route connecting the island to the mainland. Days after the storm, some parts of the road on the island were still submerged in three feet of water.

Louisiana Braces for a Storm While Weighing New Fossil Fuel Projects

Read time: 7 mins

Yesterday, I stopped writing another story for DeSmog to get ready for what could likely become this year’s first hurricane in the U.S. 

I live in Mandeville, Louisiana, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain across from New Orleans. My home is above sea level, unlike much of New Orleans, so I’m at a much lower risk for flooding impacts than residents of a city nearly synonymous with flooding.

However, like most residents in south coastal Louisiana, I’m bracing myself for a sustained barrage from the sky, as bands of rain and wind from Tropical Storm Barry arrived in parts of the state this morning. The entire Louisiana coast could be hit with the season’s first hurricane by Saturday.

Louisiana’s Cancer Alley Residents Take the Fight for Environmental Justice on the Road

Read time: 9 mins
Sharon Lavigne and Barbara Washington, St. James Parish residents, in Washington, D.C.

Last month, four residents from Louisiana neighborhoods impacted by air pollution traveled far from their Mississippi River parishes to Washington, D.C., and Tokyo, Japan, seeking help in their struggle for clean air.

St. James Parish’s Sharon Lavigne and Barbara Washington, both fighting to prevent additional petrochemical plant construction near their homes, attended the Congressional Convening on Environmental Justice in Washington, D.C., on June 26.* 

A March Through Heat, Felony Threats, and Pollution Brings Louisiana’s Cancer Alley to Governor’s Attention

Read time: 9 mins
Coalition against death alley on the steps of the Louisiana Capitol

On June 3, at the end of a five-day march through stifling heat in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, activists fighting against environmental racism reached their goal of bringing attention to their area’s injustices to the state capitol. 

The Coalition Against Death Alley (CADA), a group of Louisiana-based residents and members of various local and state organizations, were met with praise on the steps of the capitol building by State Representative Randal Gaines, the head of the Louisiana Black Caucus.

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