Chinese Firm Moves into Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley”

Saturday, January 31, 2015
Wang Jinshu and Gov. Bobby Jindal (photos: Shandong Yuhuang Chemical and AP)

A Chinese company with a history of environmental problems in its home country is building a methanol plant in an area of Louisiana where cancer rates and other health problems are already high because of the activities of U.S. petrochemical companies in the area.


The methanol plant would be in St. James Parish, which is 90% African-American, and whose residents say they had no voice in the decision to locate the industrial facility near a high school, two churches and an assisted living facility for senior citizens.


“We never had a town hall meeting pretending to get our opinion prior to them doing it,” resident Lawrence “Palo” Ambrose told Al Jazeera America. “They didn’t make us part of the discussion.”


But a leading Chinese Communist Party official was part of the discussion. Wang Jinshu, the Communist Party Secretary for the northeastern Chinese village of Yuhuang and a delegate to the National People’s Congress, is spearheading the plant project, which is expected to cost $1.85 billion.


Wang’s company, Shandong Yuhuang, has taken heat for violating the notoriously lax environmental standards in China. According to Massoud Hayoun of Al Jazeera America, “the petrochemical industry in Heze, where Shandong Yuhuang has the largest plant, had created unlivable environmental conditions for villagers in the area, with rising cancer rates, undrinkable water and polluted air,” that could take years to resolve.


Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal has been pushing for the project, which received nearly $10 million in economic incentives.


St. James Parish is located halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, in a stretch known as “cancer alley,” where Exxon and other energy companies have refineries and other industrial plants that release harmful levels of toxic chemicals into the air and water.


Shandong Yuhuang claims it’s making the methanol for export to China, but the market for the chemical there is already oversaturated, making the reason for building the Louisiana plant unclear. However, because of an anti-corruption campaign in China, many businessmen have been parking their assets in other countries, such as the United States.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

China’s Louisiana Purchase: Environmental Concerns In ‘Cancer Alley’ (by Massoud Hayoun, Al Jazeera America)

China’s Louisiana Purchase: Who’s Building a Methanol Plant on the Bayou? (by Massoud Hayoun, Al Jazeera America)

Commercial Methanol (Wikipedia)

No Surprise: Americans Living Near Chemical Industrial Plants are Disproportionally Poor and Minorities (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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