It’s Wednesday, August 25, and environmental justice activists in Louisiana scored a victory against a petrochemical giant.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced last week that the petrochemical behemoth Formosa Plastics will have to complete a full, in-depth review of the environmental impacts that a proposed 2,400-acre complex would bring to St. James Parish, Louisiana. 

“Today’s announcement is the ultimate David v. Goliath victory,” said Anne Rolfes, executive director of the grassroots Louisiana Bucket Brigade, in a statement.

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The decision is a response to a 2020 lawsuit that local activist groups, including the Bucket Brigade, filed against the $9 billion project, which would be one of the biggest plastic-producing complexes in the world if completed. Nearly 150 industrial plants already exist along the 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River where the plant would be located, which has increased residents’ cancer risks. Formosa’s plant, according to an investigation by United Nations human rights experts, would more than double the cancer risks of St. James Parish’s predominantly Black residents.

The decision will force Formosa Plastics to acknowledge and analyze the project’s public health, climate, environmental justice, and other impacts before breaking ground.  

“The Army Corps has finally heard our pleas and understands our pain. With God’s help, Formosa Plastics will soon pull out of our community,” said Sharon Lavigne, the founder of the local environmental justice group Rise St. James, in a statement.

María Paula Rubiano A.

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