The major objective of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice has been to address environmental injustice in the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor. Since its inception, the Center has implemented numerous projects in the areas of research, capacity building, and education and training.
Working with communities and in collaboration with other institutions, Non Government Organizations (NGO?s), and law groups, the Center?s role has evolved with the needs of its service population. Sometimes the solution to these more complex issues, needs and questions is relocation; other times it is community centered redevelopment and master planning, but every time the answer has been clean production.
Increased attention to the limits of pollution control and right-to-know during the past 10 years has allowed government, industry, and advocates to redirect their efforts towards prevention of toxic pollution at the source. However, during the past five years, a more comprehensive vision for production has emerged through the concept of clean production. Clean and Just Production means a holistic view of the products we use and the manner in which they are produced, used, and disposed of, so that pollution, toxic chemical exposure, and wasteful use of resources are designed out of the system. Clean Production goes beyond pollution prevention by focusing not only on facility emissions, but also energy and resource use as well as the upstream and downstream impacts of products. Clean and Just Production allows communities to promote innovative solutions rather than simply condemn production practices and products that adversely affect the environment. It is critical that communities participate in the institutionalization of Clean and Just Production and be able to evaluate government and industry proposals for their ability to effect needed changes.
There is a critical need to begin the transition towards clean and safer forms of production in Louisiana. Air pollution is significant around industrial facilities; the Mississippi River (a major thoroughfare through many petrochemical communities) is heavily contaminated; and irreparable damage has occurred to critical bayous and estuaries (including wildlife populations). Health has clearly suffered as a result of the heavy chemical industry presence in the state, though proof of causal links between pollution and health effects at the community level is often difficult to ascertain given varying exposures to many different substances and limitations in current tools.
Analyses have demonstrated convincingly that pollution, the presence of large industry (often from out-of-state), as well as tax structures that provide large government subsidies to heavy, polluting industries hurt the state?s economy and cost jobs. Ultimately, the Louisiana chemical economy is both harmful to health and unsustainable. Louisiana will not be able to achieve a healthy, sustainable economy without major structural changes.
Community residents as well as some government officials and academicians in Louisiana have realized the difficult and often adversarial position of always fighting new and existing chemical production and potentially damaging regulatory proposals and want to promote a proactive, cleaner and more just vision of production so that they can begin to say ?yes? to activities. They want jobs and economic development that will benefit people and communities. Clean and Just Production provides tools for Louisiana policy makers, industry, and communities to:
- Proactively promote solutions that can reduce or eliminate the contamination that threatens health and ecosystems (without having to prove the impacts of each chemical or activity);
- Promote sustainable, locally-based industry that provides economic security, and;
- Address the lifecycle impacts caused by the products that incorporate toxic substances produced in Louisiana.
The Louisiana Clean and Just Production Project consists of four major components:
- Research/policy studies
- Community assistance/education/training; and
- Community redevelopment projects;
- Outreach communication, and networking plan.