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Chemical Corridor, New Orleans,
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Pollution was the focus of this afternoon's field trip, with a visit to Louisana's “Chemical Corridor”. Delegates gathered to hear Anne Rolfes, founder of local pressure group Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and local activists discussing serious medical problems faced by those living close to the chemical plants. There was also debate about the Murphy oil spill, which occurred during the high winds of Hurricane Katrina, and affected an estimated 1700 homes in the region.
Louisiana is home to seventeen oil refineries, three of which have been sued by citizens on the grounds that they are emitting carcinogenic pollutants. Two of those suits have been raised in St Bernard.
Refineries were attracted to the area in the 1930s for the abundant natural resources and favourable weather conditions, but now face the challenge of a more extreme climate and allegations that pollutants from the plants are causing cancers and respiratory disorders in the local population. “We're in the St Bernard parish today, but you can drive up and down the Mississippi river and hear these stories again and again,” said Rolfes.
Mark Schleifstein, journalist at local newspaper The Times Picayune, talked about positive steps being taken by refineries to reduce emissions and said that more than $5m has been spent so far to restructure processes and improve emissions of chemicals such as benzine. He told delegates that previous investment by refineries has created employment opportunities in jobs such as emissions monitoring. He also told participants of a proposal from the EPA for a carbon inventory programme which could be in place as early as 2010.
By Jo Roach