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Four months after Port Neches blast, residents are frustrated and angry

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Like many other small towns along the western Gulf Coast in Texas and my native Louisiana that are dominated by the petrochemical industry, folks in Port Neches, Texas, used to breathe in the occasional noxious odors from its biggest employer — a giant, aging facility belonging to the TPC Group — and considered it the smell of money. At first, residents’ faith in the petrochemical...

New questions about cause of massive Texas chemical plant blast

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At TPC Group’s massive, aging petrochemical plant in Port Neches. Texas, near the Gulf Coast, tit was not supposed to be like this. In 2017, the company reached a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to aggressively monitor the air surrounding the facility for 1,3 butadiene — a highly flammable, carcinogenic chemical that had been leaking from the site — and to take...

How Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’ is harming the earth’s ozone layer

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With the 2020s underway, there’s been a renewed focus on the problem of climate change. The horrific bushfires in Australia have been a reminder that while the world’s leaders did too little over the course of the last decade, global warming has gone from a futuristic threat to a real-time crisis. Many wonder if modern society can make the kind of sacrifices that will be needed to reduce our use...

How lax regs, low taxes power Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’

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As an environmental lawyer with close ties to Louisiana’s ever-growing community of local activists fighting on the same issues, I’ve been sounding the alarm about the state’s so-called Cancer Alley — the web of massive petrochemical plants lining the lower Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to below New Orleans — for years. The small river towns between those two cities —...

Here’s a reasonable solution to surprise medical bills

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As a cancer survivor, I know how devastating it can be to get hit with high, unexpected medical bills — especially when they trigger never-ending fights with insurance companies. The absolute last thing that patients recovering from major illnesses, surgeries, or procedures should have to worry about is facing more financial burdens when they should be only focused on their recovery. That’s...

Texas chemical blast shows we’re moving backwards on pollution, safety

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Thanksgiving was cancelled in Port Neches, Texas, this year. Things ever should have gotten to this point. Very early on the days before the holiday, this Gulf Coast community near the Texas-Louisiana border was rocked by one explosion that lit the night sky — then another, hours later. Residents of Port Neches and several surrounding communities, where windows were shattered by the force...

‘We live in constant fear’: New map shows staggering risks of La.’s ‘Cancer Alley’

There was a time not that long ago — back when Sharon Lavigne was still back in high school in the community of St. James, Louisiana, long before she became a grandmother of 12 — when the people of her tiny Mississippi River town were happier and healthier. It was before “Cancer Alley” became “Cancer Alley.” It was during her teenage years that the first petrochemical plant opened up...

Most Americans want to end offshore drilling. Now we need government to listen

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Most Americans didn’t pay a lot of attention to offshore oil drilling before April 20, 2010. Indeed, it had been less than two years since a Republican National Convention crowd in Minneapolis had erupted in a chant of “drill, baby, drill!” — reflecting a public mood of wanting cheaper prices at the gas pump and not particularly caring where the oil came from. After all, it had been nearly...

How other states are fighting not to be like Louisiana and its ‘Cancer Alley’

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When you live embedded within a toxic infrastructure like Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley,” a long stretch of the Mississippi River that’s lined with petrochemical plants and infused with some of the worst air and water pollution in the United States, every day can be a struggle.’ It must feel that way for people like Lydia Gerard and Robert Taylor who come from the tiny town of Reserve, La., which...

The Deepwater Horizon site is now an apocalyptic hellscape with sick, mutant crabs

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Even with the 10-year anniversary of the catastrophe fast approaching, it’s easy to forget all about the tragic events that occurred at BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig, out in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast, on April 20, 2010. Indeed, BP and its friends in Big Oil have invested literally billions of dollars over the course of a decade in the hopes that you won’t remember the explosion that...

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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