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Poverty and Petrochemicals Converge as Hurricane Laura's Devastation Exposes Entire Gulf Coast as 'Sacrificial Zone'

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/08/28/poverty-and-petrochemicals-converge-hurricane-lauras-devastation-exposes-entire-gulf

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Given what we know about ecology – every part is related to the whole, and the whole is a living system – the term “sacrifice zone” is oxymoronic. Ecological damage cannot be zoned off. At this late stage, the damage of industrial barbarianism (there is no “industrial civilization” – that term is also oxymoronic) is so deep it affects the genes of all living beings. The ongoing industrial genocide is truly and fully a genocide. It is annihilation of the very possibility of genes existing on Earth. Cancer Alley is Cancer Lane, is Cancer Street… is Cancer Avenue… is Cancer Road… is Cancer Highway… is Cancer Freeway. Sayonara to everything we hold dear… a holocaust of all that is valuable… a holocaust of the very idea of value.


These are the people who refine the fuels we use daily. They make the laundry and dishwashing soaps, along with the plastics from which the bottles they are contained in are made. They make the plastics that hold the fruit we buy at the grocery store. Etc. We are connected to them. Having been born on the Gulf coast in a refinery town just five weeks before a Cat 4 (Carla) that put 18 inches of said same in our home and leveled the refineries and the lab in which my father worked, I take this all very personally. Phil Bedient, cited in the article, was my undergraduate and later postdoctoral advisor. We often talked in amazement at the foolish lack of preparation for the likes of Katrina, Laura, Harvey, etc. Of course the Big Money folks don’t live any where near this. That is why the term is Environmental Justice.


I’d left Indian owned PSL/ BSL, MS (now owned by Jindal) and turned left, in 2008 to see if there was still any bridge across to Louisiana. Pearlington then looked like a direct 1 megaton airburst and FEMA had a diseased swamp full of terrifying trailers, but I’d already reported BSL’s streets were still gone and only WalMart, two casinos & a Dollar General survived Katrina’s surge. Most of my coworkers were just back from Iraq & Afghanistan, so I’d thought this would be appropriate introduction for my California bred, NYC hippy partner? Most the contractors who’d been building, or were about to rebuild oil and gas infrastructure all lived north of I-10? None of them had ever HEARD of Naomi Klein, Miles Minderbinder or ISDS Panels? Within a year, three of these guys commit suicide, three died in traffic*, the sikh workers were all replaced by Hindus & we’d never learned how many opioid deaths of disparity, cancers or accidents followed?

*At first, we’d have to drive around an old church, washed into the middle of the 16mile totally unlit swamp road.


I was doing some work in Baton Rouge and stopped by a bar in New Orleans in December 2006. I sat next to a contractor who bragged on and on about how much cash his firm was raking in from the federal government from Katrina. Driving around the city I saw next to anything of material progress. I drive I-10 from FL to TX about every three years or so and get off and explore from time to time. Just like what you said. Now when Ivan hit the Redneck Riviera (big-time Republican country) in Sept 2004, old W sent FEMA in strength.

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I’ve lots of dear friends working between Stupp, over Breaux Bridge & down in New Iberia (some of whom, older than I!) I’ve yet to hear from. Lived in Panama City, and had a couple OLD Yankee friends yet to get COVID escape as a 164 mph eyewall passed directly over Berg Steel Pipe & sent all their boats flying in Mexico Beach. We’d joked about all those YF-22s, unable to fly out, and fretted about what’s likely to get FAR worse, regardless what happens in Nov! Without my W4, Worker’s Comp, PHMSA regulations, OSHA… everybody waving firearms, drunked-up, cranked-up; I’ve turned down remunerative gigs & really miss ALL my wacko friends… but!

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Rode 90 through New Iberia and through deep Cajun country last summer. It is surely whacked by Laura. Too low. The mangroves helped some in places I’m sure, but on that peninsula there is nothing to stop that wind. I spent the summer of 95 at Mexico Beach and worked at Tyndall. Went back before it got hit by Michael and it had really been built up–went back just after and Michael really flattened it. Glad I have at least 50 miles between my house and the water now with decent tree cover to slow those winds.

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This is from another area but the Gulf is the same way, there is a lot of foreign investment in this industry and they don’t give a hoot what they destroy, it is an economic model.

“Fully 62% of the $181 billion is foreign direct investment, or includes a foreign partner.”

Historic Levels of New Chemical Industry Investment

"Companies from around the world are investing in projects to expand production in the United States.
Since 2010, 301 projects valued at $181 billion have been announced nationwide, as of March 2017.

The projects include new facilities, expansions and process changes to increase capacity. Of these, 46% have been completed or are under construction, while 45% are in the planning phase. Most are
geared toward expansion of production capacity for ethylene, ethylene derivatives (i.e., polyethylene,
polyvinyl chloride, etc.), ammonia, methanol, propylene, and chlorine.
Fully 62% of the $181 billion is foreign direct investment, or includes a foreign partner. The fact that
such large numbers of firms based abroad are choosing to source their chemistry in the U.S. is
unprecedented in recent history and a testament to the value and affordability of America’s shale gas
and ethane supplies. The U.S. is capturing market share from the rest of the world, and no other
country or continent has as bright an outlook when it comes to natural gas."


I’d a German USAF-lifer daughter/ wife friend drive down from the Poconos (1,400 miles @ 120!) Who was pooped and ended up on the beach @ rush hour. She’d not been there since being a traffic-stopper in a bandeau & cut-off BDUs. She was crying like that Iron Eyes Cody commercial about how horrible, ugly and soulless her dream town had become. I’d watched MTV, Girls Gone Wild, crank and HIV make (Honkey) Heaven into, well… a pretty sad, scary place.

Tyndall or Eglin? Or I guess you meant Michael>>Tyndall.

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Yeah, and Iron Eyes Cody was actually Sicilian. oh well

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Tyndall. Everybody I’d been with, in PC or Wewahitchka had been USAF wives or workers. Wewa was so hep & cool by comparison, with Black, White, Native, Thai, Krauts, etc. all watching each other’s kids. Compounds with fish ponds. Folks pitching in to help folks, down on their luck, old & sick (or CRAZY) neighbors. I’ve never served, but the poor USAF towns belied the areas’ racist history? Heck with the piss po’ peckerwood BEACH side of Saint Andrews Bay, though!

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Unmentioned by that article lauding the US Oil and Gas industry and all of that investment dollars that flow in as a result is this.

Compared to many other Countries the US is seen as “low wage”.
Compared to many other Countries the US is lax on all form of environmental legislation.

China is also low wage and has next to no environmental protections. As a consequence China attracts lots of investment and has some of the most polluted cities and rivers in the world.

Trump wants to be more “competitive” with China.

We can all see where this is going .

A prime example of the corruption of money in politics.

Think globally has a darkside.

Comparsions can be manipulated. Trade agreements govern foreign investments too.

…Absolutely PHK this administration, assholes, every one!!!..

…PSL/BSL/MS…got to spell it out ?..

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@WiseOwl Pray they dont revive TTIP because it was dreamt up in response to the deepwater horizon disaster and to pass all the liability for disasters in the petrochemical industry onto the taxpayers and vastly irreversibly deregulate, petrochemicals, chemicals and safety regs of all kinds… also to allow the outsourcing of all the jobs to subcontractors from the cheapest countries, in public works,/construction/intrastructure/environmental, places like eastern europe, in petrochemicals from the Middle East. US workers are too expensive.

Like the Yalta Napkin these deals intent is to divide up the world but this time its between corporations.

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“BSL” is Bay Saint Louis, MS. The rest is an Indian-owned (natural gas pipe) mill, it appeared WiseOwl would be VERY familiar with? This area around Waveland is where Katrina hit after NOLA (New Orleans) was subsequently devastated by a blowout, explosion & sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform, destroying the Gulf’s fishing industry. “NYC” is New York City, a harbor on the Hudson River.

You might want to rethink that claim 3 1/12 years later. Seems the shale gas boom is a BUST.