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The Louisiana Bucket Brigade: Cancer Alley Communities and the Fight Against Petrochemicals

For communities in the Gulf South, the fight against petrochemical companies is not just a news story but a reality faced daily in their backyards. Polluting oil refineries and chemical plants make families sick and can wipe entire towns off the map, yet the petrochemical industry continues to grow. The case of the Formosa Sunshine Project – an international company hoping to expand a plastic-producing complex containing seven cancer-causing chemicals – was no exception. Despite Formosa’s efforts, community organizations fought against the project, effectively blocking it in October 2022. Among those groups fighting the charge and leading the coalition was the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.   

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LBB) was founded in 2000 to fight the petrochemical industry expansion in Louisiana and the Gulf South. This area around the lower Mississippi River is known as “Cancer Alley” because of its heavy concentration of chemical plants. Even though the Gulf South is already littered with oil, gas, and chemical plants, there are plans to build 111 new petrochemical facilities in Louisiana alone. From a climate change perspective, if these plants are built, it will make averting a major climate disaster even more unlikely. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade operates on the frontlines to stop these companies.  

Day after day, the LBB is in neighborhoods, often just a fence line away from industrial sites, helping residents amplify their voices and overcome challenges to create a healthier, pollution-free future. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade has proven that its model works not only against petrochemical companies but also for the communities most impacted by the immediate environmental damage. As was the case against the Formosa Sunshine Project, community leaders were given no choice but to fight back against a petrochemical giant. With the support of LBB and other local groups, they won. As Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Anne Rolfes said, “Thanks to the people of St. James who stood up and provided real leadership.”  

The fight does not end with Formosa Plastics, and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade is committed to stopping industries proliferating in the Gulf South.

The fight does not end with Formosa Plastics, and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade is committed to stopping industries proliferating in the Gulf South. In addition to stalling Formosa Plastics since 2020, LBB has stopped every facility or expansion planned for St. James Parish – including Wanhua Chemical (2019), the Nucor Steel expansion (2021) and South Louisiana Methanol (2022). Looking ahead, LBB is turning its sights to preventing a gas export terminal buildout in Southwest Louisiana. 

Frontline organizations like the Louisiana Bucket Brigade fight for communities hit first and worst by the climate crisis, and they are critical to protecting safe and healthy neighborhoods. The leadership and partnership of LBB and Climates & Communities grantees ensure that people are put at the center of the fight for our planet. The Overbrook Foundation is committed to working in partnership with on-the-ground organizations.