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Cancer Alley Activist Honored

Margie Eugene-Richard this spring became the first African American to receive the Goldman Environmental Prize, an annual award often called the environmental Nobel. Also receiving the award this year were six others, including two grassroots activists from Bhopal, India, who are pressing to hold Dow Chemical responsible for the disastrous Bhopal gas spill, and a Ghanaian lawyer fighting the World Bank's plan to privatize his country's water supply. Since 1990 the Goldman Prize has honored 101 people in 61 countries, including the famous Love Canal activist Lois Gibbs.

Eugene-Richard is a fourth-generation resident of Old Diamond, a neighborhood in Norco, Louisiana, along the notorious Cancer Alley, a swath of the Deep South so-called because of its high rate of devastating environmental illness. She grew up in a house located just 25 feet from a Shell chemical plant. Two of her sisters died of rare ailments. After a Shell pipeline explosion rocked the entire town in 1988, Eugene-Richard founded Concerned Citizens of Norco to hold Shell accountable. By 2000, Eugene-Richard and her organization had pressured Shell into reducing plant emissions by 30 percent, improving evacuation procedures for local residents, and paying to relocate families who lived next to the facility. In 2002, they secured a $5 million fund from Shell to relocate the entire neighborhood and succeeded in pressing for a criminal investigation into alleged falsification of emissions reports.

 

 —Darrin Burgess

 

For more information on the Goldman awards, see www.goldmanprize.org.

 

 

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