Public Outcry as St. James Parish Council Votes Against Solar Farm; Community Voices Silenced

St. James Parish, LA — The Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Inclusive Louisiana are denouncing the St. James Parish Council’s decision yesterday to vote against the proposed solar farm in the 6th District. The groups say the decision exacerbates a glaring disparity in the protection and prioritization of community health and environmental justice in the parish.

The council meeting, held at the St. James Parish Courthouse Annex—a venue with limited capacity—left many concerned citizens, community organizers, youth groups, and others unable to enter and participate. Despite anticipating a large turnout, the council chose a venue that could not accommodate the crowd, effectively silencing many voices.

Barbara Washington, Founder of Inclusive Louisiana, expressed her support of the solar farm: “I live west and east of industrial facilities, amidst toxic, cancer-causing chemicals, that have been and are affecting our health. So many of my relatives and friends have died from cancer or are currently recovering from cancer, have respiratory issues, and chronic coughs. I live a half mile from a plant that is emitting sulfuric acid mist and hydrogen sulfide, and all of that has affected our health. Naturally, I would love to have a solar farm that does not pose a danger to our health or our homes. It’s clean energy with zero emissions, no odors or hazardous materials. It’s a renewable energy source and a way to go forward into the future.”

The council’s vote was narrowly divided at 4-3, with Courtney Long (District 2), Anthony Jasmin (District 5), and Vondra Etienne-Steib (District 6) voting in favor of the solar farm. Todd Poche (District 1), Neal Poche (District 4), Ryan Louque (District 3), and Donald Nash (District 7) voted against it. The decision to block the solar farm, a non-polluting project, starkly contrasts with the council’s history of quietly approving heavily polluting facilities in the majority Black 4th and 5th Districts. This systemic inequity underscores a pattern of environmental racism in St. James Parish that has been called out by local residents for years.

Shaq Cossé, a representative from the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, stated: “The council’s vote is a clear message that the interests of the 6th District’s residents, who are mostly white, are more important than those in the 4th and 5th Districts, who are predominantly Black. This vote is not just about a solar farm; it’s about the ongoing disregard for the lives and interests of Black communities in St. James Parish. We demand equal protection for all residents, regardless of race or district.”

Gail LeBoeuf of Inclusive Louisiana added: “The rejection of the solar farm permit is a missed opportunity for St. James Parish to embrace clean, renewable energy and move away from its dependence on harmful petrochemical plants. Our communities deserve better.”

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Inclusive Louisiana call on all residents and supporters of environmental justice to stand united against these unjust practices and to demand a fair and equitable approach to community health and environmental protection.

Inclusive Louisiana is dedicated to advocating for the rights and well-being of residents in Louisiana, focusing on environmental justice and community health.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade uses grassroots action to support communities impacted by the petrochemical industry and hasten the transition from fossil fuels.

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