In a historic, but maybe temporary win for the climate movement and for communities most impacted by fossil fuel infrastructure, the Biden administration last week temporarily paused decisions on approving new liquefied natural gas, or LNG, export terminals in the U.S.
In recent years, frontline communities and activists across the country have come together to oppose any expansion of what they believe is the most harmful form of fuel on the planet from a climate perspective. LNG export requires methane gas to be super-cooled into a liquid for transport on ships around the world, then turned back into a gas for consumption.
Roishetta Ozane is the founder and CEO of the Vessel Project in southwestern Louisiana, a grassroots mutual aid, disaster relief and environmental justice organization that was founded in the wake of several federally declared disasters. Her group organized opposition to the proposed $10 billion CP2 LNG terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, which would have added to the environmental health hazards for her community. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Ozane about how and why she took up the fight, and how her community won by making alliances with other LNG opponents.
ROISHETTA OZANE: Just fighting an LNG terminal or a particular project, doesn’t really help the community. But if we can help the community with their emergency needs, help them to develop programs and help them to receive resources in the community, that helps the community become more sustainable, and that’s what the mission of the Vessel Project is. My mission has never been to fight one particular thing; there are so many things at this intersection of social justice, climate justice, racial justice and my fight has always been for the community, for the individual people who live here, to make sure they have all the things they need to survive and thrive.
MELINDA TUHUS: You said stopping an LNG terminal doesn’t necessarily help the community. Doesn’t it help the community, because the pollution is so tremendous and also because of the climate impacts.
ROISHETTA OZANE: It helps the community in that way but if that project has never been to that community and we only stop that proposed perpetual thing, but we don’t look at everything else that’s impacting that community, it does not stop something else from coming to that community, because what we’ve realized is that as long as the community is in the state it is in, something else is going to make its case to come for that community.
We know that the other side, especially the Republicans, are in a position to need economic develop or workforce development, and that’s how they propose these projects in those types of communities because they feel like, well, they need something to make the community better.
But we’re showcasing that the projects that are already here are not helping the community at all. We’re talking about communities that are surrounded by billion-dollar industries, but still have the highest unemployment rate, the lowest minimum wage, people still struggling to get by. So, again, stopping one facility, when you look at it in the grand scheme of things and the climate as a whole, yes, it prevents the extra pollution, it stops the community from being endangered from that thing that never came. It does not change the condition of the community.
MELINDA TUHUS: I gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. There have been a lot of different streams of opposition to LNGs, including that big rally in September in New York City. There’s been people coming up from the Gulf to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission meetings to try to persuade that agency not to permit this stuff, and then this new group for elders called Third Act, actually was going to be in D.C. right now, with, I think, 300 elders committed to risking arrest at the Department of Energy to try to block this. Do you think it was that kind of all- hands-on-deck by different populations that moved the needle?
ROISHETTA OZANE: I have been saying and I continue to say that it took each and every one of us to get to this point. There have been people who have been fighting and pushing back against the poisoning of Black and indigenous and people of color communities for many years. You know, we can go back to coal and the railroads and highways coming through communities. Dr. Bullard has a book that he’s written and he talks about being “the wrong complexion for protection.”
So many years have gone into this, but what’s been missing for many years were real frontline stories, people impacted able to show in real time their impacts. That’s thanks to the Internet and social media, the fact that we were able to get these stories across the world, across the globe.
We were able to connect with people in Europe and Japan. We were able to go to Dubai and attend COP28, and go to Egypt and attend COP27, and go to New York and attend Climate Week, constantly showing videos and footage of our communities and what we live with and deal with every day.
When I arranged a tour of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission here in my community, they were in shock, they were in tears to see that there were real men, women and children who were living like this, hearing the stories of people with cancer and children playing in softball fields with a big petrochemical facility right across the street.
In fact, the ball field is entitled The Industrial Girls Softball Complex. Now, think about our young girls playing right across the street from industry and link that directly to the number of premature births, to the number of cervical cancer and breast cancer rates that have gone up. Our children have no choice but to be impacted by these things because it’s right there – not only in their front yard, but across the street from their schools, where they play, where they eat.
For more information, visit the Vessel Project at vesselprojectoflouisiana.
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