HIGHTOWER: Convent Defeats Environmental Injustice
Here's the score: Convent 1, Shintech 0.The people of Convent, Louisiana, have just scored big against Shintech, a giant Japanese chemical corporation. Convent -- a small town with a mostly low-income, minority population -- has been locked in a struggle for months with Shintech, which planned to build a plant making more than a billion pounds of PVC -- polyvinyl chloride -- a year.The people considered this a textbook case of environmental injustice -- another big polluter coming in and feeling free to dump on them because their town presumably was too poor and too powerless to fight back. Indeed, corporate executives admitted that their plans included the release of some 600,000 pounds of toxic air contaminants a year from this factory. That's an annual diet of about 300 pounds of toxics -- many known to be cancer-causers -- for every man, woman, and child in Convent.To the surprise of Shintech and the Louisiana political establishment, though, the people rebelled, saying they already lived in a "cancer alley" of petrochemical plants and were not going to take it anymore. Organized as Citizens for Jobs and the Environment, they got noisy, got some legal help, and got to agitating. It was a David and Goliath battle, with the folks of Convent fighting not only that corporation but also their own governor, Mike Foster, who's been thoroughly polluted with petrochemical campaign contributions.But it's the governor who's gagging, today, because the people applied such political and media heat that Shintech had to announce it would withdraw from Convent. "Hallelujah and praise the Lord," cried Mary Louise Green, one of the folks who's been fighting the plant. "Honey, do you know how long I've been praying for that?" she exclaimed.This is Jim Hightower saying ... Prayers are good, but so is agitating and organizing. As the people of Convent showed, the Lord helps those who help themselves.