Community Empowerment Program

The heart of LEAN's work is the support we provide communities directly; informed and honed by over 30 years of addressing environmental challenges.

Many of the communities LEAN serves are low-income, minority populations often termed "environmental justice" communities. These underserved populations repeatedly bear the burden of Louisiana's industrial economy. They also do not have the means to purchase the assistance or representation necessary to make sure that their concerns are heard or that their needs are considered. LEAN is proud to be an empowering support system for these often unheard and overburdened communities.

Citizen's Guidebook

LEAN has worked to organize many of our important lessons and resources into the Louisiana Citizen's Guide to Environmental Engagement. Within this guidebook you can explore different aspects of the environment that may affect your health and quality of life as well as get a better understanding of some of the tools and resources at your disposal to navigate challenges that may arise.

LEAN's Community Atlas

With over 30 years of community empowerment history, LEAN has an extensive network of partners and experiences. Many of these community challenges are cataloged in LEAN's Community Atlas. You can use the atlas to explore the past and current challenges facing communities across Louisiana.

It is our goal that our work, community to community, person to person is slowly but surely changing the landscape of Louisiana. Louisiana has a legacy of prioritizing industry over community and LEAN's work aims to shift this unfortunate imbalance of power. Ultimately our goal is to create a statewide citizenry that is in control of their own communities health and environmental well being. With each community LEAN assists, we are building a population aware and capable of addressing the problems that arise in their community by understanding complicated environmental situations and becoming proficient in the tools they have to address them. LEANs support is on-going and with each new community struggle we build new allies, friends and network colleagues. LEAN is engaged in doing the groundwork for creating a cultural shift in Louisiana that creates informed, empowered and healthy communities in a state too often built on exploitation and sacrifice. This change must come from the bottom, from everyday people invested in building a better future for themselves. LEAN aims to be the tool with which they are able to build that future.

If you have a concern LEAN can assist you with or want to get involved, contact us.

Persistent Problems

Over the course of LEAN’s work we have addressed countless challenges facing communities across Louisiana. While each of these specific situations is unique, they are often representative of more fundamental issues LEAN witnesses repeatedly. To get to the heart of the issues we face and ultimately identify solutions, we have identified these general concerns and listed(in no particular order) them below. Many of the communities documented in our Community Atlas are illustrative of one or more of these general concerns.

LEAN, as well as the individuals, organizations and communities we serve are committed to finding meaningful resolutions to the concerns outlined below. Together we are working to reduce impacts, alleviate suffering, protect health and ultimately build safe and sustainable communities that can thrive in the 21st century.

Insufficient Response

Residents frequently call in odor events to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ). They experience a lack of timely response or satisfactory follow-up from the agency. In some instances, this could be a matter of poor communication between LDEQ and residents. But could also reflect a lack of capacity on the part of LDEQ to respond and address citizen complaints. This is frequently expressed by communities such as St. James, where residents live in close proximity to a multitude of emission sources.

Lacks Enforcement

Residents who feel impacted by a facilities’ operations often view enforcement actions from state authorities(LDEQ) as being too slow or not resolving their concerns. For example, Adsorbent Solutions in St Gabriel operated for several years, potentially impacting residents and the environment, while negotiating multiple compliance orders. This facility ultimately stopped operations due to Parish zoning conflicts and potential litigation, not enforcement actions.

Inadequate Notice and Public Engagement

Residents frequently express to LEAN that they are not provided knowledge of the facilities near them, the materials they handle and the pollutants they are permitted to release, until they experience some sort of adverse impact. The public notice process does not sufficiently inform and engage residents who may face impacts from environmental decisions made in their community. A recent example: residents of Port Allen expressed these complaints as they navigated the permitting process of the proposed Thermaldyne facility.

Lack of Self Determination

Both planning and environmental permitting processes can provide opportunities for public input, but residents often express frustration that their input is not manifested in the final decision. LEAN has witnessed many public hearings in which the overwhelming public testimony is ultimately not reflected by the final decision. Parish level decisions do not always represent the support of the adjacent local populations. Local residents feel that they must have authority in the decision making process if they are asked to bear the potential burdens of a permitted development or industry within their community. Specific instances that illustrate this are the extensive industrialization of the 5th district of St. James Parish and the continued operations of the Ronaldson Field landfill in Alsen despite significant local opposition.

Unprotective regulations

Communities in Louisiana find themselves at inappropriate risk due to unprotective laws and regulations. In Reserve, for example, residents have been exposed to chloroprene, a likely carcinogen, for over 50 years and the permitted limits do not align with the available science. In Grand Bois, residents live with the impacts of a nearby oil field waste facility primarily due to a federal exemption for oil field waste that allows the material, which contains known hazards such as benzene, to be mixed in open pits. Many residents live in close proximity to a multitude of hazardous material prevalent in Louisiana’s extensive manufacturing and transportation industry. Current laws and regulations do not adequately prevent exposure to these hazardous pollutants.

Cumulative Risk

When new pollution sources are permitted in a community that has expressed concern about the pollution they are already impacted by, residents question how and if the cumulative risks of these sources are incorporated into the decision making process. Almost all communities represented in LEAN's Community Atlas face potential impacts from multiple sources.

Lack of Independent, Publicly Available Data

Residents, particularly those that live in communities with a high concentration of permitted facilities, find it difficult to know what pollutants and at what amounts are present in their environment(air, water, soil) at any given time. LDEQ relies primarily on self-reporting to know what amount of pollutants are being emitted by what facilities. LDEQ does maintain several air monitoring stations throughout the state but data is limited to a small number of chemicals/contaminants compared to the large number of chemicals present in permitted emission sources.

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