The Louisiana Bucket Brigade uses grassroots action to create an informed, healthy society that holds the petrochemical industry and government accountable for the true costs of pollution.
Louisiana is a healthy, prosperous, pollution free and just state where people and the environment are valued over profit.
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) has supported fenceline communities (those that live next to a dump, refinery or chemical plant) in the state for 15 years years. Founding Board members Margie Richard of Norco, Dorothy Jenkins and Shonda Lee of New Sarpy, and Founding Director Anne Rolfes incorporated the organization in 2000 with guidance from groups like Xavier University's Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Communities for a Better Environment and the Sierra Club.
From the first days of our inception, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade was inspired by people in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria who stand up to the devastation of oil production and gas flaring that continues to this day. Before moving home to Louisiana, Anne Rolfes worked in Benin, West Africa, to document the stories of Nigerians who were attacked and made into refugees because of their work for justice from the oil industry. Read the report, Shell Shocked Refugees, for more on this issue.
Fifteen years later, we continue to find inspiration at home and abroad. The same companies are abusing our environment and our people in all over the world. Please visit our take action tab for a list of books that will help you to appreciate the history of this struggle in Louisiana and in Nigeria.
Since our inception we have worked with community groups throughout the state, including Concerned Citizens of Norco, Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy, Community Empowerment for Change in Baton Rouge, Residents for Air Neutralization in Shreveport, St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality, Concerned Citizens Around Murphy and groups in Lake Charles, Algiers and Reserve, among others.
We provide technical support to these groups – including training in media and air monitoring. We also provide firm belief that we can win and a track record of doing so.
“Who says you can’t beat Shell,” said Margie Richard of Norco in the early 2000s as she and her community stood up to Shell. That message is carried forward today in St. Rose, Louisiana. “Clean air is not a privilege,” says Keith Adams, President of St. Rose Community One Voice. “Clean air is a right.”
As we continue to assist community groups, we have joined forces with others in two important coalitions: the GreenARMY and Louisiana One Voice.
Our accomplishments include:
November 2017: We are working with General Honore’s GreenARMY on our legislative agenda for 2018, including air monitoring legislation and a plan to gather data about women’s health in communities most impacted by pollution.
October 2017: Kept the controversy of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline alive in the media. Our media work resulted in four stories about the impacts of the pipeline.
Also in October, we joined with 13 environmental, health, and science groups at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in challenging the EPA’s decision to delay implementation of an important chemical safety rule. Our brief, filed jointly with the United Steelworkers Union, argues that the delay violates federal law.
September 2017: Released the Bayou Bridge film series, three short films featuring communities at risk from the pipeline. This film series features the brave people standing up to the construction, including crawfisherman Shane Doucet in the Atchafalaya Basin, Jessi Parfait of the United Houma Nation, Pastor Joseph from the African-American town of Freetown in St. James Parish, and General Russel Honore.
August 2017: Deployed a film crew to Houston to capture on the ground documentation of chemical contamination from the Valero Refinery, post-Hurricane Harvey.
June 2017: Protected air quality in St. Rose. The Shell asphalt refinery and tank farm had proposed to release an additional 119 tons of air pollution per year. Our collaboration with St. Rose Community One Voice forced the LDEQ to hold a public hearing, where residents detailed the impacts of the increased pollution. The company cancelled its plans to expand.
May 2017: Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) agreed to install air monitors in the town of St. Rose.
May 2017: Successfully pressured recalcitrant Congressman Cedric Richmond to request, in writing, that the Army Corps of Engineers conduct an Environmental Impact Statement for the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.
March 2017: Fenceline neighbors in Louisiana won a Clean Air Act citizen suit. With the representation of our able lawyers at Washington, DC-based EarthJustice, the ruling requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the health threats – cancer risks, chronic respiratory, neurological harm – of short term exposure, as well as install better emission control technology. This has an impact throughout Louisiana, especially for our partners in St. Rose adjacent to Shell.
This victory was reached because of the active participation of our fenceline community partners, who consistently relayed to the court the ongoing harms of the pollution next door.
January and March 2017: In concert with other groups in Louisiana, we rallied 600 people at two public hearings to urge rejection of the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline, a 162-mile behemoth that would run across south Louisiana, through the Atchafalaya Baton as well as through Bayou LaFourche, the drinking water source for over 300,000 people, including the Houma Nation.
November, 2016: Launch of our Sunshine on Spills project to highlight the terrible accident problem in the oil industry. Read one of the first reports here.
October, 2016: Six people were arrested at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. This group simply tried to walk inside and deliver a message: President Obama, end new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
A significant accomplishment of the year was training a cadre of people to participate in and lead civil disobedience actions in this region. The actions in March, August and October were a result of that strategy.
August, 2016: Four people arrested at the New Orleans office of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in a civil disobedience action> We also piled flood debris from the August Baton Rouge floods at the entrance to their office. The message to the agency was to end new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, because DRILLING = FLOODS.
March 23, 2016: On March 23rd hundreds of us were in the Superdome to say, for the first time ever, that we want drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to end. On that day, the federal government was auctioning 43 million acres of our Gulf of Mexico to the oil industry. We took over the auction room inside the Superdome. “The Gulf is not for sale,” was our message. The headlines recognized the moment: “Louisiana is Finally Starting to Rise Up Against Big Oil,” and “Cheers for the Protesters Who Took over an Offshore Drilling Auction.”
The March action was the kickoff of a campaign to end drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade has been an important leader in the movement in this region to get off of oil and fossil fuels. Our staff collaborated with other groups from around the region to maximize turnout and organize the events at the Superdome.
March 4, 2016: Republican State Representative Connick of Marrero filed our air monitoring bill in the state legislature. It would require air monitoring on the fenceline of polluters in Louisiana. This work is happening as part of General Russel Honore’s GreenARMY.
November, 2015: Local residents in Marrero and in uptown New Orleans reached out to us to for help in opposing an expansion of the Vertex refinery. We have helped organize press conferences and community meetings in pursuit of preventing the refinery from expanding.
October, 2015: Environmental Protection Agency inspectors, including the National Enforcement Investigations Center, descended on Shell and IMTT in St. Rose. We have collaborated with St. Rose Community One Voice for the last year and a half to push for this inspection.
September, 2015: A five year partnership with six groups from around the country and Earthjustice’s D.C. office resulted in the EPA Refinery Rule. It will require, for the first time ever, air monitoring for the carcinogen benzene in fenceline communities as well as a reduction in refinery pollution. This tremendous policy accomplishment was born from the grassroots. We had community representatives in these meetings for the last six years giving insight into what aspects of the proposed rule would and would not work.
April, 2015: One week before the BP anniversary, Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) staff went to BP headquarters with others from the Gulf Coast to talk with the U.S. chairman. He refused to come down, and we only left when we were arrested. We took the BP harms – destroyed fisheries, ruined beaches, broken families – to the heart of their business. We orchestrated this action with Rainforest Action Network and Bridge the Gulf, thereby laying the groundwork for the no new drilling demand and the March 23rd Superdome action.
2015: LABB staff members arrested at BP Headquarters on the fifth anniversary of the BP Disaster. The message: the clean-up is incomplete, Gulf communities remain devastated. iWitness Map continues to be the largest collection of crowd sourced pollution reports in the world.
2014: After a leak from a tank farm made residents so sick they went to the hospital, we helped organize the community and forced Shell / IMTT to install pollution control equipment. Our ongoing work helped to organize a new group – St. Rose Community One Voice. LABB staff and St. Rose residents engaged with U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on climate change and support of EPA’s Clean Power rule. LABB staff go to New York and participate in the largest climate march in history. Founding Director Anne Rolfes is among those arrested at Wall Street.
2013: Proudly joined General Russell Honore’s GreenARMY. Transitioned the BP Oil Disaster Map to the iWitness Pollution Map, used by refinery and chemical plant neighbors to report pollution as it happens. According to our global partner Ushahidi, our use of this technology – called crowdsourcing – is the largest collected of community gathered data on environmental problems in the United States.
2012: Named to the US Coast Guard’s Community Outreach Subcommittee for oil spills. Petitioned the EPA and the Louisiana governor to increase Louisiana’s Title V Clean Air Act emissions fees. Our Art to Action Program produced two events – for safe jobs and zero accidents - at our state capitol in collaboration with the United Steelworkers.
2011: LABB’s collaboration with Residents for Air Neutralization resulted in EPA enforcement action targeting Calumet Refinery. The annual release of oil industry accidents details that, since 2005, Louisiana refineries have averaged nine accidents a week.
2010: LABB launched the Oil Spill Crisis Map in response to the BP Oil Disaster, the first-ever use of crowd sourcing and crisis mapping for humanitarian purposes in the United States. LABB also collected 954 health and economic impact surveys in Louisiana towns affected by the spill. This remains the largest face-to-face survey of post-disaster health impacts.
2009: LABB launched the Environmental Justice Corps, created to develop a new generation of leaders in the environmental health and justice movement. The Refinery Accident Database – a comprehensive record of refinery accidents in the state – was also launched. The first New Orleans Earth Day Festival was held.
2008: LABB launched the Refinery Efficiency Initiative to reduce refinery accidents at all 17 refineries in the state. The first Fenceline Neighbors Conference was convened this year as well.
2007: Founding Director Anne Rolfes awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader Award and the Tides Foundation’s Jane Bagley Lehman Award for Excellence in Public Advocacy.
2006: LABB led participatory soil sampling of residences impacted by the Murphy Oil spill after Hurricane Katrina. This remains the only post storm citizen led sampling.
2005: In response to legislation developed by the St. Bernard Citizens for Environnmental Quality and LABB, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality installed an air monitor across the street from ExxonMobil’s Chalmette Refining.
2004: Our Chalmette Health Assessment Project, conducted in collaboration with the St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality, Tulane graduate student Casey DeMoss (now director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy) and Dr. Peter Orris identified elevated levels of respiratory illness in the neighborhood nearest ExxonMobil’s Chalmette Refining.
2003: In response to our petition detailing the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s lax enforcement in St. Charles Parish, the EPA Inspector General began an investigation of Louisiana’s environmental programs. Our health symptom survey in New Sarpy confirmed that people had elevated rates of health problems from chemicals emitted by the refinery.
2002: Our collaboration with the Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy documenting neighborhood pollution and publicizing the refinery's accident rate (more than two accidents per week) resulted in reduced accidents and an EPA Notice of Violation for Orion Refinery.
2001: Our collaboration with the Concerned Citizens of Norco and other groups (including EarthJustice and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice) resulted in Norco residents’ achievement of their long term goal: a Shell buy out of their contaminated property. The state also implemented an air monitoring program in Norco.