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ENVIRONMENT: Catholic Activist Wins Goldman Prize

Sharon Lavigne, a Black Catholic from St. James Parish, Louisiana, received the 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize for North America.

The award honors activists from the six inhabited continental regions who are involved in local efforts to protect the natural world. The award recognizes Lavigne’s fight against new petrochemical plants in St. James, beginning with her successful effort to stop the Chinese chemical company Wanhua from building a $1.25 billion plastics manufacturing facility. The retired school teacher mobilized neighbors in 2018 to fight the plant. The company withdrew its application in September 2019, and the movement by Lavigne grew into “Rise, St. James”, a faith-based grassroots group fighting the incursion of petrochemical plants in the parish’s Black majority districts. She is now a leader in the battle to stop a much larger endeavor: Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group’s planned construction of a 14-plant manufacturing complex.  

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