River Region parish presidents respond to President Biden’s use of term ‘Cancer Alley’

St. Charles Parish President Matthew Jewell, in collaboration with St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne and Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment, wrote and sent a letter President Biden this month imploring him to not use the term “Cancer Alley” when referring to the River Region.

“I felt it was important to stand up for St. Charles Parish,” Jewell said of penning the letter. “Our residents go to work every day to manufacture essential products used throughout the world. For their work and the industrial activity in our parish to be degraded to a factually false pejorative is unacceptable.”

The letter was signed by each parish president and was copied to numerous state legislators as well as Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“On January 26, 2021, when you addressed the nation from the White House, you referred to the industrial corridor that spans from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, Louisiana as “Cancer Alley,” the letter begins. “This harmful term creates a dangerous false narrative with implications that could negatively impact our state and region for years to come. As Parish Presidents from this region, we respectfully ask that you discontinue the use of a three-decade-old false rhetoric that is highly harmful to our state and local economy.”

Jewell said that while Louisiana as a whole has higher cancer rates than other states, data shows that a “Cancer Alley” within the River Parishes doesn’t exist.

“Decades of health data compiled be the Louisiana Tumor Registry, an award-winning data aggregator administered by Louisiana State University’s School of Public Health, demonstrates that overall industrial corridor cancer rates are no different than those in the rest of the state,” the letter states, adding that that data is corroborated by a 2020 County Health Rankings Report issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The letter continues.

“Businesses gravitate to our parishes due to our unique position along the Mississippi River … companies invest billions of dollars to locate in our parishes,” the letter states. “The revenue generated by the industry is crucial to our parishes … collectively, industries in our region generate up to 90 percent od ad valorem taxes and upwards of 50 percent of sales tax revenue in our parishes.”

The letter goes on to state the important factor industry plays in River Region employment, highlighting the higher-than-average salary and benefits associated with the jobs. It also mentions that the United States has some of the most stringent environmental laws in the world.

“Over the last 30 years, air emissions in Louisiana have decreased by 70 percent,” the letter states. “Companies in our region continue to develop innovative solutions to minimize emissions and reduce their carbon footprint through significant investment in research and development to improve and modernize their processes … Your words matter. We ask that you please discontinue using the inaccurate term ‘Cancer Alley,’ and we invite you to visit our region to see firsthand the benefits industry has provided to our communities.”


About Monique Roth 919 Articles
Roth has both her undergraduate and graduate degree in journalism, which she has utilized in the past as an instructor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a reporter at various newspapers and online publications. She grew up in LaPlace, where she currently resides with her husband and three daughters.

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