As the use of oil and gas for energy and transport faces an inevitable and necessary decline, fossil fuel companies are pushing the world to use more of their other products as a way to perpetuate their harmful business model: namely, plastic and petrochemicals. This has prompted proposals for a massive expansion of plastic production facilities that could lock in plastic infrastructure and magnify the plastic crisis for decades to come. CIEL is working with partners across the US and around the world to stop that buildout and support the communities most affected by it.
In 2020, CIEL was a convening partner on the Presidential Plastics Action Plan, joining more than 550 organizations in calling on the US government to take immediate action to address the health, climate, and environmental justice impacts of the plastic crisis. President Biden has since spoken openly of his commitment to environmental justice, including creating the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and appointing experienced leaders in the Center for Environmental Quality. But the industry-sponsored attacks on progressive plastic and chemicals policies continue, as plastic producers have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to claim their products are essential and must be manufactured without interference.
Even as we resist industry influence on policy and advocate for stronger government action on plastic, we must move urgently to stop the buildout of new facilities. Critical to this is equipping partners with the information, tools, and support needed to fight back. CIEL is working across multiple movements to do just that.
Many of these fights are both local and global, like the opposition to Formosa Plastics Group, which spans from Taiwan and central Vietnam to the US Gulf Coast. CIEL supports frontline partners in St. James, Louisiana, where Formosa Plastics is permitted to build what would be one of the world’s largest petrochemical plants. CIEL’s research, small grants, and local staff have provided much-needed capacity to local leaders and other partners. For example, after our partners and frontline allies brought a breakthrough lawsuit that prompted the suspension of the facility’s permit, CIEL provided outreach, education, and organizing support for local groups to raise the profile of the fight. Earlier this year, CIEL supported efforts by a Louisiana law school clinic to obtain a statement from UN human rights experts denouncing environmental racism in Cancer Alley and calling for an end to petrochemical expansion. CIEL has also joined local movements to secure city council resolutions opposing the construction of the Formosa Plastics plant.
With generous support from foundation partners, CIEL created a Petrochem Frontline Fund that helps us move small grants quickly to community partners on the frontline and the fencelines of the fight against plastic infrastructure. Through the fund, we’ve provided rapid response funding for partners in Appalachia and the Gulf Coast to support organizers, rallies, public education and messaging, and even disaster response.
Through our work with partners in Louisiana, Texas, and Appalachia, we are also shedding light on accelerating plans by industry and governments to target communities already saddled with oil, gas, and petrochemical facilities for the buildout of carbon capture infrastructure — and all the new risks that entails. As these connections between climate, plastic, and human rights become ever more apparent, CIEL continues to connect frontline communities across geographies to push for justice.