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'It's a slam upon our state': Sen. Bill Cassidy rebukes Joe Biden over 'Cancer Alley' remarks

Story via The Advocate

Sen. Cassy  President Joe Biden’s recent utterance of “Cancer Alley” has raised the hackles of Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy.

The Baton Rouge Republican said the president’s use of the term, rooted in longstanding concerns about toxic air pollution in the industrial corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, was an insult against Louisiana.

“I'm not going to accept that sort of slam upon our state,” Cassidy said in a call with reporters Tuesday. “It sounds like great rhetoric. But again, I don't accept that slam."

Biden mentioned Cancer Alley in a speech about several executive orders he signed late last month to combat climate change and pollution.

He said “environmental justice” will take center stage as his administration works to improve the health and well-being of communities of color, especially “the hard-hit areas like Cancer Alley in Louisiana or the Route 9 corridor in the state of Delaware,” Biden said.

While the executive orders didn’t specify how the Biden administration plans to address Louisiana's petrochemical belt, local environmental activists said the president is clearly concerned about the disproportionate impact of pollution on the state’s mostly Black and low-income communities — a matter they say is rarely discussed by Louisiana politicians.

Cassidy, a physician specializing in digestive ailments, acknowledged Louisiana does have higher rates of cancer than other states, but rejected industrial pollution as a major cause. Instead, Cassidy put the blame on lifestyle choices, like smoking and overeating, and other factors.

“We have a higher incidence of cigarette smoking, of obesity, of certain viral infections, and other things which increase the incidence of cancer in our state,” Cassidy said. “So whenever you speak of Cancer Alley ... you have to do what is called a regression analysis to separate out those factors … and several others that could be an alternative, and a more typical explanation for why some folks may have cancer. When you do that, the amount of cancer which is left unexplained is pretty marginal.”

Gail LeBoeuf, an environmental and civil rights activist in St. James Parish, said Cassidy is “blaming the victims.”

“We hear it a lot down here — that we can’t be trusted to know what’s hurting us,” she said. “It’s always ‘blame the folks’ - the poor, Black folks - for their own demise.”


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