Despite new EPA rule to reduce toxic pollution, Catholic activist says fight to protect communities far from over

Sharon Lavigne has been called a modern-day Moses. But the perhaps unlikely environmental prophet — a 71-year-old retired special education teacher — doesn’t want to lead her neighbors out of St. James Parish, Louisiana. She said she just wants area industries — which lie in the 85-mile corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans ruefully nicknamed “Cancer Alley” — to stop poisoning them. So in 2018, Lavigne — a lifelong resident of St. James Parish and a member of St. James Church, a predominantly Black Catholic parish in the Diocese of Baton Rouge with a 250-year history — founded a faith-based environmental advocacy group, Rise St. James.