[Image: Members of the H.E.L.P. Association of St. James Parish, courtesy of Louisiana Bucket Brigade.]
Residents of St. James Parish face yet another monster chemical facility set to emit over 11 MILLION TONS of pollution a year.
Taiwan-based Formosa Petrochemical Corporation plans to start construction next year on the $9.4 billion chemical manufacturing complex located in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Formosa already purchased a 2,400-acre site along the west bank of the Mississippi River, downriver from the Sunshine Bridge, next to the Mosaic and AmSty chemical plants. Governor John Bel Edwards gleefully announced the project last spring, touting the economic benefit for the state and seeking to downplay the dangerous pollution the facility will emit by dubbing the project "the Sunshine Project," a nod to its proximity to the Sunshine Bridge.
Formosa plans to operate the complex, its fourth and largest facility in the state, under subsidiary FG LA LLC, which already is registered in Louisiana.
"The state offered Formosa an incentive package that includes a $12 million performance-based grant for infrastructure costs, which will be doled out in four $3 million installments beginning in 2021, the projected first year for hiring permanent jobs. The company also is expected to take advantage of the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, the state’s largest tax break, as well as Louisiana’s Quality Jobs program." ("'This is a big one:' Formosa picks St. James Parish for $9.4 billion chemical complex," The Advocate, April 23, 2018.)
"The complex will be built in two phases and use abundant, cheap natural gas to produce ethylene, propylene, ethylene glycol and associated polymers, which are used to make products like car casings, plastic bottles, grocery bags, drainage pipes and antifreeze, among other things.... The plant will mean a windfall for St. James Parish tax coffers. St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said after Formosa’s 10-year tax exemptions expire, the parish will collect about $28 million more in property taxes. St. James currently receives about $60 million in annual tax revenue. But the announcement also renewed concerns from the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, which has long raised questions about air emissions in St. James Parish. Wilma Subra, a chemist and adviser to the group, warned of the "cumulative impact" of the new Formosa facility, along with existing facilities like the Mosaic Faustina ammonia plant and Americas Styrenics' plant, both of which are on the west bank of the river near Formosa's site.
"'It's going to have a huge cumulative impact on the communities which are sprinkles between these facilities,' Subra said. 'It's going to have a very negative impact on air pollution in that area based on what we know about it.'" (Id.)
Environmental groups across the state decried the plan on several fronts, including the destruction of our priceless wetlands, the lack of an evacuation route in case of a chemical leak or explosion, and a drastic downgrade in quality of life for an historic community of African American people already overburdened by air pollution.
According to Gulf Restoration Network, "when local politicians in St. James adopted a land use plan allowing industrial development in 2014, most of the wealthier residents sold their property and moved. The more poor residents who remained didn’t have the same opportunity because oil storage tanks and railroad terminals placed near their homes brought down property values, turning away any potential buyers." (Read the public comment on Formosa Chemical's Coastal Use Permit Application submitted by Gulf Restoration Network, HELP Association of St. James Parish, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and 350 Louisiana here.)
The Sierra Club joins with environmental groups across the state calling on our regulators to recognize the danger this facility poses to the health of nearby residents as well as to our delicate wetlands, and to deny Formosa Plastics permission to continue business as usual in Louisiana.
** Attend the public meeting of the St. James Parish Council to determine whether to approve Formosa Plastic's zoning application for this facility on:
Thursday, September 19, 2018, 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM, at the Vacherie Courthouse Annex (more information here.)