The state of Louisiana has issued a series of key air quality permits for a proposed petrochemical complex that would about double toxic emissions in the local area and, according to environmentalists, become one of the largest plastics pollution-causing facilities in the world.
The US$9.4 billion facility, owned by Formosa Plastics Corp (台塑), would consist of 14 separate plastics plants across 930 hectares of land in St James Parish, a largely African-American community in the already heavily polluted area in southern Louisiana.
Environmentalists have said that the plant could release 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, the equivalent of three coal-fired power plants, and would emit thousands of tonnes of other dangerous pollutants.
The facility has been forcefully opposed by environmental groups and certain local campaigners.
The 16 permits issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality allow Formosa to begin construction, department spokesman Greg Langley said.
A spokeswoman for Formosa, which is operating the project under a subsidiary, FG LA, said that the company would start “site preparation activities” in the first quarter of this year.
This first phase, including soil testing, could take up to a year to complete, she added.
The announcement was met with derision by local environmentalists.
“We are fighting to protect our homes and our families from this monster, Formosa. We are not going to stop because of this bad decision by the state to grant air permits,” Rise St James president Sharon Lavigne said in a statement.
Environmental advocates on Tuesday said that they would continue to oppose the project, but withheld details of what their next steps would be until the permits were made publicly available.
“The state of Louisiana is wholly unprepared to provide proper oversight of this monster,” Louisiana Bucket Brigade founding executive director Anne Rolfes said. “This approval signals that our state government is willing to sacrifice our health, our clean air and water to cheap plastics. The good news is that we, the people, do not accept this decision. The fight has just begun.”
The project has been endorsed by a number of senior Louisiana officials, including by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, citing job creation and tax revenues. It is expected to create 1,200 new permanent jobs, along with 8,000 temporary construction jobs.
“FG is pleased to have completed the rigorous environmental permitting process,” FG LA community and government relations director Janile Parks said. “Our team has worked diligently to design a facility that meets state and federal standards that protect the health and safety of our employees, community and the environment.”
The project would generate US$362 million of taxes for state and local governments during construction, with about US$207 million being “collected in the St James area,” Parks said.
However, local campaigners have said that the financial rewards should be seen as secondary to the project’s environmental impact.
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