Fri, Jan 17, 2020 - Page 6 News List

US environmental groups file lawsuit over permits given to Formosa Plastics


Conservation and community groups on Wednesday sued the administration of US President Donald Trump, challenging environmental permits for a Taiwanese company’s planned US$9.4 billion plastics complex in Louisiana.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington accuses the US Army Corps of Engineers of failing to disclose environmental damage and public health risks, and of failing to adequately consider environmental damage from the Formosa Plastics plant.

“The corps is unable to comment on pending litigation,” said Ricky Boyett, a spokesman at the agency’s New Orleans office.

The US Department of Justice is reviewing the lawsuit, spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said.

“The army corps is fast-tracking the permits for Formosa Plastics, a company found guilty in 2019 of dumping billions of plastic pellets into Texas’ waterways and the Gulf [of Mexico]. This is absolutely unacceptable,” Cyn Sarthou, executive director of New Orleans-based environmental group Healthy Gulf, one of the plaintiffs, said in a news release.

The state should at least “require a thorough analysis of this company’s potential impact on our water, our air, our drainage and our communities,” Sarthou added.

The lawsuit said that members of Healthy Gulf and other groups worry that destroying wetlands would hurt wildlife and leave neighborhoods more vulnerable to flooding; that toxic emissions would hurt their health and the environment; and that increased truck and barge traffic would increase noise, pollution and danger.

A Texas judge called the plant a “serial offender,” the lawsuit said. “Federal documents show that another Formosa Plastics Group facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been in violation of the Clean Air Act every quarter since 2009.”

In addition to Healthy Gulf, plaintiffs are the Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson, Arizona-based environmental group; the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a New Orleans-based environmental group; and Rise St James, a community group based in St James Parish, where the 14-plant complex would be built.

Rather than preparing a full environmental impact statement, the corps put together “a deeply flawed and inadequate” assessment that failed to meet requirements to take a “hard look” at the plant’s direct, indirect and cumulative impacts, the lawsuit said.

Plant construction would destroy and degrade wetlands where rare animals live and which protect water quality, avert erosion and buffer local communities from the worst effects of flooding, it said.

Nearly 25 hectares of wetlands would be affected, Center for Biological Diversity attorney Emily Jeffers said in an e-mail.

The plant “is expected to emit and discharge a variety of pollutants, including carcinogens and endocrine disrupters, into the air and water; discharge plastic into the Mississippi River and other waterbodies,” the lawsuit said.

The permits would allow for 725 tonnes of hazardous air pollutants per year, but Formosa Plastics has asked to double that.

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