A civilian Pentagon official on Wednesday ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full environmental assessment of a US$9.4 billion Formosa Plastics Corp (台塑) complex planned in Louisiana, drawing praise from environmentalists.
US Army Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jaime Pinkham ordered the review after a virtual meeting with opponents of a corps wetlands permit that allowed Formosa Plastics Group (台塑集團) member FG LA LLC to build 10 chemical plants and four other major facilities on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Critics praised the decision.
“The Army Corps has finally heard our pleas and understands our pain. With God’s help, Formosa Plastics will soon pull out of our community,” said a statement by Sharon Lavigne, who founded the local group Rise St James to fight the planned complex announced in 2018.
Formosa, based in Taiwan, wants to produce polyethylene, polypropylene, polymer and ethylene glycol on 970 hectares in St James Parish. Dubbed “The Sunshine Project” because it is near the Sunshine Bridge, the project is expected to provide 1,200 permanent jobs and up to 8,000 construction jobs, the state has said.
Formosa yesterday said the company would re-evaluate the investment and expects a result by the end of the year.
The environmental assessment would certainly delay the progress of the factory construction, Formosa said.
The corps issued a permit in September 2019 to let FG LA dredge and fill wetlands, and create detention ponds in wetlands, a lawsuit by opponents said.
It said the site includes more than 364 hectares of wetlands, of which nearly 25 hectares of wetlands and nearly 20 hectares of other waters would be permanently affected.
It could take years to put together a full environmental impact statement, Lavigne said in an interview.
She said she silently thanked God when Pinkham said he was planning the order.
“I had to touch myself to see if I’m real,” said Lavigne, who earlier this year was awarded a Goldman Environmental Prize honoring grassroots environmental activism.
Within an hour, Pinkham’s memo to the corps’ commanding general was posted on his office’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, she said.
Pinkham, who supervises and sets policy for the corps’ civil works, wrote that he is committed to having the army “be a leader in the federal government’s efforts to ensure thorough environmental analysis and meaningful community outreach.”
The corps needs “to thoroughly review areas of concern, particularly those with environmental justice implications,” Pinkham wrote.
Major construction has been on hold since the corps agreed in November last year to reconsider its permit for the plants in Welcome, where the US Bureau of Census estimates nearly 97 percent of the 880 residents are black.
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