Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Pushes Back on Wallace Grain Elevator


Photo source: Stop the Wallace Grain Elevator

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) released a decision on September 7th to officially reconsider a coastal-use permit (CUP) application for a grain terminal in Wallace, Louisiana. The decision is signed by Thomas F. Harris, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. 

The decision comes as a success to the applicants for reconsideration collectively titled “St. John residents.” This collective title refers to Jocyntia “Jo” Banner, Stop the Wallace Grain Elevator, Concerned Citizens of St. John, and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade

Jo Banner and her sister, Joy, are co-founders of Stop the Wallace Grain Elevator and own the Fee-Fo-Lay Café in Wallace. They’ve been working with various environmental justice and local community organizations to oppose the planned grain terminal from Greenfield Louisiana, LLC and Greenfield Exports, LLC. They accuse the project of a variety of offenses from public and environmental health concerns caused by the facility’s immediate proximity to the community to the cultural erasure of building on suspected burial sites of formerly enslaved persons.

Previously, they have publicly demanded a public hearing on the planned facility in the face of perceived disenfranchisement on the part of the St. John the Baptist Parish Council. 

Now it looks like they might get one.

The LDNR decision points out there was no public hearing initially because the content of Greenfield’s initial coastal-use permit showed that the site was either over 5 feet elevation or had been historically used for agriculture. According to La. R.S. 49:214.34(A)(1), which outlines conditions that exempt a plan from having to submit a permit, this would exempt the project. As such, the Office of Coastal Management (OCM) saw no need for a public hearing.

The collectively titled “St. John residents” filed a petition for reconsideration with the complaint that the OCM should have held a public hearing and a request for such a meeting. The decision states, “The petition was filed on August 16, 2021, making the decision date August 31, 2021. This decision is being issued on September 7, 2021, the first working day for state offices after August 30.” This is in reference to the closure of state offices for Hurricane Ida.

Additionally, the decision notes that the CUP applicant, Greenfield Louisiana, LLC and Greenfield Exports, LLC, gave additional information in the form of a civil engineering survey to the secretary after this application was submitted. It shows that more than the originally designated area is lower than five feet, the factor that would have made them exempt from a CUP application. 

The decision from the LDNR concludes, “While the applicant believes that this should not affect OCM’s original determination of no direct and significant impact upon coastal waters, the more prudent course is to remand the matter to the OCM for reception of additional evidence, re-determination of the propriety of holding a public hearing, and reconsideration of the permit decision in light of any additional information received.” 

“This is a major win for the residents of Wallace. LDNR and OCM’s responsibility is to protect the safety and rights of the public from entities like Greenfield whose failure to provide accurate information puts our community in danger,” said Jo Banner in a press release from Stop the Wallace Grain Elevator following the LDNR decision, continuing, “I believe this information would have never seen the light of day, without our petition for reconsideration.”

Additionally, the people of Wallace and St. John the Baptist Parish presently face immense difficulty rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Much like their colleagues in St. James Parish at RISE St. James and many other mutual aid organizations, the organizers of Stop the Wallace Grain Elevator are pivoting their platform to aid in community emergency response. They will be holding an aid distribution event Saturday, September 18th at 2:00 at Juan Anthony Joseph Park. Distributed aid includes clothing, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and more. The event is open to all recovering from Hurricane Ida. 

While the LDNR decision is far from a total denial, there may now be a space for a serious public discussion about the project. The press release states that to submit a comment to the Office of Coastal Management, to contact info@thedescendantsproject.com or to call (225) 206-1993. 

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