Louisiana Court Vacates Formosa Plastics Permits

Photo Source: “Cancer alley” by GinesAlberto | License

On Wednesday, Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District Court vacated the air permits issued to Formosa Plastics for its proposed petrochemical complex in St. James Parish. The move is a reversal of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to issue the permits, and a win for local activists working against environmental racism throughout the region.

“Stopping Formosa Plastics has been a fight for our lives, and today David has toppled Goliath,” said Sharon Lavigne, founder and president of RISE St. James. “The judge’s decision sends a message to polluters like Formosa that communities of color have a right to clean air, and we must not be sacrifice zones.”

The proposed petrochemical complex would span 2,400 acres just a mile away from a St. James Parish Elementary school. The complex would include 10 chemical manufacturing plants and several support facilities, and according to one ProPublica report would have as much as tripled the levels of cancer-causing pollutants in the area. The LDEQ approved the air permits in spite of 15,500 public comments opposing the plant in the area.

“This decision is the nail in the coffin for Formosa Plastics. They won’t build in St. James Parish, and we will make sure that they won’t build this monster anywhere,” said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “Louisiana state officials and the local parish government rolled out the red carpet for this mega-polluter from Taiwan, doing everything in their power to make sure this project would go through. Thank God for the people of St. James who stood up and provided real leadership, for the judge who made this decision, and for the incredible team of lawyers.”

This is the second victory in several days for groups working for environmental justice in the region. Last week, the LDEQ withdrew its review of South Louisiana Methanol’s planned methanol complex expansion in St. James Parish. The complex would have been the largest methanol production facility in North America.

“This decision marks an end to business as usual in St. James Parish, where the state of Louisiana has been allowed until now to hand out permits to highly toxic facilities without considering the people who are forced to live in their shadows,” said Corinne Van Dalen, senior attorney at Earthjustice. “This decision forces LDEQ to abide by the Clean Air Act and its public trustee mandate and fully assess the impacts of the toxic pollution that Formosa Plastics would have greatly exacerbated in an overburdened Black community.”

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