NEW ORLEANS— New York State Attorney General Letitia James and four other attorneys general sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today demanding a deeper analysis of the climate, wildlife and environmental justice impacts of Formosa Plastics’ massive proposed petrochemical complex in St. James Parish, Louisiana.
“I’m grateful that these attorneys general understand the threat Formosa Plastics poses to us and are demanding action,” said Sharon Lavigne, founder of RISE St. James. “The Army Corps needs to listen and do a proper analysis of a project that would endanger our lives. Because I believe that if there’s an honest assessment of the environmental racism behind this project’s approval then it will never be permitted. We must stop Formosa Plastics.”
In November the Army Corps suspended its permit for the project after being sued by the Center for Biological Diversity, RISE St. James, Healthy Gulf and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Another 20 organizations and thousands of individuals then asked the Army Corps to examine the environmental impacts of the project and the role racial bias and systemic racism played in the siting of this plant in a low-income Black community already overburdened with pollution.
“We’re pleased these state attorneys general are joining our coalition’s call for stronger federal scrutiny of Formosa Plastics’ terrible project. Any serious analysis should cause the Army Corps to reject this major threat to public health and our climate,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a lawyer at the Center. “We can’t let industry pollute another working-class Black community as it creates mountains of plastic the world doesn’t want or need. I’m hoping this letter will help convince Formosa Plastics to abandon this dangerous project.”
The growing chorus of project opponents includes the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, which called the project “environmental racism” in March and urged U.S. officials to reject the project. The Army Corps’ initial permit also ignored the water, air and health impacts of the complex and failed to protect burial sites of enslaved people discovered on the property.
“It's refreshing to see public servants actually act in the interest of the people they serve. Louisiana public officials, including our attorney general, remain craven to the oil and chemical industries,” said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “We are glad that at least some attorneys general actually have a backbone, and we are grateful for their support. We will continue to push the Biden administration to take a stand for environmental justice and permanently revoke this project’s permits.”
Formosa Plastics’ proposed petrochemical complex would include 10 chemical manufacturing plants and numerous support facilities. The complex would emit 13.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gases and 800 tons of toxic air pollution each year, doubling toxic air emissions in St. James Parish, which already has among the worst air quality in the country.
“We’re thankful that these attorneys general are pushing the Army Corps to do the right thing,” said Michael Esealuka, an organizer with Healthy Gulf. “There are over a dozen industrial facilities already located near working class, Black communities in St. James Parish. An environmental justice analysis of the Formosa Plastics project will show what parish residents have long been saying: St James is full.”
By turning fracked gas into the building blocks for a massive amount of single-use packaging and other wasteful plastic products, the project would worsen climate change and the ocean plastic pollution crisis.
Today’s letter was sent by the attorneys general from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. In their letter, they said their states will be affected by the project and its inadequate review undermining national policies on environmental justice, climate change, wetlands loss and protection of migratory birds.
“Without such analysis,” they wrote, “the Plastics Complex will inevitably produce adverse health, environmental, and climate-related effects that will harm our States.”