For Immediate Release, November 24, 2020
Julie Teel Simmonds, (619) 990-2999, JteelSimmonds@biologicaldiversity.org
Formosa Plastics Opponents Ask Feds to Expand Environmental Justice Analysis of Suspended Permit, Hold Hearing
Over 20 Groups Demand Army Corps Examine Racial Bias Behind Selecting Black Community for Polluting Plant
NEW ORLEANS— Following the Army Corps of Engineers’ recent suspension of its permit for Formosa Plastics’ proposed Louisiana plant, plaintiff groups in the federal lawsuit that sparked that decision asked today for a public hearing and expanded analysis of the plant’s environmental justice, wetlands and pollution impacts.
The plaintiffs were supported by another letter from more than 20 groups asking whether systemic racism or racial bias played a role in the Corps’ decision to exclude alternative sites in predominantly white Ascension Parish in favor of the selected location in a predominantly Black district in St. James Parish.
“The Army Corps must not simply paper over its error that improperly eliminated alternative sites in Ascension Parish; it instead must confront the underlying conditions that may have led to those decisions,” the groups wrote. “At a time when Americans are recognizing the role of systemic racism and unconscious racial bias in our country, it is problematic that a predominantly white parish was eliminated based on erroneous information and a flawed analysis in favor of a predominantly Black district in St. James Parish. This project deserves a far deeper and more probing environmental justice analysis than what the Corps has provided.”
The plaintiffs’ letter questioned the Army Corps’ decision not to prepare a full “environmental impact statement” analyzing how one of the world’s biggest plastic-making plants would pollute the region, degrade wetlands and harm a community already sickened by exposure to industrial pollution. It was written by the Center for Biological Diversity on behalf of co-plaintiffs RISE St. James, Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Healthy Gulf.
“The Corps has to look at how this massive, polluting plant harms a poor Black community and why that was ignored,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, the Center senior attorney who wrote the letter. “It deserved a proper study in the first place instead of being rubber-stamped. Now that so many flaws in the approval process have been exposed, the feds should start over. We believe this project would never be built if its full harms to environmental and cultural resources were exposed.”
Among the signs of the Corps’ cursory analysis and over-reliance on information Formosa Plastics provided was its hasty conclusion that there would be “no historic properties affected” despite the discovery of unmarked graves likely to be of enslaved plantation workers on the site. The groups said the Corps failed to follow its obligations under the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act.
In addition to the suspension of the project’s federal permit, the judge in another active lawsuit filed by Earthjustice challenging the state’s issuance of air permits sent those permits back to the state department of environmental quality at a Nov. 18 hearing over a failure to properly analyze the project’s environmental justice impacts.
Among the 21 groups signing on to the support letter are the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, Center for Constitutional Rights and San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeepers.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
RISE St. James is a faith-based organization working to protect the land, air, water and health of the people of St. James Parish from the petrochemical industry.
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade collaborates with communities adjacent to petrochemical plants, using grassroots action to create an informed, healthy society and hasten the transition from fossil fuels.
Healthy Gulf is a regional nonprofit whose purpose is to collaborate with and serve communities who love the Gulf of Mexico by providing the research, communications, and coalition-building tools needed to reverse the long pattern of over exploitation of the Gulf's natural resources.