For Immediate Release, May 6, 2020

Contact:

Scott Eustis, Healthy Gulf, (504) 237-0323, scott@healthygulf.org
Sharon Lavigne, RISE St. James, (225) 206-0900, sharonclavigne@gmail.com
Delia Ridge Creamer, Center for Biological Diversity, (617) 990-7733, dcreamer@biologicaldiversity.org

Louisiana Groups Urge Delay in Power Project for Industrial Polluters, Citing COVID-19 Concerns

Comment Period Opens on New Transmission Lines for Formosa Plastics

ST. JAMES PARISH, La.— The coalition opposing Formosa Plastics’ massive proposed petrochemical complex in St. James Parish, Louisiana, has requested a delay in upgrading electric transmission lines to serve that project and future industrial polluters. The coalition’s letter cites current public health warnings about COVID-19 and damage to wetlands.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened a public comment period this week on permits for Entergy’s plan to replace standard power lines on wooden poles with steel platforms supporting 230-kilowatt industrial transmission lines.

Formosa’s plastic-making complex would emit 800 tons of toxic air pollution each year, doubling toxic air emissions in St. James Parish and more than tripling the levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the region.

“We need to build hospitals, not pollution. Demand for these polluting projects is plummeting as we learn more about the excess deaths they will cause during the COVID-19 emergency,” said Scott Eustis, community science director with Healthy Gulf. “We need to re-evaluate the economic purpose of this wetland industrialization effort. In the past, when the state has listened to the courts and local residents, we've seen economic development come that doesn't kill and displace Louisiana residents. That's the economic development we want to see.”

Louisiana residents have been ordered to stay home until at least May 15 because of a severe COVID-19 outbreak that has killed more than 2,000 Louisiana residents, more than 57% of them African-Americans. Formosa chose St. James Parish for its biggest U.S. plastic-making plant even though the predominantly African-American community has already been sickened by exposure to some of the worst industrial pollution in the country.

“Industrial pollution sickened my community, and now COVID-19 is killing us,” said Sharon Lavigne, president of RISE St. James. “The last thing St. James Parish needs now is for Formosa to make our bad air twice as unhealthy. We’re asking God to help and we desperately hope officials hear our prayer too.”

Gulf groups and national environmental organizations filed two lawsuits challenging the Formosa project earlier this year, one over its federal permits and one over its state air permit. Opponents also uncovered records of unmarked graves of enslaved people on the site and have urged Formosa to protect them and for parish officials to reconsider their approval of the project.

“This is no time to be filling in Louisiana’s wetlands just to increase its industrial pollution,” said Delia Ridge Creamer, an organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The community was hit hard by COVID-19, and it needs help, not more petrochemical polluters. Let’s pause this push to further industrialize this suffering community until the crisis passes.”

Formosa Plastics’ massive proposed petrochemical complex would contain 14 plants spanning 2,500 acres along the Mississippi River, just one mile from an elementary school. By turning fracked gas into huge amounts of single-use packaging and other throwaway plastic products, the project would also worsen climate change and the ocean plastic pollution crisis.

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.