In A Flash

Group of attorneys general demands review of Formosa facility in ‘Cancer Alley’

By: - May 24, 2021 5:53 pm
Aerial photo of industrial zones along river in St. James Parish

Industrial plants line the Mississippi River in St. James Parish where Formosa Plastics plans to build one of the world’s largest petrochemical facilities, adding to an already heavily-polluted region dubbed “Cancer Alley.” (Photo courtesy of Louisiana Bucket Brigade).

A group of attorneys general sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday demanding a deeper analysis of the climate, wildlife and environmental justice impacts of Formosa Plastics’ proposed petrochemical complex in St. James Parish.

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 is in the middle of “Cancer Alley” and already has among the worst air quality in the country, according to an announcement from the Center for Biological Diversity.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James and attorneys general from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the District of Columbia signed the letter, asking 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. 

In their letter, the attorneys general 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, the press release said.

“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.”

In November, the Army Corps suspended its permit for the Formosa 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 Corps to reexamine the 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.

According to the lawsuit, 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.

“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.”

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi.