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Army Corps To Assess Environmental, Health Impacts Of Contentious Formosa Plastic Plant

Formosa Petrochemical calls the planned plastics manufacturing facility "The Sunshine Project." It would be built on over 2,000 acres along the Mississippi River.

A contentious plastic manufacturing plant planned to be built in St. James Parish is facing another hurdle after the Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday called for an environmental impact assessment.

In a statement, the Corps said it plans to compile a report on how the new plant from Taiwanese company Formosa Petrochemical would impact the surrounding environment and the residents of St. James.

Advocates with RISE St. James and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade say such a report would find the plan to be detrimental and are calling the latest development a victory.

“The Army Corps has finally heard our pleas and understands our pain. With God’s help, Formosa Plastics will soon pull out of our community,” said Sharon Lavigne with RISE St. James.

Formosa Petrochemical has been trying to build the $9.4 billion petrochemical complex on more than 2,000 acres of land along the Mississippi River for years. The plan for the plant includes building chemical plants, ship and barge docks, intake lines, a rail connection, power generation plants and a wastewater treatment plant.

But environmental justice advocates have beenfighting the plan for just as long with protests and lawsuits.

The plant has been on hold since last year after its permit was called into question by environmental advocates who filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They alleged it failed to consider the harm to cultural resources and disclose environmental damage and public health risks under the National Environmental Policy Act.

This spring the project was highlighted in a United Nations report that called it “environmental racism” because of the potential health threats to Black residents.

In an email, Janile Parks, a spokesperson for Formosa Plastics Group, said the project has been on hold as the Army Corps reviewed its permit, and the company will comply with any directive to assess potential impacts.

The company’s “unwavering commitment to the parish and to Louisiana has remained constant as the company continues to invest in community needs and build meaningful community partnerships,” said Parks.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and local listeners.

Tegan has reported on the coast for WWNO since 2015. In this role she has covered a wide range of issues and subjects related to coastal land loss, coastal restoration, and the culture and economy of Louisiana’s coastal zone, with a focus on solutions and the human dimensions of climate change. Her reporting has been aired nationally on Planet Money, Reveal, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, BBC, CBC and other outlets. She’s a recipient of the Pulitzer Connected Coastlines grant, CUNY Resilience Fellowship, Metcalf Fellowship, and countless national and regional awards.

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