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Media Contact:

Rebekah Staub, rstaub@earthworks.org

ST. JAMES, Louisiana — Today, a Louisiana appellate court affirmed the Department of Environmental Quality decision to issue air permits that Formosa Plastics needs to build its proposed petrochemical complex in St. James Parish. The decision, issued over a dissent, comes after Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District Court reversed the decision last year, vacating all permits and forcing LDEQ to reassess.

The permits will allow Formosa Plastics to build the largest petrochemical complex of its kind in the country, authorizing more than 800 tons per year of toxic air pollution — including known carcinogens such as ethylene oxide. The permits add an extraordinary burden to the predominantly Black communities in the area who already suffer from exposure to some of the worst toxic air from industrial sources in the nation — exacerbating environmental racism in this region known as “Cancer Alley.”

“Once again the state of Louisiana is putting polluters before people,” said Sharon Lavigne, founder of RISE St. James. “We have a right to clean and healthy air, and we will keep fighting to make sure our communities are not sacrifice zones for industry.”

“Overturning this decision means Louisiana could continue to poison people of color and low-income communities in St. James without consequence,” said Logan Wolf, Louisiana Gulf Coast Campaigner of Earthworks. “This community already endures toxic pollution from plants that make unnecessary plastic and petrochemical products. We will continue to fight alongside RISE St. James for their right to clean air, clean water, and healthy soil because we know one thing for certain: despite this ruling, the Formosa petrochemical complex will never get built in St. James.”

Formosa Plastics cannot begin construction without a federal wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which requires an environmental impact statement and could be a years-long process.

The massive proposed petrochemical complex would include 10 chemical plants for manufacturing plastics, along with several support facilities spanning 2,400 acres. The site, located adjacent to the community of Welcome, is located just one mile from an elementary school in St. James Parish. Emissions allowed by the permits would double to triple the levels of cancer-causing pollutants currently harming residents from existing industrial plants. The company’s own modeling shows that if the chemical complex begins operations, the air in parts of St. James Parish would violate the Environmental Protection Act’s national, health-based limits for soot (PM2.5) and ozone-forming nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Inhaling the predicted, excessive concentrations of either pollutant, even for short periods, could cause breathing disorders, like asthma attacks, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).The project would also emit upwards of 13.6 million tons per year of greenhouse gasses, the equivalent of the annual emissions of 3 million gasoline-burning cars or 3.5 coal-fired power plants.

Earthjustice represented RISE St. James, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Healthy Gulf, No Waste Louisiana, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthworks, and the Sierra Club in an appeal challenging LDEQ’s decision to approve air permits. Beverly Alexander, a St. James resident represented by the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, intervened in the lawsuit to oppose the permits.