Louisiana’s Cancer Alley: New Lawsuit Filed Seeking Records in Proposed Plastics Plant

There’s an area of Louisiana known as “Cancer Alley.” It’s located right next to a Taiwanese-owned plastics plant in St. James Parish in Louisiana, The Formosa Plastics Plant. They produce tons of plastics every year, and do so at the expense of the environment.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Formosa plant is dumping 26 million tons of pollutants every year into the Mississippi River. Despite complaints from local groups and environmental organizations, Formosa refuses to address the issue of reducing their pollution of St. James Parish.

Recently, Formosa applied for a permit under the Clean Water Act. Their application has been pending since last year. When the Center for Biological Diversity learned of this pending permit, they requested records related to the permit.

The Center made the request twice in 2018. Both times the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied their request. The Center is now taking action to get their hands on these records under the Freedom of Information Act.

Since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refuses to honor their request, the Center filed suit in the United States District Court of D.C. on February 12, 2019. They’re asking the court to order the Trump Administration to release the records submitted with Formosa’s permit application.

Formosa Has a History of Pollution in the St. James Parish Area

There has been multiple citations issued to Formosa for pollution issues in Louisiana, Texas, Vietnam and Taiwan. The areas near their plastics plants have seen an increase in cancer patients. The Center for Biological Diversity believes Formosa’s pollution activities are the cause of this cancer.

The reason Formosa has applied for the Clean Water Act permit is because they want to build a new plant in St. James Parish, Louisiana. They want permission to increase their plastics production by as much as 40%.

This new plant is set to be part of a $9.4 billion petrochemical complex to be erected along the Mississippi River in St. James Parish. The plant would dump more trash and pollutants into the oceans. It would also cause more cancer among the residents in “Cancer Alley.”

Formosa wants to use the byproducts of natural gas extractions in order to fashion materials to make single-use plastics. This will create the following problems for the environment:

  • Flooding will increase
  • The risk of chemical spills due to natural disasters will increase
  • Climate change and greenhouse gases will increase
  • The chance of devastating hurricanes will increase

One of the big problems with this new plant is that Formosa will destroy over 100 acres of wetlands in order to build it. This will increase the risk for flooding and make it harder to secure the area from flooding during hurricanes.

How Much Damage Can Formosa Actually Cause?

Talking about pollution and dumping trash into our waters is not a mere possibility for Formosa. It is a reality. In 2017, Formosa released over 160,000 pounds of chemicals into the air over Calhoun County.

To put this into perspective, that is like seeing 13 elephants floating in the air like a Thanksgiving Day parade.

There was no warning given to the residents of Calhoun County. Nor was it ever explained. Perhaps this is because Formosa is one of the biggest employers in Calhoun County.

There is no reason to think that things will be any different in St. James Parish. In fact, it will be even worse. They expect the proposed plant in St. James Parish to be almost twice as big as the one in Calhoun County.

Center for Biological Diversity Demanding Permit Records

The Center is demanding copies of the records related to the Clean Water Act permits. They assert that the people of St. James Parish have a right to know what Formosa is doing, and to know what Formosa’s plan is to reduce their pollution.

The Clean Water Act permit isn’t the only one pending. Formosa currently has clean air and water permits pending with the state. This lawsuit does not demand records related to these two permits. Presumably, the records for the Clean Water permit will include similar records to the state applications.

Construction of the plant has gained support from local politicians including Louisiana Governor John Bell Edwards. So, it’s not a matter of whether or not the plant will be built. It’s a matter of what rules will be put into place to make sure Formosa can’t continue to pollute the land and waters of St. James Parish.

Be sure to check our blog for updates on this ongoing litigation.