Formosa Plastics Group, one of Taiwan’s top petrochemical companies, has agreed to suspend parts of construction of its $9.4 billion plant in rural Louisiana after opponents filed a preliminary injunction to block construction.
FG LA LLC, the company’s Louisiana division, will defer some construction activities until Feb. 1 in exchange for plaintiffs dropping their motion for a preliminary injunction, under an agreement signed Friday by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Randolph D. Moss.
FG agreed not to build a construction dock on the Mississippi River or work near wetlands or the five sites of unmarked graves until February to allow a lawsuit challenging its permits by the Army Corps of Engineers to be resolved.
The suit was filed in January by the Center for Biological Diversity on behalf of RISE St. James, Healthy Gulf, and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. The plaintiffs seek a motion of summary judgment that would invalidate the land permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers last year.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality also faces an appeal by the environmental organizations asking for state-issued air permits to be vacated.
The plant would be located in St. James Parish, a predominantly Black district, on a site where the unmarked graves of enslave people have been discovered. The high concentration of petrochemical infrastructure in the parish gives the region the nickname Cancer Alley.
Air, Climate, Water Pollution
Opponents say the plant would double air pollution in the area. They also say the plant would contribute to climate change and ocean pollution by turning natural gas into single-use plastic products.
The plant was also criticized for violating Louisiana’s lockdown and social distancing guidelines for the pandemic when construction workers unexpectedly broke ground in March, the same day as the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect.
“This plant would sicken local residents, degrade wetlands, fuel climate change and send plastic pollution into our rivers and oceans. It violates federal law and should never have been approved,” Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement Friday.
Protection of Remains
FG is respectful of the burial remains and immediately fenced in and protected the site when they were discovered, Janile Parks, the company’s director of community and government relations, said in an email.
Preconstruction projects will continue as planned, including the widening of Highway 3127, utilities relocations, soil testing, placement of test piles, and a pipeline removal, Parks said.
Formosa Plastics Group is the world’s second-largest producer of polyvinyl chloride resins. The planned Louisiana complex, called The Sunshine Project, would include 10 chemical plants and four facilities built along the Mississippi river on 2,500 acres. The project would be one of the largest plastics plants in the world.
The plant will produce polyethylene, polypropylene, polymer and ethylene glycol for plastic projects. It will create 8,000 construction jobs and 1,200 operational jobs, according to the company on its website.
The Sierra Club is a plaintiff in the suit against the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The Sierra Club has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.
The case is Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs, D.D.C., No. 20-cv-00103, order signed 7/24/20.