Standing in front of the pews of Broadmoor Community Church in New Orleans, environmental advocates gathered Tuesday morning to oppose the $1.25 billion expansion of plastics producer Shintech Louisiana’s plant in Iberville Parish, part of Louisiana’s growing industrial corridor along the Mississippi River. Over a dozen groups cited their concerns with the health risks posed to communities surrounding the plant from an expansion, which is expected to increase the amount of toxic nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by the facility. They asked for the state to revoke the company’s permits. “We are no longer accepting this false choice between good jobs and the right to survive,” said Michael Esealuka, an organizer with environmental group Healthy Gulf.nola.com
Shintech’s Plaquemine Parish facility accounts for a third of the states VOC emissions. The plant is also the only one in the state emitting vinyl bromides which impact the liver. Those living in Plaquemine Parish have a 95 per cent cancer risk than the nations average.
“We are no longer accepting this false choice between good jobs and the right to survive,” said Michael Esealuka, an organizer with environmental group Healthy Gulf. “The cancer hazard for people living near this facility has increased by over a third in the last decade,” said Anne Rolfes, executive director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Using the EPA’s environmental benefits mapping and analysis program, Healthy Gulf staff scientist Naomi Yoder estimated that the two facilities’ emission of three pollutants — nitrogen oxide and the two classes of particulate matter — could have resulted in $1.9 billion worth of healthcare costs since 2000 for communities nearby. The estimate was based on data provided by the state’s air emissions inventory. While the expansion is anticipated to directly and indirectly create 159 jobs, the Rev. Gregory Manning, a leader of the Coalition Against Death Alley, said that number was “absurd compared to the number of lives that it is going to affect.” “Compared to the number of people that are going to be exposed to these harmful carcinogens,” he added.
The Shintech Plant counters that they are within the environmental pollution limits that meet “scientific criteria” established by the state and Federal agencies.
When the expansion was announced last week, Cedotal said the company was “grateful” for the support of the local community. “We work every day to continue our commitment to live locally, hire locally and buy locally as the company’s footprint grows,” he said in the Jan. 26 news release.
The group, not only castigating Shintech but also advocate for bringing more green companies into the state. On a related matter, the state is looking at the tax structure to make the state more favorable for industry.
“Rip up the permit, get rid of it,” she said. “And let’s join with the rest of the country and with the national effort to solve climate change, (and) employ people in healthy jobs. This is a real moment of opportunity for Louisiana; let’s grab it.