Photo provided by Formosa Petrochemical Company

Go back to the beginning as what you have now hurts the Black community.

A judge has thrown out the air permit for a massive new plastics complex in St. James Parish, telling regulators to start from the beginning. It’s a major blow to the proposed $9.4 billion Formosa Plastics complex. Gov. John Bel Edwards and local leaders have praised the project, saying it could create 1,200 jobs and generate millions in tax revenue. But local environmentalists and community groups have sued to stop the complex, saying it would pump huge amounts of dangerous pollution into majority-Black, low-income communities. In a scathing, 34-page ruling Wednesday, 19th Judicial District Judge Trudy White sided with the plaintiffs. She said the state Department of Environmental Quality wrongly approved the permit without doing a full environmental justice analysis to see if the plant would disproportionately affect minority communities.

No one should bear a disproportionate burden. This plan does.

White wrote that DEQ did not live up to its own definition of environmental justice — that no group of people should bear a disproportionate negative impact from industry. “LDEQ’s definition of ‘fair treatment’ requires more of the agency than mere lip service or opportunities for public involvement,” White wrote, referencing a seminal state Supreme Court case on the agency’s public trust duty. “Rather, it demands ‘active and affirmative protection.'” Greg Langley, DEQ spokesman, declined on Wednesday to comment about the ruling, saying the departments would review it and decide on next steps. Officials with FG LA, the local Formosa affiliate behind the plant, said they respectfully disagreed with White’s conclusions and that DEQ found the Sunshine Project met all state and federal standards to protect the public and the environment with a margin of safety. “We believe the permits issued to FG by LDEQ are sound and the agency properly performed its duty to protect the environment in the issuance of those air permits,” FG officials said in a statement.

Environmental groups are happy as this is often a David and Goliath battle.

But environmental groups said the decision was a big victory. “(It’s) really what we’ve been saying all along and what the community has been saying all along, that they improperly dismissed the community’s concerns about the sort of disproportionate burden of air pollution in that part of St. James Parish,” said Devin Lowell, a clinical assistant and law professor at Tulane University. “Stopping Formosa Plastics has been a fight for our lives, and today David has toppled Goliath,” said Sharon Lavigne, founder and president of RISE St. James, a community group that opposes the project.

Thank you judge.

Judge canceled air permit – hurts Black communities
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