Game Over Formosa Plastics
St. James Parish, in South Louisiana, is a historically black and now elderly community. Many of the residents trace their lineage back to enslaved families who worked the plantations along the banks of the Mississippi River. Today, 15.6% of residents live below the poverty line.
The communities of St. James are extremely overburdened by industrial pollution. The 258-square mile parish hosts 11 large industrial facilities, including refineries, a fertilizer plant, and steel, asphalt, and chemical companies. The toxic chemicals that are emitted into the surrounding air, water and soil include cancer causing dioxins, asbestos, chlorine, lead, mercury, acids, benzene, toluene, methanol, ethylene, and hydrogen sulfide, according to the EPA’s TRI database report.
Now, St. James are fighting to keep out yet another industrial facility: 2,500-acre project of Formosa Plastics, a Taiwan-based conglomerate. The massive petrochemical complex, named the Sunshine Project, is to be located just one mile from elementary school, and on top of a historic site of the unmarked graves of enslaved people. The proposed plant threatens to double toxic pollutants in the Parish.
On August 18, 2021 the US Army Corps of Engineers announced it would require a full Environmental Impact Statement for the Sunshine Project. The decision is a major victory for opponents of the plant, who sued to block the project in January 2020 and convinced the Army Corps to suspend its permit.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will require that Formosa assess the impact of its proposed project, including the current environmental situation as well as air, water, historical and economic impacts. The EIS should also trigger a new comment period for community members. However, an EIS can take anywhere from 51 days to 3 years to conduct.
Thus, this project aims to regularly collect particulate matter and other air quality monitoring data in order to evidence the existing levels of pollution borne by the St. James Parish community. The information gathered will to be used to educate the community, and support the growing body of evidence as to why further pollution sources such as the Formosa Plastics would be catastrophic for the parish.
The goals of this project are to:
A: Regularly collect particulate matter air quality monitoring data to grow the body of evidence on the existing levels of pollution to show the burden already borne by the Donaldsonville and St. James Parish communities. We aim for this information to be used to educate the community, and provide scientific evidence for why further pollution sources such as the Formosa Plastics, should not be developed in this community.
B: Regularly share project updates including monitoring methods, tools, challenges, data and questions on Public Lab and in other project identified spaces as appropriate.
C: Work towards advocacy around the air pollution issue in Donaldsonville and St. James Parish by working to understand local permits, zoning, and legal landscape in aim of gathering information for the upcoming Environmental Impact Statement and community input for the open comment period.
D: Work towards project pass off and longevity by focusing on communications materials around the monitoring results, advocacy information, and how people can get involved and monitor. We will use this to put together information sessions, as well as pamphlets and print materials.
Check out the data from our Purple Air PM monitors here:
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Read more about the project!
Read more about Formosa Plastics' track-record environmental destruction around the world.