As the old saying goes, you can’t beat the city government, that is, the government.But the people of St. James Parish, Louisiana, did just that—and they won in court large plastic factory Supported by governors, state and local legislators, the business community and local power brokers.
Led by Sharon Lavigne of Rise St. James, a faith-based grassroots organization dedicated to reducing pollution in the community, and lawyers and other community groups from Earthjustice, a national nonprofit environmental law organization, has led the years-long fight.Ultimately, these groups persuaded the 19th Judicial District Court of Louisiana 14 air pollution permits cancelled Approved by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, this would allow Formosa to build its proposed petrochemical complex. Petrochemicals are found in many products, including plastics.
The project will create The world’s largest plastics factory and subject the inhabitants of the parish of St. James to another 800 tons of harmful air pollutants Every year — in addition to air pollution, they’ve breathed in from miles of refineries and other petrochemical facilities scattered across the landscape.
The shocking legal decision is just one case, and the company has pledged to appeal. But, as the head of an organization with environmental policy expertise, we believe this victory will be equally effective in galvanizing local opposition to proposals for similar facilities elsewhere in the country — always in low-income communities of color, Mostly in Texas and Louisiana and the regions that make up Appalachia.
At the same time, the world is already flooded with single-use plastics, most of which are neither recyclable nor biodegradable.The decision will also prevent additional carbon pollution from being released into the atmosphere at a time when the country desperately needs to slow down climate change go through reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Demand for fossil fuels has fallen due to investments in renewable energy and electric vehicles, The oil and gas industry is turning to plastics keep making money.
This trend has staggering implications for the climate crisis. last October, Reports from our organizationBeyond Plastics found that by 2030, U.S. plastic production is expected to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than domestic coal emissions.The emissions from the Formosa Plastics project alone exceed 13.6 million tons of greenhouse gases per year– Equivalent to the emissions of 3.5 coal-fired power plants in the same year.
But halting or at least slowing the Formosa project is only part of reducing the overall pollution burden of St. James Parish, which sits on the 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that has been dubbed a “cancer.” alley”. ” corridors where many low-income people live, houses About 150 petrochemical plants and refineries, People of color who live nearby have a significantly higher lifetime risk of cancer than the national average.
According to their permit application, Formosa’s project will double or even triple the levels of carcinogens that St James residents breathe. Twelve Petrochemical Facilities Already within a 10-mile radius of the site Formosa wants to build, the new complex will make pollution levels even worse than they are now.
The company’s own modelling, part of its license application, suggested that breathing in excess soot and nitrogen dioxide emitted by the facility could contribute to conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, Formosa relentlessly proposed building the pernicious complex just a mile from an elementary school.
plan 2,400-acre complex include 10 chemical plants, key among them are two giant “ethane crackers”. In these facilities, hydrofracking gas is superheated until the molecules “crack” into smaller hydrocarbons, especially ethylene, which are then converted into plastic pellets. The particles are used to make plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic straws and other consumer products—many are used only once and then persist in the environment for decades.
Attempts to expand petrochemical facilities in Louisiana, Texas and Appalachia are creating “sacrificial zones” where big companies consider local residents as disposable as the plastic they make.
While existing ethane crackers are already operating, all eyes are on communities where a battle similar to Formosa is being waged – and where opponents of the planned facility are now fighting the Inspired by a legitimate victory.
Most notably, Shell built the nation’s newest ethane cracker in the small community of Portertown, Pennsylvania, along the Ohio River. The plastics production facility is expected to be operational any day. Residents and environmental groups fear it will attract other large polluters into the area, creating a massive pollution problem that makes it a northern version of the Ohio Valley’s Cancer Alley.
What are these companies forcing residents to pay for their health? So consumers don’t need to bring reusable bags to stores or drink from durable coffee mugs?
In Louisiana, state and company officials claim the Formosa complex will create 1,200 jobs and millions more to the local economy. But there are more environmentally sustainable ways to create jobs that don’t harm the health of workers, their communities and the planet.
If the court decision is overturned on appeal, Formosa could still be allowed to build. But Louisiana and other states need to stop falling for the jobs-versus-environment debate. Climate catastrophes around the world have shown that we need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the shift away from fossil fuels will create jobs.
It’s time for a change of course in Louisiana as the federal government prepares to pump a ton of new money into renewable energy projects.However, if we just switch to renewable energy while continuing to make more and more plastics, we will surely fly past critical 1.5 degrees Celsius climate thresholdwhich will lead to more severe heatwaves, greater sea level rise, more floods, reduced agricultural production and more extreme weather globally.
Now is the time for governments and business people to rethink their outdated economic development strategies based on providing paid jobs that do not threaten public health. We can’t create more sacrifice zones.
A judge spoke, but courts are not the only government department responsible for the health and environmental well-being of our communities. Congress needs to suspend the race to build more petrochemical facilities. We cannot let these investments lock us into a future framed by plastic and all the problems it creates for people, ecosystems and the health of the planet.
This is an opinion and analysis article and the views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the author Scientific American.