Formosa Plastics is going to be our shiny new petrochemical plant that will provide jobs for Louisiana citizens. However, the company’s lovely image of being a job-provider and great company that will support the state economy is marred with its history of dumping plastic waste into waterways and its cruelty to the descendants of the slaves buried on the company’s land. Yes, you read that right: Formosa is building on a burial ground.
I follow Lieutenant General Russel Honoré on Twitter and one of his tweets about the plant popped up in my feed last week. He called Formosa a “serial polluter,” which is an echo of what U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt of Texas called the plant during its settlement of a $50 million lawsuit for violating the Clean Water Act by discharging plastic pellets into the waterways. Environmental activist Diane Wilson, along with members of the San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper, collected more than 2,400 pellets and powder samples — used as evidence in the trial.
Fast track permit done by #FormosaPlastics paying state workers from @LOUISIANA_DEQ OVERTIME, yep #FormosaPlastics pay state workers overtime, what can go wrong . Corruption #lalege approved this rule . @RTMannJr @sejorg @MSchleifstein @BMarshallEnviro @NewsieDave @brbizreport
— Russel L. Honore' (@ltgrusselhonore) June 23, 2020
Although this news isn’t hot off the press news, General Honoré shared his thoughts and I agree with him. Formosa doesn’t really have Louisiana’s best interests at heart — but do any of the fossil fuel industry companies? In fact, it seems that our state is letting Formosa walk all over us. Back in January, The Advocate (based in Baton Rouge) reported that the $9.4 billion Formosa Plastics plant received key air permits. The plant will be the seventh one here in Louisiana in 2007 and will most likely pollute the air even further, making Caner Alley even more cancerous.
St James Parish
— Russel L. Honore' (@ltgrusselhonore) June 23, 2020
In March, utility crews broke ground — unexpectedly — and surprised the community members who were fighting to stop the onsite work until after the COVID-19 health crisis passes. The plant issued a stop-work order to Entergy, but RISE St. James wanted to know why Formosa got special privileges. The stop-work order didn’t share how long the stoppage will last, and Sharon Lavigne, founder of RISE St. James, had two very important and tough questions to ask:
“Why do the residents of St. James and everywhere else have to abide by the governor’s stay-at-home orders and Formosa does not? Why does Formosa have special privileges and we who have lived here all our lives do not?”
Ann Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said, “Formosa Plastics is showing us its true colors by starting work at the site during a pandemic and digging there despite the high water levels in the Mississippi River. We call on the governor to acknowledge that Formosa Plastics must stop activity at the site. Our governor has provided much-needed leadership on the coronavirus. We call on him to take that same firm stance with Formosa Plastics and run the company out of our state.”
Earlier this month, we shared the story of Gail Leboeuf whose ancestors were slaves owned by Louisiana plantation owners. She was protesting by their unmarked graves — a site owned by Formosa which it plans to dig a pipeline through. Republican State Representative Jerome Zeringue sought to block her and all protestors from utilizing their first amendment rights in a bill called HB197. It would literally punish protestors by making them slaves. Literal slaves — “imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to 5 years and fined up to $1,000 or both.” Fortunately, that bill got vetoed by Governor Edwards.
One of the protestors requested permission from Formosa to gain access to the cemetery. The company’s Louisiana subsidiary sent her a letter that denied her access to the cemetery. “No archeologist has been able to make any affirmative conclusion about the identity or ethnicity of the remains that were discovered on the property.” That’s right — they denied her access, claiming that she, a descendant of the slaves buried on that land, had no proof she was related to them. Lavigne, the protestor who requested permission, responded, “We can’t prove it? They can’t prove it’s not our ancestors. They’re just coldhearted people.”
With Formosa’s history of polluting rivers and waterways, it would seem that the cost of doing business with these petrochemical plants is pretty high. Louisiana just held the Grand Reopening Event for Queen Bess Island back in February. The island was badly affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Despite all of that, Louisiana has a love affair with the fossil fuel industry, and this addiction will most likely be a hard one to break.
Featured image by Johnna Crider
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