Lawsuit Appeals Permit for Formosa Plastics to Build in Louisiana's 'Cancer Alley'
A coalition of local and national groups on Friday launched a legal challenge to a Louisiana state agency's decision to approve air permits for a $9.4 billion petrochemical complex that Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group plans to build in the region nationally known as "Cancer Alley."
Louisiana residents and environmental justice advocates have pressured local, state, and federal officials to reject permits for the proposed project in St. James Parish. Critics have raised concerns that the complex would adversely affect public health and the environment by emitting cancer-causing chemicals and producing an estimated 13.6 million tons of planet-heating emissions annually.
Earthjustice filed the new lawsuit (pdf) in the Louisiana 19th Judicial District Court on behalf of RISE St. James, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Center for Biological Diversity, Healthy Gulf, No Waste Louisiana, Earthworks, and the Sierra Club. The suit appeals the air permits issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ).
"Louisiana violated the Clean Air Act when it gave Formosa the greenlight to double toxic air pollution in St. James," Earthjustice attorney Corinne Van Dalen said in a statement. "It's time for LDEQ to put Louisianans first and reject more pollution that puts their health, safety, and environment at risk."
BREAKING: We’re challenging Louisiana’s decision to approve air permits for a massive proposed petrochemical comple… https://t.co/DzByCNCLGF— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice)1581708454.0
As the lawsuit explains:
LDEQ granted Formosa Plastics permits to construct 14 separate major facilities, including 10 chemical plants. The planned chemical complex would manufacture ethylene and propylene, primarily to produce plastics. The other four facilities would support these operations. Formosa Plastics would build this complex a mile from an elementary school in Welcome, and less than one mile from the community of Union in Convent. Its massive air pollution emissions would vastly add to the significant environmental and health burden that African American communities in and near St. James must suffer—including from two new recently permitted methanol petrochemical plants, and Nucor Steel's major expansion project.
Formosa Plastics' air emissions will also spread to communities across St. James Parish, contributing to the region's air pollution problems. The permits would allow Formosa Plastics to release fine particulates and nitrogen dioxide in quantities that exacerbate ongoing violations of EPA's mandatory national standards in St. James Parish. And they would allow Formosa Plastics to be one of the largest industrial sources in the state for some of the most dangerous carcinogenic air pollutants, such as benzene and formaldehyde, and one of the largest in the nation for others, such as ethylene oxide.
In an email to the Associated Press on Friday, LDEQ spokesperson Gregory Langley said that "we don't comment on ongoing litigation."
Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, called the permit approval "a new low" for LDEQ, pointing out that the department received over 15,500 comments from residents opposing the complex.
"Formosa Plastics would be one of the largest plants in the world, but our state used the same old rubber stamp to approve the project," said Rolfes. "We will act to protect the people of Louisiana since the state has clearly failed to do so."
The proposed Formosa Plastics Plant would increase the cancer risk in the 7th District, according to @Earthjustice.… https://t.co/ikvsokUMG5— LA Bucket Brigade (@LA Bucket Brigade)1580509900.0
Sharon Lavigne, founder and president of the local organization RISE St. James, declared that "LDEQ doesn't care about people's lives."
"They should have consulted the citizens of St. James, not the public officials, before approving these permits. It just tells me that people in higher office can do what they want and poison an entire African American community," she said. "RISE is going to fight to save the lives of the people in our community. This approval is making our fight harder, but it's making us stronger, and we will fight until the end to stop Formosa."
Great profile of Sharon Lavigne, a leader in the fight to #StopFormosa and its massive plastic-making plant in Loui… https://t.co/Ot5eUS9esc— Ctr4BioDiv Ocean (@Ctr4BioDiv Ocean)1581702363.0
Representatives from national organizations signed on to the suit expressed support for the community members battling against the project but also put the fight into a broader context.
"This plant would poison the people of St. James Parish and worsen the climate crisis just so Formosa can churn out more throwaway plastic," said Lauren Packard, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Using our oversupply of fracked gas to create products that add to the plastic pollution crisis is appalling. We stand with the local community in opposing this dangerous project."
As Common Dreams reported last month, Environmental Integrity Project found that greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. oil, gas, and petrochemical industries could jump about 30% by 2025 compared with 2018 because of additional drilling and 157 new or expanded projects "fueled by the fracking boom." The Formosa complex would have the highest potential yearly emissions among all the future and petrochemical and plastics projects included in the analysis.
"The fight against Formosa's polluting and unjust petrochemical complex is part of a growing national movement to address the triple threat of climate chaos, plastics pollution, and environmental racism," Earthworks energy campaigner Ethan Buckner said Friday. "By issuing these permits to Formosa, LDEQ yet again acquiesced to the fossil fuel industry's reckless plans to rapidly expand in the face of our worsening climate crisis."
"As investors sour on oil and gas companies, plastics are Big Oil's lifeline. And LDEQ threw them the rope," Buckner added. "Yet the voices of Cancer Alley's leaders are stronger than ever, and we will defend their right to clean water, air, and a stable climate."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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