The federal government has suspended a permit for a controversial proposed plastics plant in Louisiana while an environmental review takes place after advocates raised concerns about its impacts.
In a memo on Wednesday, acting Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jaime Pinkham said a permit for the plant would be suspended amid a rigorous environmental review known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
“I conclude an EIS process is warranted to thoroughly review areas of concern, particularly those concerning environmental justice,” Pinkham wrote, adding that the review would evaluate all reasonable alternatives.
U.S. House Democrats have previously raised concerns about the plant — particularly its location in an overburdened part of Louisiana that has been referred to as “Cancer Alley.”
The plant in question would be operated by FG LA LLC, part of the Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics Group, and would produce ethylene glycol, polyethylene and polypropylene which are used to make products such as playground equipment, artificial turf and car casings.
In a statement, Janile Parks, who directs community and government relations for FG LA, noted that “major” construction for the project has been on hold since November, because of reevaluation and said that the memo didn’t provide much information.
“The tweet and accompanying letter from the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army posted today online provide little detail on EIS procedure the Corps intends to use in its additional evaluation of the project. As a result, the company will continue to work with the Corps as we receive more guidance on the additional evaluation,” Parks said, adding that the company has “unwavering commitment to the parish and to Louisiana.”
Advocates, meanwhile, cheered the suspension and review and said they hoped they would lead to the project’s ultimate termination.
"Today's announcement is the ultimate David v. Goliath victory,” Anne Rolfes, executive director of Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said in a statement. “I am hopeful that this is the nail in the coffin of Formosa Plastics in St. James Parish. And don't try to build somewhere else. Pack up and go home."