Enviros Condemn Decision on Air Permits for Formosa Plastics

Environmentalists Condemn Louisiana Court’s Decision to Uphold Air Permits for Formosa Plastics Facility

WASHINGTON – Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that validates air permits granted by the Department of Environmental Quality to a proposed Formosa Plastics facility in St. James Parish and overturns the decision of the 19th Judicial District Court. The ruling came despite multiple legal interventions from Earthjustice, RISE St. James, and other environmental groups. These permits allow for the release of over 800 tons of toxic pollution per year into a community already dubbed “Cancer Alley,” a community overburdened by chemical pollution.

“Living next to Formosa Plastics, the perpetual risk to our health, livelihood, security, and hard-earned property is beyond anyone’s imagination,” said Sharon Lavigne, founder of RISE St. James. “Formosa Plastics would wipe the 5th district of St. James off the map, adding to the number of historically black communities that have become extinct due to the intrusion of petrochemical industries.” 

The facility can only be constructed with a federal wetlands permit. The International Monitor Formosa Plastics Alliance recently met with Biden Administration officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, delivering over 96,000 signatures to the letter asking that this permit not be granted.

“This ruling is incredibly disappointing and an indicator that the government is willing to put polluters over people,” said Nancy Bui, co-founder of the International Monitor Formosa Plastics Alliance. “Nevertheless, we will not stop the fight. We will continue to move forward until this Formosa Plastics facility is fully rejected and those affected by their destructive practices worldwide are compensated.”

Formosa Plastics has wreaked havoc on communities globally, from Vietnam to Texas. Their steel subsidiary paid the Vietnamese government $500 million after a toxic chemical spill in 2016, causing one of the most significant environmental disasters in Vietnam’s history. Thousands of victims have yet to receive compensation, Formosa Ha Tinh Steel continues to deny an independent environmental study on the current status of marine pollution, and 23 advocates are currently imprisoned for speaking out.

In Texas, Formosa Plastics repeatedly violated chemical accident prevention provisions in the Clean Water Act and discharged massive amounts of plastic pollution in waterways, leading to a $50 million settlement. Although the settlement included a mandate for zero discharge of plastic, the Point Comfort, Texas, plant has received $14.185 million in penalties for 563 violations since the settlement was enacted in February 2020. Since June 2021, the facility has been tested thrice weekly, with each test confirming ongoing violations. 

“It is possible to hold corporate polluters accountable,” said Diane Wilson, 2023 Goldman Prize Winner and environmental activist who led the lawsuit against Formosa Plastics’ Point Comfort facility. “This decision by the Louisiana courts is a huge blow to St. James residents’ right to clean water and air. We must persist and refuse to give up on stopping Formosa Plastics’ historic and extensive cycle of destructive pollution.”

“This ruling is another reminder that petrochemical companies lack accountability,” said Paloma Henriques, Senior Petrochemical Campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “The US government, backed by the courts, continues to allow rampant pollution that harms communities at the production site as well as our shared environment and oceans downstream. We need an immediate halt to new and expanded production facilities and a strong and binding Global Plastics Treaty. In addition, banks must stop financing reckless companies like Formosa Plastics. It’s time to step up and address the plastics crisis head-on.”

Communications Contacts: Erika Seiber, [email protected] // Gary Watson, [email protected]

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