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A Ruling Against Justice in Louisiana, But Struggle Continues

Photo: RISE St. James on Facebook

#News and Press Releases#Ecological Justice
February 2024

RISE St. James

Grantee Ally

We have just received word from our US-based grantee ally RISE St. James of a recent court ruling representing a temporary setback in their struggle against the proposed construction of a massive plastics factory in a community already besieged by environmental injustices, as we have shared about in the past.

As RISE St. James asserts, “Our enslaved ancestors toiled the land, aspiring to pass it on and leave it better than they found it…With unwavering faith, we assert confidently that Formosa Plastics will not establish a presence in St. James Parish under our watch.” Grassroots International stands with RISE St. James in both indignation and determination in this local struggle with both national and international implications for environmental justice. We encourage our community to read their statement below and to consider signing the petition they are circulating.

Statement Regarding the Louisiana Court Decision Overturning 2022 Formosa Plastics Ruling


January 22, 2024


JAMES, LOUISIANA – On Friday, January 19, 2024 the 19th Judicial District Court in Louisiana affirmed the air permits required for Formosa Plastics in St. James, Louisiana which overturned the court’s initial ruling.  

Here is a summary of facts regarding the ruling’s implications:  

  • The proposed mega petrochemical complex by Formosa Plastics consists of ten chemical manufacturing plants and various support facilities, covering 2,400 acres.
  • The site encompasses the former Buena Vista plantation, along with an unmarked plantation cemetery. Notably, this complex is located just one mile away from the sole elementary school in the St. James, La. community.
  • The recent appellate court ruling, reinstating LDEQ’s decision, grants Formosa Plastics authorization to emit over 800 tons per year of toxic chemicals. This includes nearly 45 tons of two pollutants recognized as carcinogens. The site’s expansive size equals 1,818 football fields.
  • Formosa Plastics is additionally permitted to release 13.6 million tons of greenhouse gasses annually, equivalent to the emissions from 3.5 coal-fired power plants.
  • The project’s proximity to Welcome, Louisiana, a community of color in “cancer alley,” exacerbates concerns. Welcome is already burdened by air pollution and faces an elevated risk of cancer. The population is 99% minority, with 87% identifying as Black, many being descendants of people enslaved at historical plantations in the area.
  • Cancer Alley is particularly vulnerable to the climate crisis, regularly experiencing hurricanes, heavy rain, flooding, and extreme heat.

After the recent ruling from the 19th Judicial District Court, members of RISE St. James are escalating their appeal to President Joe Biden in pursuit of justice for St. James. Formosa Plastics is America’s struggle for climate and environmental justice. Sharon Lavigne, Founder & Director of RISE St. James, issued the following statement:

“Once again, the state of Louisiana prioritizes polluters over people, but this battle extends beyond Louisiana. We stand at the forefront of climate change, embodying America’s authentic struggle for climate and environmental justice.  Living next to Formosa Plastics, with the perpetual risk to our health, livelihood, security and hard-earned property is beyond our imagination. 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 recent court ruling has left us disheartened and grappling to understand, yet we draw strength from supporting each other during these challenging days. We assert our right to clean and healthy air, unwavering in our commitment to prevent our communities from becoming sacrifice zones for industry.

Our enslaved ancestors toiled the land, aspiring to pass it on and leave it better than they found it. In 2021, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered an environmental impact study to assess cumulative impacts; For the time being, we plan to actively engage with the Army Corps of Engineers and request to get involved in drafting the study.  

With unwavering faith, we assert confidently that Formosa Plastics will not establish a presence in St. James Parish under our watch.  We express our deep appreciation for the steadfast support of our attorneys, researchers, communications team, the environmental justice community, and friends.  During these times, we can only hold fast to our faith – 2 Corinthians 4:8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.”

To help RISE St. James, please encourage President Biden to uphold his commitment to Cancer Alley by revoking Formosa Plastics’ permits today.  Click here to sign one of our petitions to President Biden.

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