PRESS RELEASE: Army Corps Urged to Block Louisiana Methanol Facility Over Potential Groundwater Harms
FOIA Revealed Missing Study on Aquifer Impacts, Expert Report Raises Serious Concerns
(New Orleans, LA)
Groups opposing a South Louisiana Methanol project sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today calling attention to the agency’s failure to obtain critical information about the facility’s possible threats to the freshwater Gramercy Aquifer. The $2.2 billion complex, planned for a 1,500-acre site in St. James Parish, would be one of the world’s largest methanol plants.
After South Louisiana Methanol applied for a Clean Water Act permit, the groups noticed that the application had no information about the facility’s proposed groundwater pumping. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the Corps never obtained this information. An expert report commissioned by the community and environmental organizations shows that the pumping could damage the freshwater aquifer.
“We’re tasked with fighting and protecting ourselves, often doing the work public officials are paid to do,” said Sharon Lavigne, executive director of RISE St. James. “Fairness and transparency are never too much to ask.”
The freshwater Gramercy Aquifer supplies nearly 3 million gallons per day to residential, agricultural and other uses, according to the most recent data available. In its permit application, South Louisiana Methanol proposes pumping more than four times that amount. The company claims its consultants determined that the pumping would be feasible and produce no adverse impacts. The methanol facility never produced this data, and the expert report commissioned by the organizations raises serious concerns about the potential impacts.
“It’s a huge red flag that South Louisiana Methanol failed to submit information that supposedly supports its reassuring claims about this facility’s aquifer pumping,” said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “The company’s recent application to the Army Corps refers to a study of its impacts to the region’s aquifer. Yet the study is missing from the record, and the Corps — who should be providing oversight — doesn’t have it either. This would never have come to light were it not for the diligence of local residents. The methanol plant is a bad idea and the whole plan should be abandoned.”
“South Louisiana Methanol needs to show the Army Corps and the public any data that back up its claims about this huge plant’s massive water use,” said Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our expert report showed that such significant pumping may cause saltwater intrusion in the aquifer, which is a serious concern for other users. Moving forward with this project threatens groundwater, as well as human health and our climate.”
The groups are calling on the Army Corps to obtain the company’s study and make it available to the public, conduct its own technical review, re-open the public comment period on the permit, and then conduct a full environmental impact study under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Sharon Lavigne, RISE St. James, (225) 206-0900, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452-4909, email@example.com
Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, Center for Biological Diversity, (724) 317-7029, firstname.lastname@example.org