PRESS RELEASE: St. James Parish Council Continues to Industrialize Black Communities
Unanimous Approval of Koch Methanol Expansion Despite Federal Lawsuit
In keeping with the parish’s decades long practice of siting polluting facilities in the Black districts of St. James Parish, the St. James Parish council last night rejected an appeal by local residents to prevent the expansion of Koch Methanol. The 7 – 0 council vote confirmed the St. James Planning Commission’s decision to approve the expansion. Both parish bodies supported the decision despite the fact that Koch Methanol failed to provide information about its air emissions in its application. The parish council and planning commission are defendants in a federal law suit for their long-standing practice of centralizing petrochemical facilities in the 4th and 5th Districts of St. James Parish.
“We have too much pollution already,” said Myrtle Felton of Inclusive, Louisiana during the public hearing portion of the meeting. “You know what these chemicals are doing but you refuse to do anything about it,” she said to the council members. “I have seen people dying of cancer, begging for God to come and get them. How many times do I have to get up here and say no?”
An appeal letter filed by the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of Mt. Triumph Baptist Church, RISE St. James and Inclusive, Louisiana noted that Koch’s proposed expansion would increase the toxicity of its pollution by 3,000%. “These emissions have well-established health impacts that collectively include lung cancer, leukemia, respiratory disease, brain and nerve damage, kidney damage, and birth defects, “ said the appeal. The Koch plant manager called the plans an optimization.
“You listened to the Chinese company that first built this plant,” said Anne Rolfes, Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade to the parish council. “You listen to the Koch Brothers and to the manager of the plant. When are you going to start listening to the people who live nearby and are most impacted?”
Before voting in support of Koch Methanol, Councilman Clyde Cooper noted that the company had provided a truckload of ice after Hurricane Ida. Councilman St. Pierre noted that even significant accidents like the Marathon Refinery fire earlier in the month send the smoke and chemicals straight up into the air without hurting anyone. And Councilman Bland thanked Koch Methanol for its attendance at the meeting.
None of the seven councilmembers addressed the residents’ concerns or acknowledged their years long attendance at council meetings.
Gail LeBoeuf of Inclusive, Louisiana told the parish council that it concentrates pollution in the 4th and 5th Districts while using the taxes from industry for the benefit of the other parts of the parish. “We are tired of your ignoring the fact that you’re using the Black community to create revenue. Our slave ancestors created revenue for the U.S. and made it a tradition. How many of you are going to stop that tradition tonight?”
Contact: Anne Rolfes, Director, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452-4909, firstname.lastname@example.org
For copies of the appeal letters referenced in this release, please contact Dr. Kimberly Terrell, Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, email@example.com
About Louisiana Bucket Brigade
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade uses grassroots action to support communities impacted by the petrochemical industry and hasten the transition from fossil fuels.