Judge denies permit for plastics complex, cites harm to Black community in scathing ruling

New Orleans environmentalists and community organizations called Wednesday's decision by Judge Trudy White a huge victory.

A massive Formosa Plastics complex in St. James Parish was denied an air permit by a Louisiana judge on the grounds that it would harm the Black community, dealing a significant setback to the $9.4 billion project.

According to NOLA.com, New Orleans environmentalists and community organizations are suing to stop the complex they say would release enormous amounts of dangerous pollution into low-income, predominantly Black neighborhoods. They called Wednesday’s decision by Judge Trudy White a huge victory.

“Stopping Formosa Plastics has been a fight for our lives, and today David has toppled Goliath,” said Sharon Lavigne, founder and president of RISE St. James, according to Earthjustice. “The judge’s decision sends a message to polluters like Formosa that communities of color have a right to clean air, and we must not be sacrifice zones.”

Plastics complex in St. James Parish
A Louisiana judge has denied an air permit granted by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality that would be needed to continue work on a massive plastics complex in St. James Parish in New Orleans. (Photo: Screengrab/YouTube.com)

NOLA.com reported that White’s 34-page decision accused the state Department of Environmental Quality of improperly authorizing the permit without conducting a full review to determine whether the plant will adversely affect minority areas. She also claimed the DEQ failed to adhere to its own definition of environmental justice, which specifies that no one group should suffer disproportionately from the impact of industry.

White referred to a significant state Supreme Court case on the agency’s responsibility to protect the public trust and said, “LDEQ’s definition of ‘fair treatment’ requires more of the agency than simply lip service or chances for public input,” according to NOLA.com.

She added, “Rather, it demands ‘active and affirmative protection.'” 

White has since ordered regulators to reassess the complex situation from the beginning.

DEQ spokesman Greg Langley declined to comment on White’s decision, but said the departments would examine it and determine what to do next.

The plant’s owners, local Formosa affiliate FG LA, expressed disagreement with the findings and noted that the DEQ determined the project complied with all applicable state and federal laws to safeguard the public and the environment.

“We believe the permits issued to FG by LDEQ are sound and the agency properly performed its duty to protect the environment in the issuance of those air permits,” officials said in a statement, NOLA.com reported.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and local officials have praised the plastics complex project and predicted it would bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue and 1,200 new jobs.

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