The company hoping to build a $350 million coal export facility in Plaquemines Parish filed an amended permit application with the state Monday.
The project is opposed by environmental groups and some area residents.
Monday was the deadline the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources had given RAM Terminals LLC to submit its new application after a state judge ruled in December that DNR had granted the project a coastal use permit in September 2013 without gathering enough information.
As requested by the court, the amended application lays out five alternative sites RAM parent company Armstrong Coal considered for the new terminal before settling on 200 acres in Myrtle Grove, near Ironton. Three of those sites are in Braithwaite, with one in Idlewild/Oakwood and one in Cedar Grove. The company also included a coal spillage contingency plan in the document.
DNR spokesman Patrick Courreges said the state will now review whether the amended application — which is more than 200 pages long — contains the information required by the court before it makes any decision on its merits. He said it was impossible to say how long that might take.
“We’re kind of outside the regular process cycle for a coastal permit,” he said. “There’s not a timetable on it.”
The Gulf Restoration Network, a coalition of environmental groups leading the opposition to the terminal, criticized the filing as insufficient.
“In this latest application, RAM again fails to address the project’s potential harm to Ironton, one of the most historic communities in Plaquemines Parish, and has the audacity to ignore its effects on a major coastal restoration project,” senior organizer Grace Morris said, referring to the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion project.
That project, which is also in Myrtle Grove, is the state’s first major attempt at sediment diversion for coastal restoration, and environmental scientists have expressed concern that the two projects aren’t compatible.
“The market for coal exports has disappeared, with proposed projects falling apart across the country,” the Gulf Restoration Network statement continued. “RAM’s reliance on old economic data just doesn’t justify this destructive project.”
A phone number provided by St. Louis-based Armstrong Coal for media inquiries was not answered Tuesday.
The December ruling by 25th Judicial District Judge Kevin Conner was an eleventh-hour victory for a coalition of environmental groups led by the Sierra Club, which had galvanized opposition not only in Plaquemines Parish but also in the West Bank communities they said would face increased rail traffic and coal dust from uncovered trains rolling through residential areas if the project goes through.
After some initial resistance, the group got resolutions from the Gretna, Westwego and Jefferson Parish councils calling for more hearings and public input, but there really weren’t any avenues to conduct such hearings.
DNR had already granted the project a permit, as had the state Department of Environmental Quality. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had a permit application pending, but its scope covered none of the health and safety concerns raised by residents.
When Conner remanded the coastal use permit back to DNR, it bought the opposition more time and, it hopes, more chances for public input as a result of increased awareness of the project.
The facility, which still needs a building permit from Plaquemines Parish, would take in coal by rail from the Illinois Basin and points west and load it onto barges to be shipped to European and Asian markets.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.