CONVENT — An attorney for Petroplex International LLC asked St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel on Wednesday to revoke the stop-work order the parish issued a month ago and allow construction at the crude oil storage tank site to resume.
Petroplex attorney Boyd Bryan also beseeched the Parish Council to adopt a new resolution, or amend its current resolution, to allow the corporation to continue construction of a liquid storage tank farm in Vacherie.
“They deserve the right to move forward,” Bryan said, of Petroplex.
But Roussel said after the meeting the only way he would lift the stop-work order is if he is advised by legal counsel to do so because the parish acted wrongly or hastily.
“I haven’t learned we’ve been wrong,” Roussel said, adding he would also support the Parish Council if council members choose to create a new resolution with new guidelines for Petroplex.
Roussel acknowledged both Petroplex and the parish do not want to go to court to settle the issue but said there is “no telling” what the future may hold.
If construction continues at the site, the $800 million tank farm could ultimately have 10 million barrels of storage capacity to handle and blend crude oil, including heavy Canadian and shale oil, as well as gasoline, other petroleum products, vegetable oil and biodiesel.
On Dec. 4, five months into construction, the parish permitting office issued a notice of violation and a stop work order after parish officials claimed construction was not progressing fast enough.
But Bryan argued during Wednesday’s Parish Council meeting “there was no question” that Petroplex had commenced construction at the site by the July 31 deadline agreed upon by the parish government and Petroplex in a special resolution approved in spring 2014.
Petroplex officials even emailed St. James Parish Director of Operations Jody Chenier on July 31 and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s air permit division notifying them the corporation had commenced construction, Bryan said.
Petroplex has “continuously pursued” construction with “reasonable diligence” as required in the resolution, Bryan said.
The resolution did not require that Petroplex reach certain stages of construction, Bryan noted.
Although parish officials have accused Petroplex of merely moving dirt around, Bryan said that before installation of tank foundations can begin, the soil must be “preloaded” — and that involves clearing and stripping topsoil.
Preloading is “recognized, valid and recommended” in the construction of tank foundations, Bryan said.
The tank farm project had moved forward last year only after the Parish Council overruled a planning commission decision in May prohibiting Petroplex from building on Vacherie land designated residential and agricultural under the parish’s new land-use plan.
The Parish Council then issued a land-use waiver after Petroplex agreed to abide by a special resolution laying some parish regulations and guidelines.
“The facts show we’ve complied with all of those requirements,” Bryan said.