PLAQUEMINE — Shintech Louisiana's proposed $1.5 billion expansion of its Iberville Parish facility has Reggie Troxclair feeling squeezed.
The retired military veteran lives on Troxclair Drive, a dead-end street off La. 405 in Plaquemine dotted with about a dozen homes that are inhabited by various members of Troxclair's extended family.
The planned expansion, he says, will bring Shintech's operations approximately 600 feet from his front door. And if rumors of future expansions are true, he worries he and his family's rural oasis will be completely overshadowed by industry.
"They tell us they're going to put up a buffer zone by planting some trees," Troxclair says of the proposed expansion. "Trees aren't going to stop air pollution or an explosion if an accident happens. It's kind of disheartening."
Troxclair says it’s time for the chemical company giant to make buyout offers and relocation plans for nearby residents. The company manufactures chlorine, ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride monomer and PVC resin at the facilities it operates in Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes.
Reggie's cousin, Paul Troxclair, said he’d rather Shintech just expand elsewhere and stop encroaching on the land his family has called home for generations.
"I grew up here all my life," Paul Troxclair said. "If they're going to offer to buy us out, I'm not settling for nothing less than what I think my property is worth."
The Troxclairs say they won't accept any offer that they do not consider "fair and equitable."
Top executives at Shintech Louisiana say they are willing to consider buying out nearby residents, But they said they aren't ready to make promises to the Troxclairs or others who live close to the plant.
"I have no idea what that process looks like," said Dick Mason, secretary/comptroller for Shintech, Inc. "I have an idea how to approach the issue. Today, I don't know if it's a $2 million problem or a $20 million problem."
Mason noted that the expansion is still in the permitting phase and the construction has a two- to three-year timeline, adding: "Right now, this project is not on a critical path for us."
This wouldn't be the first time a large chemical company bought out and relocated Iberville parish residents living in close proximity to its operations.
Dow Chemical implemented a buyout program in 1989 for residents in the Morrisonville community, which was located on the Iberville and West Baton Rouge parish line, offering landowners $11,000 an acre for their property and also issued them checks for relocation expenses.
The cost of that buyout was estimated at around $10 million.
Shintech's current facility in Iberville Parish sits on more than 5,600 acres off La. 405 in Plaquemine. The proposed expansion includes developing an integrated polyvinyl chloride (PVC) manufacturing facility, adding 300 acres to the existing plant. The new addition will be bordered by 50 acres of green space.
Since opening the Plaquemine facility in 2008, Shintech has expanded operations several times at various intervals over the years.
Shintech is currently waiting to secure all the necessary permits from the state's Department of Environmental Quality before making a final decision on investing in the expansion project, officials said.
The new facility will be located within the more than 500 acres of land that abuts Troxclair Drive. Shintech currently rents the land to a local farmer. The company has already told the farmer not to plant any more sugarcane for another harvest in anticipation of the expansion.
"We're going to be responsive to the Troxclairs' concerns," Mason said. "In the long term, I don't think it is in Shintech's best interest to have those people living that closely to the facility."
Mason and other Shintech officials met with several members of the Troxclair family last month where details about the proposed expansion were revealed and property buyouts were proposed.
But Reggie Troxclair isn't confident the company will treat the family fairly. He points to the experience of a friend, David Ishamel, who claims Shintech officials made similar promises to him regarding a buyout years ago but never followed through.
Ishamel owns 100 acres of land off La. 405, approximately six miles from Troxclair Drive. He and his wife purchased the undeveloped land in 2001, four years before Shintech started construction on its Plaquemine facility more than 1,100-feet from their property.
Ishamel and his wife had planned on building a house on the land where they would live after retiring. Ishamel claims that pile driving at Shintech caused damaged to his property. He said he contacted the company’s site manager at the time, David Wise, and proposed selling the land to Shintech for possible use by the company to build housing for its employees.
The discussions started out promising, Ishamel said, but fell apart prompting his decade-long feud with Shintech. He blames the company for further devaluing his property with pollutants and noises from its facility.
"I was promised repetitively, in person, and otherwise by people from Shintech the same things the Troxclairs are telling me they've told them" Ishamel says. "They're stalling the people. They stalled us and we didn't know what was happening."
"They're not doing the right thing by the people," he said. "We're arriving at what they want: To squeeze all the little people out."
Wise, who took an early retirement as Shintech's site manager but still works as an adviser to the company, says Ishamel’s claims are exaggerated.
"I don't know where he got the (idea) Shintech wanted to buy from him," Wise said. "I'm not sure what Shintech could do with a property that's not continuous to its own."
Officials at Shintech would not comment on Ishamel’s claims that operations at the Plaquemine plant have damaged his property and impacted the quality of life for people living in the various subdivisions sandwiched between the several industrial facilities dotted along La. 405.
"We don't have a lot of negative feedback so we listen to negative feedback so we can address it," Mason said. "Part of the reason we've been so successful is because we try to listen to our neighbors and accommodate them."
As for the Troxclairs, Mason said, Shintech wants to secure the permits needed for the expansion first before entertaining any conversations about buyouts. Any definitive plans from the company along those lines won't likely happen until the first quarter of next year, he said.
"Certainly I want to plan for those discussions," he said. "I just don't know what their expectations are."