Pity poor St. James Parish, in the crosshairs of a powerful member of Congress who is not from Louisiana and seems to care little for the economic and social benefits of a major new industrial expansion in the parish.
We hope that the new Formosa Plastics plants succeeds.
If it does, it will be despite a barrage of legal attacks and political criticism. Much of the former relies on national donors, who seem to have unlimited sums to fund challenges to what most St. James Parish folks believe in their best interests.
“Environmental justice” appears also to be beyond the ken of the vast majority of St. James Parish leaders right up to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
We urge Formosa and local officials, including Edwards, to persist in their efforts.
In the latest charge of “environmental justice” activism, the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources and one of his colleagues urged President Joe Biden to "permanently revoke" wetlands permits for the $9.4 billion Formosa Plastics complex.
We hope that the president does not take the advice of Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Arizona.
For one thing, there is a process that is intended — and thank goodness for it — to investigate rigorously potential emissions from any new chemical plant. Formosa is formally FG LA, the affiliate of the company from the democratic Republic of China on Taiwan. The company is following the rules and working through the elaborate steps needed for such a major industrial expansion.
Should the president lead on agencies to disregard the science and put an amorphous “environmental justice” standard in its place, it would be a violation of not only law but common sense.
The facility would produce the raw materials for a variety of plastics and is expected to create 1,200 permanent jobs, tens of millions of dollars per year in state and local taxes, and millions more in spinoff benefits once built.
Those are good-paying jobs with benefits. The economy of the parish would be lifted.
The benefits are not weighed by outsiders but are very much on the minds of local officials and residents. Overwhelmingly, they have backed the project.
Anything to do with fossil fuels appears to be a target these days. Our view is that the world is transitioning to other forms of energy but that oil and gas will be part of our futures for many years to come.
The anti-Formosa agitation takes fossil fuel demonization to another level, attacking plastics. Love them or hate them, plastics products are also integral to modern life.
By all means, make Formosa obey the law on emissions and other matters. Citizens can, and should, voice specific concerns about pollution and address economic impact and jobs. But let that process play out, Mr. President. Listen to local input from residents as well as judgments by scientists and engineers evaluating this project.