CONVENT — Wolverine Terminals Corp. officials sought to reassure worried St. James Parish residents at a public hearing Tuesday that its plans for a crude oil facility in Paulina will be safe and do not pose a threat.
About 50 parish residents attended the state Department of Environmental Quality public hearing at the parish courthouse in Convent on Wolverine Terminals Corp.’s application for a minor air operating permit.
If the DEQ grants Wolverine the air permit, the company can move forward with plans to build a $30 million crude oil terminal and blending operation on a 15-acre Mississippi River site along La. 44 in Paulina.
Wolverine’s proposed project includes rail and dock facility improvements along with storage tank construction that would enable the company to receive heavy crude oil shipments by rail from Canadian and U.S. locations and to ship blended oil products by barge to domestic customers.
Given Wolverine ’s design and its “commitment to air pollution control, the facility will be a minor source of criteria pollutants and a minor source of hazardous air pollutants,” according to documents provided to DEQ by Wolverine Terminal Corp.
Wolverine’s general manager, Terry Wilson, told residents the proposed facility will not process crude oil and will not use unstable or reactive chemicals or use open flames. Instead, the new terminal will transport, receive and ship heavy Canadian crude oil, Wilson said.
The oil is too viscous to transport by pipeline and must be diluted to be pumped from storage tanks to barges and railcars for delivery to southeast Louisiana refineries, Wilson said.
Wolverine’s proposed site at 3338 La. 44, Paulina, is on land leased from the grain elevator company ADM Growmark and is the only site in St. James Parish that could accommodate the facility because it has access to railroad lines and the Mississippi River’s east bank, Wilson said.
Relocating to the west bank is not “economically feasible” because other sites are too narrow to accommodate barges and railcars and the facility’s desired rail line does not serve the west bank, Wilson said.
Some residents who live near the proposed site were not convinced Tuesday the site would not increase noise, air and water pollution or add danger to a residential community where their children live and play.
David Lambert shares a property line with ADM Growmark and has family on either side of the proposed site and behind it. He said he has accepted ADM Growmark as an agricultural facility but not a petrochemical one.
Lambert, who urged DEQ to deny Wolverine the air permit it sought, said he is also concerned with mechanical failure or human error at the proposed plant.
“If my kids are hurt, someone will pay the consequences,” Lambert warned Tuesday.
Others, however, supported Wolverine’s efforts to move to Paulina.
Julia Remondet, a retired government employee who worked to bring economic development to the area, said Wolverine is requesting a minor use permit.
“They’re not developing chemicals,” Remondet said.
Living next to a railway is a risk in itself where accidents could happen even without Wolverine moving in, Remondet said.
DEQ officials gave no date when it might decide on issuing the permit to Wolverine Terminals, Corp. but public comments are due Thursday, officials said Tuesday.