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The Cornerstone Chemical Co. plant in Waggaman, La. Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. The company wants to build a new $100 million cyanide plant.

Cornerstone Chemical Co. has sued Jefferson Parish after the Parish Council last week revoked permission for the plant to add new cyanide facilities to its Waggaman plant.

The company filed the suit Monday in 24th Judicial District Court, seeking temporary and permanent orders to prevent the council's ordinance from taking effect. Typically, ordinances take effect 10 days after they are passed.

Judge Donnie Rowan denied the motion for a temporary restraining order and set a hearing for April 23. Cornerstone attorneys will have to show cause then for their requests for temporary and permanent injunctions.

The council voted 6-1 on Wednesday to rescind the permission it gave unanimously in January 2018 for the plant to add the new facilities.

Since then, residents in Harahan, River Ridge, Waggaman and Avondale began complaining of noxious smells plaguing the area. While there is no evidence that Cornerstone's Waggaman plant was responsible for the smells, the permit renewal attracted the attention of some residents, who mounted a vigorous campaign against it.

Plant officials have said the new facilities would not add new cyanide production capacity to the plant but simply replace production that has been reduced by improvements to other processes.

The company sells all the cyanide it produces to an onsite tenant. Cyanide is extremely toxic to humans. 

The lawsuit was not unexpected. Representatives from local business groups implored the council to continue negotiating with the company rather than rescind the permit, citing the likelihood of a lawsuit and the anti-business precedent they said such a vote would set.

The lone dissenter on the council, Dominick Impastato, warned his colleagues that they could face legal action if they passed the ordinance. 

In its filing, the company said it has spent $10.6 million on design, engineering, consultation and other fees on the project, which includes more construction and upgrades than just the hydrocyanic acid facility. 

"If the council is allowed to amend (the permit), Cornerstone would have to reverse certain work already performed and would lose millions of dollars already spent," the lawsuit says.

It says the council's decision was arbitrary and capricious and denies Cornerstone a vested property right.

Councilman Mark Spears, whose district includes the plant and who proposed both the ordinance granting the permit modification last year and the one that rescinded it last week, declined to comment on the lawsuit.


Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon. Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.