A new, more stringent review of the environmental impacts of a massive proposed plastics plant along the Mississippi River in St. James Parish will likely take more than two years.
Environmental groups are cheering that scrutiny, arguing it could provide a more realistic assessment of the environmental damage the plant would do to an area they say already bears a heavy burden of pollution. But some local government and business leaders are trying to rally support for a project that could create about 1,200 permanent jobs and pour millions of dollars into the local economy.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had already approved permits for the Sunshine Project, a $9.4 billion plastics plant that Formosa has been trying to build for three years, but it rescinded them a year ago. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit claiming the environmental study was inadequate, and the Corps acknowledged errors.
Now the Corps of Engineers is conducting a more thorough review called an “environmental impact statement.” It’s only the fourth such review the New Orleans district of the Corps has conducted since 2008.
Martin Mayer, the Corps of Engineers’ regulatory chief in New Orleans, said the EIS process has “an average goal” of rendering a decision in two years. It will involve multiple opportunities for public input so that no “stone goes unturned,” he said.