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Thursday, December 3, 2020
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Formosa Wants to Build One of the Largest, Most Toxic Plastics Plants in the World in St. James Parish – Doubling the Community’s Permitted Toxic Air Emissions

Powerful New Ads Expose Dangerous Health Risks Posed by Controversial Plant, and Calls on the Parish Council to Revoke its Application

St. James Parish — The St. James Parish Council is facing increasing pressure to stop Formosa Plastics from building one of the world’s largest, most toxic chemical plants in St. James Parish, as concerned residents today announced a sweeping new public awareness campaign to expose the dangerous health risks posed by the controversial plant.

The facility — projected to be one of the largest and most toxic of its kind in North America — pollutes too much for Formosa’s home country of Taiwan, so the overseas company has set its sights on St. James Parish. 

The $9.4 billion proposed facility would be the size of 80 football fields, doubling the Parish’s permitted toxic air emissions, and many fear leading to even more preventable deaths in a community already ravaged by cancer-causing chemical plants.

Families in St. James Parish suffer from among the highest rates of cancer in the nation, due to their proximity to more than 150 toxic chemical plants in an area experts call “Cancer Alley.” Residents living in Cancer Alley are 50 times more likely to get cancer than the average American. 

Protect Our Parish — a powerful new campaign hitting airwaves this week — highlights the tragic impact the toxic chemical plants have had on local families, and urges the Parish Council to stop the Formosa Plastics plant. 

The TV ad features the heartbreaking story of retired school teacher and St. James Parish resident Sharon Lavigne. She’s lost more than 30 friends and family members over the last five years, and feels the toxic plants are to blame. 

“I’ve been to over 30 funerals within the past five years,” says an emotional Lavigne. “My brothers have cancer, my neighbors are sick, and I’m worried about my children and grandchildren. And now, Formosa Plastics wants to bring one of the largest plants here. The Parish Council can’t let that happen.”

Lavigne is part of RISE St. James, a faith-based coalition of St. James Parish residents that formed to protect the community from cancer-causing chemical plants, and advocate for investment in healthier, longer-term industries. They’re launching the Protect Our Parish campaign now to expose just how dangerous the Formosa Plastics plant would be, and to urge the Parish Council to stop it. 

The ads will air during prime-time and daytime television on top-rated television stations including CNN, FOX, and CNBC. The Protect Our Parish campaign will also be featured in print ads, on billboards, and on radio and digital platforms including Facebook, YouTube, iHeart Radio, and on WWL during upcoming Saints games. The ads will be coupled with extensive and ongoing direct voter contact. 

St. James Parish residents say it doesn’t make sense to move forward with such a risky project, especially since the single-use plastics industry is on the decline. 

“Formosa’s plastics plant pollutes too much for its own country. Why should we let Formosa build in our backyard when they’re just going to take their profits back to Taiwan while we’re stuck with the consequences?” said Gail LeBoeuf, a longtime resident of St. James Parish. “That’s why we’re coming together as residents and voters to tell the St. James Parish Council: NO to Formosa. NO to more needless deaths.”

Single-use plastics are facing growing scrutiny and regulation worldwide. More than 120 countries have already enacted bans, and massive consumer companies, from Disney, to Starbucks to Unilever, have taken steps to phase them out. 

The Parish Council approved Formosa’s land use application in January 2019. New evidence, however, shows that the overseas conglomerate failed to disclose key facts to the Parish Council. 

Formosa Plastics failed to disclose the extent of the facility’s toxicity when seeking approval for its land use application. While the St. James Parish Council approved the land use application in January 2019, it was not revealed until July 2019 that the plant would double the community’s permitted toxic emissions

Company executives also failed to disclose to the community that a burial ground of enslaved people was on the site. Only after the community hired an independent archaeologist to review Formosa’s internal reports was it revealed that there are slave cemeteries on the site at the former Acadia and Buena Vista Plantations, along with potentially more.

Lawyers for the residents say that these are grounds for the Parish Council to revoke its permit immediately. According to the St. James Parish’s Home Rule Charter, the Council has the power and responsibility to “protect and preserve the general welfare, safety, health, peace, and good order of St. James Parish,” which includes taking action to rescind its approval of Formosa Plastics’ land use application.

Local residents say that the Parish Council has a choice: stand up for one of the largest, most toxic chemical plants in North America, or stand up for St. James Parish families.