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Major court decision could clear the way for toxin-spewing US plastics plant: 'I know we're gonna win this battle'

It doesn't end this David-versus-Goliath battle.

It doesn’t end this David-versus-Goliath battle.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

A recent court ruling could pave the way for the construction of the largest plastics plant in the U.S., allowing a chemical giant to produce staggering amounts of cancer-linked pollution in Louisiana.

What's happening?

Grist reported that a recent Louisiana court ruling revived plans for the country's largest plastics manufacturing complex, proposed by the Taiwanese chemical company Formosa Plastics.

If built, the 2,400-acre project could more than triple the cancer risk for some residents of St. James Parish, which has a population of over 19,000. It would also become one of Louisiana's largest producers of planet-warming gases.

Initially, Formosa's permits were struck down after local advocacy groups, including Rise St. James and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, sued. But now, the appeals court has cleared the way for construction of the $9.4 billion complex along the Mississippi River. The area is already burdened by heavy industrial pollution, earning it the name "Cancer Alley."

Why is this concerning?

Plastics plants release astounding amounts of toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other illnesses. The Formosa facility was permitted to annually release over 800 tons of pollutants like benzene into the air, exacerbating public health issues

The plant would also produce millions of tons of planet-warming pollution per year, equal to the output of more than three coal power plants, per Grist.

Additionally, Formosa has a track record of environmental violations at other facilities. This includes illegal dumping of plastic pellets along the Texas coast and contributing to a major fish die-off in Vietnam in 2016 that harmed millions who rely on fishing incomes.

What's being done about this?

While the court ruling is certainly discouraging, it doesn't end this David-versus-Goliath battle. Appeals will continue, as will an ongoing comprehensive environmental review from the Army Corps of Engineers, which could also halt the complex's development.

"I know we're gonna win this battle," said Sharon Lavigne, founder and executive director of Rise St. James, as reported by Grist. "It might take us a little longer, but we are going to win."

Anne Rolfes, head of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, echoed Lavigne's sentiment: "We are in Louisiana, a state dominated by the petrochemical industry. If I got discouraged when we had setbacks from our government, I would have quit long ago."

Concerned citizens can help by contacting Louisiana legislators and demanding Formosa's permits be revoked. We can also "vote with our wallets" by reducing personal plastic usebringing reusable bags to the grocery store instead of relying on disposable ones, for instance.

With a little creative collaboration, a healthier future remains possible. Every small choice adds up to real change.

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