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Residents fight to stop construction of massive, pollution-producing plant near their homes: 'We know it's possible'

For years, the majority-Black community of North Port St. Joe, Florida has been working tirelessly to rejuvenate the town.

North Port St. Joe LNG plant

Photo Credit: iStock

For years, the majority-Black community of North Port St. Joe, Florida, has been working tirelessly to rejuvenate the town, Inside Climate News reported. Residents had secured hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding to redevelop the area. 

Now, work has stalled as energy company Nopetro Energy has unveiled plans for a heavily-polluting "liquid natural gas" plant right next door.

What's happening?

Natural gas, also called methane gas, is a kind of fuel that is usually in vapor form. When it's very cold, it becomes liquid natural gas (LNG), which is easier to ship than vapor. When transporting it to other countries, suppliers like to cool it at an LNG terminal.

Nopetro Energy and its government supporters are preparing to build an LNG terminal in North Port St. Joe, Inside Climate News said. 

Since the closure of the local paper mill in 1999, the community has struggled, especially compared to the wealthier, majority-white Port St. Joe. The paper mill caused pollution that still affects the area, and its closure damaged the economy since many residents depended on it for jobs.

State Representative Jason Shoaf has been quietly pushing for the terminal, which will be built on the site of the former paper mill, Inside Climate News reported. Shoaf is vice president of the St. Joe Gas Company, Inc., under his father, Stuart Shoaf, who is president. The company connects to the gas pipeline that supplies the proposed terminal and would profit directly from its construction.

Why does it matter?

LNG terminals create huge amounts of air pollution. People living near LNG plants suffer major health effects, and nearby wildlife also suffers.

This move is also placing an unfair burden on a community already suffering from industrial pollution. It's very common for businesses that create toxic pollution to do it in poor and minority communities, including Black neighborhoods like North Port St. Joe.

What's being done?

According to Inside Climate News, the residents had a plan in place for the town. They intended to redevelop Martin Luther King Boulevard, their main street, with new homes and businesses, improved sidewalks, and a new Black history museum.

"Because of what we see happening on the other side of town, we know it's possible," Dannie Bolden, vice president of the North Port St. Joe Project Area Coalition, told Inside Climate News

The project had secured $850,000 of funding from the EPA and an additional grant from the Biden administration.

That plan may still be completed one day, but for now, Inside Climate News reported that the locals have focused their efforts on stopping the construction of the new LNG plant.

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