Environmental Groups Challenge Proposed $1 Billion Petrochemical Plant in Geismar
Environmental Groups Challenge Proposed $1 Billion Petrochemical Plant in Geismar

Environmental Groups Challenge Proposed $1 Billion Petrochemical Plant in Geismar

  • 05-Feb-2024 12:28 PM
  • Journalist: Patrick Knight

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) is poised to greenlight an air pollution permit for a groundbreaking $1 billion petrochemical plant in Geismar, which is slated to become the largest plastics facility of its kind globally.

Mitsubishi Chemical Co. is spearheading the ambitious venture, intending to construct the facility on an expansive 77-acre site in Geismar. The plant's primary focus is on the production of methyl methacrylate (MMA), a versatile chemical utilized in various applications such as paints, adhesives, building panels, and other acrylic polymers. Seeking approval from LDEQ, Mitsubishi Chemical Co. aims to secure a permit that would authorize the emission of substantial quantities of toxic gases and nearly 781,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually. This emission volume would position the plant among the top 50 pollution emitters in the state.

Geismar, situated along the Mississippi River in Ascension Parish, finds itself within the notorious "Cancer Alley" petrochemical corridor, renowned for its abysmal air quality and elevated cancer rates. With more than 5,000 residents residing within a 3-mile radius of the proposed Mitsubishi plant, the community is already surrounded by existing petrochemical plants owned by industry giants such as BASF, Occidental Chemical Corp, Shell Chemical, Rubicon, Westlake Chemical, and Air Products.

In a public notice soliciting feedback on the potential grant of the air permit, LDEQ asserted that the project is not anticipated to have a "significant adverse impact on soil, vegetation, visibility, or air quality in the area of the facility." However, this assertion is met with scepticism and opposition from some Ascension Parish residents and environmental activists. At a recent public hearing convened by LDEQ, individuals voiced their concerns and distributed statements to the press. Pamela Ambeau, a resident of Ascension Parish and an active member of the local environmental group Rural Roots Louisiana, expressed dismay at the prospect of adding further air pollution to an area already burdened by emissions from existing petrochemical plants.

The Geismar plant represents Mitsubishi's third global endeavor in producing MMA using ethylene, a chemical derived from natural gas. While the company's only other MMA-producing site in the U.S. is in Memphis, it employs older technologies. Mitsubishi asserts that its Geismar project will utilize newer technology with a "significantly lower carbon footprint."

LDEQ is anticipated to grant the air permit later this year, paving the way for potential construction commencement as early as 2025. The decision has sparked a contentious debate between economic interests and environmental concerns, leaving the fate of Geismar's $1 billion petrochemical plant hanging in the balance.

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