Louisiana Coal Hubs Ignite Human Health And Coastal Restoration Concerns

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In Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, tensions are rising over coal export terminals that present jobs but additionally threaten human health and will interfere with coastal restoration. Armstrong Power in Missouri hopes to open a company-backed RAM coal terminal in Alliance, La. on the west bank of the decrease Mississippi River in 2014. However residents of Ironton, situated simply south of RAM’s site, say they don’t need their air high quality to get any worse than it is now. Ironton lies about 25 miles beneath New Orleans.

Coal and petcoke are among Louisiana’s prime exports, with mixed sales of $1.5 billion a yr. Louisiana produces petcoke — another to coal in power technology — from oil refining, however doesn’t fully tap its brown coal sources. But south Louisiana accounts for over a fifth of the nation’s coal exports and is making ready to ship much more. Houston-primarily based Kinder Morgan has expanded its International Marine Terminal or IMT, situated two miles south of Ironton near Myrtle Grove. IMT is a 24-hour facility, storing coal and petcoke on the ground.

United Bulk Terminal, owned by Bulk Handling USA, is throughout the river from IMT and a few miles south in Davant. Transport coal and petcoke, UBT is the largest, dry-bulk export facility on the Gulf, and plans to upgrade its site over the next two years.

Stan Mathes, Plaquemines Parish economic director, mentioned growth in the area’s coal export capacity is geared to the Panama Canal’s enlargement by 2014 and better trade with Asia. In recent years, the Gulf has change into a big coal exporter as a result of U.S. East Coast ports are congested and West Coast ports are expensive to achieve by rail. “The shortest route isn’t necessarily the cheapest rout in shipping,” Mathes stated.

Critics say one motive coal terminals are locating in Plaquemines is that Louisiana doesn’t implement its environmental legal guidelines as rigorously as many different states with ocean ports.

Final Thursday, the Plaquemines Parish Council, which governs the Plaquemines Port, Harbor & Terminal District, voted to rescind, however was unable to overturn, an April port-district resolution that supported issuing bonds for RAM Terminals. That left assist in place for RAM.

South Louisiana’s progress as a coal hub does not sit properly with Audrey Trufant Salvant, a fifth-era resident of Ironton. She stated “years in the past, they constructed the IMT coal terminal south of us in Myrtle Grove. We also have the CHS Grain elevator nearby in Alliance and the Conoco Phillips refinery slightly north of that. We’re cleansing our houses and furniture extra often and changing our air conditioning filters extra continuously. We’re not sitting exterior as a lot as we did.” The IMT opened in 1978.

“Dust is all over the place, and we have have extra childhood asthma and adult bronchitis in this space than we did in the past,” she said.

What’s more, Salvant fears Ironton residents might be pressured to maneuver away to make room for the RAM terminal. “Rumor is they want to relocate this community where my household has lived because the early 1800s,” she said. Ironton, which was reduced to forty nine families after Hurricane Katrina, “is 100 p.c African American, and our hunter and fisher ancestors had been right here 200 years in the past. The primary grave in my household’s cemetery is from 1803.”

Salvant stated, “Before IMT opened its Myrtle Grove coal terminal, they moved the small group of Wooden Park that I knew as a child. Those ten households took buyouts and ended up scattering to varied places, together with other parishes.”

She famous, “African American communities in south Louisiana seem to be targeted over and over for these industrial sites, and we’re getting the worst from them.”

Final week, New Orleans-based Charles Wesley, business growth director with RAM Terminals LLC in St. Louis, said “RAM won’t ask the group to relocate. We personal our land at the location and there isn’t any need for individuals to maneuver.” He said the ability will create 300 jobs dung building and a hundred and twenty to one hundred fifty full-time jobs.

The terminal shall be built with a system that sprays mist during hot, dry circumstances to damp down coal-pile dust, Wesley stated.

“We will probably be a big taxpayer and a few of those tax dollars will probably be used for coastal restoration. We’re working closely with Garrett Graves’ office at the state’s Coastal Safety Restoration Authority and cooperating in the state’s restoration plans.” The terminal is to be situated at a spot where the state and the Army Corps of Engineers hope to build a river diversion to revive marshland.

On the Gulf Restoration Network in New Orleans, coastal wetland specialist Scott Eustice questioned why the site was chosen by RAM. “Not solely is it in an area the place residents are already exposed to multiple sources of pollution — from the IMT coal terminal, an oil refinery and a grain terminal — but RAM wants to build at the precise location the place the Corps is planning a diversion,” he mentioned. Eustice stated the corporate’s negotiations with authorities, to comply with the wants of the diversion, might gradual coastal restoration in the parish.

Eustice said Hurricane Isaac confirmed the threats that coal terminals pose for Plaquemines. “Floodwater overtopped all the things throughout the storm, therapy pumps had been bypassed and there was a extreme lack of containment. Water containing coal ash was pumped into surrounding areas.” He noted that coal blended with water leaves a telltale purple stain.

RAM is rounding up permits for its export facility now. Louisiana Dept. of Environmental High quality spokeswoman Jean Kelly stated the company was issued an air permit on July 9, effective instantly. “The corporate will need a DEQ pollutant discharge elimination system, or LPDES, water permit, along with a Coastal Use Permit from the Dept. of Natural Assets,” she said. “They can not start development until they’ve all permits.”

RAM additionally needs a permit from the Military Corps, Corps spokesman Ricky Boyett stated in New Orleans final week. If the state and the Corps do subject permits for the power, “RAM will need to develop a wetland mitigation plan that is acceptable to our resource agencies, which embrace the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. Environmental Protection Company,” he mentioned.

Boyett stated a feasibility research is underway for the proposed river diversion. “The mission, recognized because the Medium Diversion at Myrtle Grove with Dedicated Dredging, is slated for the lower Mississippi River in the Barataria Basin,” he said. “It is being studied in partnership with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana.” Water and sediment could be moved into the basin for restoration. “The intent of the diversion is to deposit and retain river sources to maintain a minimum 33,880 acres of marshland over the subsequent fifty years,” he defined. The challenge would incorporate dredging to build land.

On Sept. 21, The Sierra Membership, the Christian Ministers Missionary Baptist Affiliation of Plaquemines and the Louisiana Environmental Motion Network challenged DEQ’s approval of a Clean Air Act permit for RAM Terminals in a lawsuit filed in nineteenth Judicial District Court docket.in Baton Rouge.

As for current progress in the state’s coal exports, David Dismukes, power studies professor at Louisiana State University, stated “Louisiana has oil and natural gasoline, and we as a nation have oil, fuel and coal. But other countries do not have all these power choices.”

China’s thirst for international coal has slackened not too long ago however European demand for U.S. coal has been crimson scorching this 12 months. Wesley stated “coal at the RAM Terminal could come from any producing area in this country, and it could be shipped to customers anyplace, probably those in Europe, Asia and South America.”

Salvant in Ironton mentioned of the expansion in coal terminals: “We want the jobs, however not enough to sacrifice our health and our lives.” She stated just a few Ironton residents are employed at the IMT coal facility in Mrytle Grove.

Salvant and her neighbors have motive to worry. An April report by Sightline Institute, a Seattle, Wa.-based mostly environmental nonprofit, mentioned “publicly obtainable, satellite tv for pc imagery of Kinder Morgan’s port site at Myrtle Grove exhibits plumes of what seems to be coal dust, or probably petroleum coke, contaminating the Mississippi River at a number of factors in and around the ship loading amenities.”

In a Sept. 6 statement, the Gulf Restoration Network stated Plaquemines’ two major coal terminals flooded throughout Isaac, pouring polluted runoff into surrounding water, wetlands and farm land. GRN Deputy Director Aaron Viles said plans to expand these two terminals and to construct a RAM Terminal in the neighborhood needs to be scrapped.