In spite of numerous offers from other locations, Shintech Inc. officials said the company plans to stick things out in its attempt to build a major PVC plant in Convent, La.
Officials had hoped to begin construction late last year, but the project has been delayed by legal challenges from various environmental groups. These delays have led other suitors to come calling on Shintech in recent months in an attempt to lure the PVC market leader away from Louisiana.
Shintech controller Dick Mason said recent offers have come from Mississippi, Arizona, Arkansas, Alberta, and other locations within Louisiana.
``People will call and say they know things aren't going quickly [in Convent], and they want to know if they have a shot,'' Mason said in a recent telephone interview. ``But unless it's a piece of property we haven't seen before, we're probably not interested.''
Mason said Shintech re-examined other potential sites — including locations in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana — last year when controversy began, but officials came to the same conclusion: Convent is the best site for the company's needs.
The site's deep-water access is one of several factors that gave Convent the edge.
Recent events — including a decision to uphold the plant's water permit and the expected reissue of its air permit — have made Shintech optimistic about the project.
The Environmental Protection Agency in September objected to permits granted by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. At that time, department secretary J. Dale Givens said most of EPA's concerns were technical items not connected to the department's review of the proposed plant's emission levels.
``Realistically, we're looking to the end of this year as far as going ahead with construction,'' Mason said. ``There continues to be a lot of attention focused on it, but right now there's not a lot of activity.''
Foremost among the obstacles facing the project is a claim that it violates EPA environmental justice guidelines because of its location in a low-income, minority-occupied area.
EPA still is reviewing the matter — the first such challenge to make its way to the federal level. Several plastics industry sources have said the case could set a precedent for plant construction across the country.
EPA spokeswoman Tanya Meekins said EPA does not expect LDEQ to reissue Shintech's air permit until the environmental justice issue is decided. EPA is waiting for a public comment period on Convent-area demographics — including racial and economic information about area residents — to expire before deciding what its next step will be. That period expires May 4.
The demographic data, gathered by EPA staff, will be used to determine if Shintech has violated the EPA's environmental justice guidelines by choosing the Convent site, according to Meekins.
``We're being a little more cautious because this is the first time we've done this,'' Meekins said.
The $700 million plant would create 165 permanent jobs. It would have an annual capacity of 1.1 billion pounds each of PVC, vinyl chloride monomer and caustic soda, and 990 million pounds of chlorine.