Shintech Inc. is hedging its bets for a PVC resin production plant in Louisiana.
Amid stiff opposition to the proposed PVC complex in Convent, La., the Houston firm instead is considering a PVC plant in Plaquemine, La., about 25 miles west of Convent on the Mississippi River.
Shintech is looking at a scaled-down, $250 million project to produce PVC resin only, relying on a nearby Dow Chemical Co. complex to supply the new plant with vinyl chloride monomer. Shintech had proposed a $700 million investment at Convent, including chlorine, caustic soda and VCM operations.
Shintech will assess Plaquemine's local concerns before it submits an application for an Environmental Protection Agency permit, according to Erv Schroeder, vice president of manufacturing. It also will ask state and EPA officials to suspend work on Convent permits while the Plaquemine project goes through regulatory processes. If Plaquemine is accepted, Shintech will withdraw its Convent permit.
Environmental groups, including Greenpeace, opposed the Convent project, partly because it would be located in a predominantly African-American area. The Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter in July to the EPA opposing the Convent project. It claimed the area is overburdened by toxic facilities.
EPA was reviewing whether the project violates its environmental justice guidelines, a relatively new legal argument that holds that polluting factories should not be located disproportionately in poor or minority communities.
EPA Administrator Carol Browner commended Shintech's new plan in a Sept. 17 statement. She lauded the firm's ``efforts in finding a community-based, constructive approach for ensuring industrial growth while protecting the rights of communities.''
``We look forward to working with Shintech as they move forward with their plans to build a new facility in Louisiana,'' Browner said.
Greenpeace hailed Shintech's decision as a victory for environmental justice, but added that the group would fight the proposal in Plaquemine.
``This is an obvious face-saving move by a player in a dirty industry that is becoming more dead-end and obsolete by the day,'' Greenpeace toxins specialist Damu Smith said in a news release.
Shintech said its outreach program in Plaquemine will give ``unprecedented influence to a community in siting a chemical facility, will include using citizens' forums, individual conversations with community residents and asking Dow's Community Advisory Panel for advice.''
The company claimed that piping VCM from Dow's plant will cut emissions of volatile organic chemicals by 70 percent compared with its Convent proposal. Shintech has had a similar feedstock arrangement with Dow at its Freeport, Texas, PVC plant for several years.
Shintech said it plans to hire as many local residents as possible for 50 permanent and 25 contract jobs at Plaquemine. The 1.3 billion-pound-per-year facility could begin operating in three to five years.