Formosa Plastics Group unit FG LA LLC will continue early work on a plastics and petrochemicals complex in Louisiana, even as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reviews permits that had been issued for the project.
Officials with FG in Welcome, La., reached an agreement Nov. 4 with environmental groups that had filed lawsuits to stop the project. The complex would be located in St. James Parish.
The agreement was accepted on Nov. 5 by U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss in Washington, D.C.
Under the agreement, soil testing will be the only activity allowed in wetlands at the site. All affected areas will be clearly marked, with additional flags or markers 20 feet from wetlands and 50 feet from three locations that could be unmarked cemeteries. One confirmed cemetery already is fenced off.
The Army Corps of Engineers is deciding if potential environmental impacts at the site require it to change, suspend or revoke the permit for the project.
FG "has been very diligent to make sure it has done everything required to ensure proper issuance of, and compliance with, its permits and will continue to do so," spokesman Janile Parks said in a statement to Plastics News.
Sharon Lavigne, a member of Rise St. James, an environmental group involved, said in a news release that she was "overjoyed" by the news of the Army review.
"This hopefully marks the beginning of our victory over Formosa Plastics," she added.
In late October, FG officials said the firm would delay major construction on the Louisiana project, labeled the Sunshine Project, until the COVID-19 pandemic had subsided or an effective vaccine is widely available. Officials said at the time that impacts of the pandemic — including challenges in evaluating construction costs and restrictions on international travel — are being felt across all industries and businesses.
FG had received final operating permits for the complex from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in January. The $9.4 billion investment is expected to create 1,200 new direct jobs and a peak construction workforce of more than 8,000.
Construction would be spread over several years but would include almost 2 billion pounds of annual production capacity for both high density and linear low density polyethylene, as well as about 1.3 billion pounds of annual capacity for polypropylene.
Formosa first announced plans for the project in St. James Parish in April 2018. Formosa Plastics Corp. USA already operates a major petrochemicals and plastics site in Point Comfort, Texas. Both FG and Formosa Plastics are units of Formosa Group of Taiwan.