The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Aug. 18 that it is requiring a much more detailed environmental review of Formosa Plastics' massive petrochemical complex in Louisiana, a decision that opponents said they hope means the project will be canceled.
But Formosa Group LA LLC, which is building the $9.4 billion complex, said it was still assessing what it would mean for the project, saying the Corps announcement did not provide enough details.
President Joe Biden's appointee to head the Corps, Jaime Pinkham, released a statement on Twitter saying that the controversial plastics and petrochemical complex in St. James Parish would undergo an environmental impact statement (EIS), including reviewing environmental justice concerns.
"I conclude an EIS process is warranted to thoroughly review areas of concern, particularly those with environmental justice implications," said Pinkham, who is the acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.
In October, the Corps had suspended Formosa's permit for the complex, called the Sunshine Project, following a lawsuit from environmental groups. Pinkham's announcement means the project has to face more hurdles.
Opponents of the complex hope the EIS process and the delay will mean the company will cancel the project, but Formosa said in a statement it was still assessing the announcement.
"The tweet and accompanying letter from the acting assistant secretary of the Army posted today online provide little detail on EIS procedure the Corps intends to use in its additional evaluation of the project," said Janile Parks, director of community and government relations with Formosa Group LA LLC.
"As a result, the company will continue to work with the Corps as we receive more guidance on the additional evaluation and has no further comment at this time," Parks said.
The head of local group Rise St. James said she hoped the announcement would mean the end of the Sunshine Project.
"With God's help, Formosa Plastics will soon pull out of our community," said Sharon Lavigne, the founder of the group. "The Army Corps has finally heard our pleas and understands our pain."
In a statement, the Center for Biological Diversity called the Corps' decision a "major victory."
"This long-overdue review will show the unacceptable harm Formosa Plastics' massive petrochemical complex would inflict on this community, our waterways, and our climate," said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at CBD.
CBD said the project would emit 13.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, the equivalent of 3.5 coal-fired power plants, and would give off 800 tons of toxic air pollutants a year, doubling emissions in St. James Parish.
"I am hopeful that this is the nail in the coffin of Formosa Plastics in St. James Parish," said Anne Rolfes, executive director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a local environmental group that opposes the project.
Attorneys General from four Northeastern states and the District of Columbia wrote the Corps in May asking for a more detailed review.
In March, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights issued a statement criticizing the project, saying it would double the cancer risk in the predominantly African-American St. James Parish, pushing it well above cancer risks in nearby areas with a predominantly white population.
Formosa, in its statement, said that major construction on the project has been on hold since November, pending the Corps re-evaluation of its permit.
"FG LA LLC's unwavering commitment to the parish and to Louisiana has remained constant as the company continues to invest in community needs and build meaningful community partnerships," Parks said.