Sediment diversion slated for same site
A lawsuit filed Thursday alleges the state Department of Natural Resources illegally, and without supporting evidence, granted a coastal use permit to RAM Terminals LLC, to build a coal export facility along the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish.
Filed in 25th Judicial District Court, the lawsuit asks the court to throw out the approved coastal use permit and direct DNR to reconsider the decision to grant the permit.
“In issuing its decision, contrary to its legal obligations, the Department did not consider potential alternatives sites, or fully weight the considerable, adverse environmental impacts of the project against its questionable economic benefits,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Sierra Club Delta Chapter, the Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network and two people who live near the proposed project.
“There is a historic minority community near the proposed site and they don’t want or need another environmental hazard in their neighborhoods,” said Marylee Orr, executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
“Plaquemines Parish residents have, unfortunately, had many years of experience with coal yards,” agreed Al Armendariz, senior campaign manager with Sierra Club for the Beyond Coal campaign.
That experience has come with problems including having to wipe coal dust off their cars and porches as well as the concern about coal dusty in the air, he said.
“They’re very concerned that things are moving forward to build a third large coal yard,” he said, referring to two other coal terminals nearby.
The environmental groups and a number of local residents have repeatedly expressed concern not only about potential pollution from the terminal, but also that it is to be located on the same property the state of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority plans to build its first large sediment diversion for coastal restoration purposes.
Although there were initial concerns expressed by the state and through a report from The Water Institute of the Gulf that the coal terminal and the coastal restoration diversion weren’t compatible, lengthy discussions between the state and the company resulted in an operation agreement.
This agreement sets out conditions placed on the coal terminal during peak operating times for the diversion.
Either the facility follows these conditions, primarily to not operate the terminal during peak operating times, or the facility agrees to pay the state $26,000 a day meant to account for possible sediment lost to the diversion because of the facility’s continued operation.
Based on the assurance that with the agreement the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority believed both the coal terminal and the sediment diversion could co-exist on the same property, DNR granted the coastal use permit on Aug. 30.
“We don’t think the permit is compatible with the coastal restoration master plan. We don’t think it was appropriate for DNR to grant the permit,” Armendariz said.
“River diversions done smartly and done well are a critical part of restoring wetlands in coastal Louisiana.”
However, with concerns about pollution, coal dust getting into the diversion and the possibility of reduced sediment to the diversion if the coal terminal goes forward, DNR needs to relook at the coastal use permit issue, he said.
A call to DNR for comment was not returned by late Thursday afternoon.