Shintech leaving St. James, heading to Plaquemine

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 21, 1998

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / September 21, 1998

ROMEVILLE – Shintech isn’t gone from St. James Parish, but news brokethis week that plans for the plastics facility proposed for rural East St. James have been suspended and a smaller facility is contemplated in partnership with Dow Chemical at Plaquemine.

When the company applies for permits there, opponent Pat Melancon of the St. James Citizens for Jobs and the Environment said protests willcontinue without stop until Shintech is gone from Louisiana.

“It’s going to be easier now,” Melancon said. “People know a single voicecan make a difference.”The company would be located near Dow Chemical, and a $250 million plant is proposed, as opposed to the $700 million plant offered to St.

James Parish.

The Plaquemine plant would employ 50 Shintech workers and 25 contract employees and process material produced by Dow into polyvinyl chloride plastics. This is similar to the arrangement at Shintech’s Freeport, Texas,facility, which also partners with Dow Chemical.

In a related move, permit work has been suspended for the St. JamesParish project while this alternative project gets off the ground. Shintechstated that once the new project’s permits are approved, it would officially withdraw the permit application for St. James Parish.Shintech Controller Dick Mason added that Shintech will not completely abandon St. James Parish, but would launch a job training program in theparish. “We feel strongly about doing this anyway,” Mason said. “We have agreat deal of support in the parish. The feelings and friendships there runmuch too deep.”St. James Parish President Dale Hymel Jr. said he is “disappointed but notsurprised.”Hymel continued, “I don’t see it as a major victory at all; the EPA dropped the ball.” He went on to say, “I still stand behind industrial growth alongthe river. Just because Shintech is gone, that doesn’t mean we’re going tostop looking.”Deputy Chief of Staff Terry Ryder of Gov. Foster’s office said the Shintechdecision “was a disappointment to the governor,” but added Foster had “no affinity or loyalty to Shintech, per se. His interest is jobs.”Ryder continued if Shintech had been built in St. James Parish, “it wouldhave had significant economic development. It’s a loss for that area and aloss for Louisiana.”Ryder concluded the decision may have a “chilling effect” on similar expansions around the country.

Bob Kuehn of the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, which has worked with local opponents in their legal battles against Shintech’s permits and incurred the wrath of Foster in the process, responded, “I doubt it,” to whether the heat was off the clinic now.

Shintech Vice President of Manufacturing Erv Schroeder added the company will launch a broad outreach program to assess and respond to community concerns, a lesson apparently learned in St. James Parishwhere opponents there say Shintech attempted to steamroll their way in to the parish.

“The program which gives unprecedented influence to a community in stiting a chemical facility, will include using citizens forums, individual conversations with community residents and asking Dow’s Community Advisory Panel for advice,” Schroeder said. “We are committed toproviding a project that will protect the health of and provide benefits to the citizens of Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes.”EPA Administrator Carol Browner applauded the Shintech decision and said, “I want to commend Shintech Inc. for their efforts in finding acommunity-based, constructive approach for ensuring industrial growth while protecting the rights of communities.”Melancon said help had come from residents in the Plaquemine area in the St. James battle and her group would respond in kind as the battlefieldshifts.

“We will keep our arms linked. We’re not going to let them locateanywhere in Louisiana. We see this as a major victory but we’re not goingto close our eyes for a second,” she said.

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