Attorney: No quit in tank farm fight

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – Documents issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) call emissions and water discharges anticipated from the Safeland Storage tank farm as only “a minor source” of any environmental impact to the region.

DEQ issued a summary report on their review for permits to the Safeland facility, and repeatedly showed how the company exceeded regulatory standards required, and made various concessions that would reduce what environmental impact there might be to the region.

That report, along with the results of a lawsuit almost 20 years ago on rezoning the same property, are the reasons St. John Parish Attorney Jeff Perilloux believe the parish did all it should in responding to concerns about the new company.

From the early stages of Safeland seeking the permits to build the tank farm, there was criticism of St. John for not being responsive enough to the people of the Garyville area. In particular, Garyville resident and activist Carl Monica had been outspoken in saying the Parish Council was not representing the interests of their area.

But Perilloux said the parish had little say-so in the matter since the property was already zoned commercially, and the matter was in the hands of the state DEQ, which was to decide on the issuance of the permits.

“The people have to understand that the question of whether this could be an industrial site was settled 16 years ago when another company came in to build there,” he said.

That was the time another Garyville neighborhood group sued to stop Aristec from bringing a chemical plant to the property. The case went to court, and the zoning was upheld, as well as buffers being established for such an industry that would come to the property. Aristec later decided not to relocated here, but the zoning and buffers remained intact.

It is that case, which settled those matters, said Perilloux, which is the reason the Parish Council could not delve into those issues. Additionally, calls by Monica for an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the property were also something the parish had no authority to call for.

“It’s never been done for the parish to ask for an EIS,” he said. “DEQ, again, is in charge of that if they think there is need for it. Obviously in this case they did not think that.”

“For us to entertain the idea of trying to address these things, which is the DEQ responsibility, would open us up to legal action,” Perilloux explained. “Judicially, these matters have been settled.”

The parish attorney added that “it’s my job to defend the process of what the Parish Council is doing, and as far as I’m concerned, I think we handled the entire process with the tank farm properly.”

Perilloux added that one of the two Parish Council reps from the area, Allen St. Pierre, went on record supporting the tank farm, which added to the reasons that the full council did not open up more discussion on the matter.

“But with all that said, people like Carl Monica addressed the council maybe five or six times about this. They had a chance to speak,” he added.

That left the main decision in the hands of DEQ, which issued a report on the process for water and air permits, and continually pointed to the positive answers to environmental questions about the tank farm.

“DEQ said that Safeland planned to use “state-of-the-art air emission and control devices, many which exceed regulatory requirements.” They pointed to a thermal oxidizer, which has 99 percent vapor emissions release of clean air, when DEQ requirements only call for 90 percent efficiency.

They also noted that Safeland agreed to perform air modeling for their project, although the scope of the project did not require that, and Safeland held a public hearing that was not required.

“The results of the air modeling again confirmed that even under extreme conservation, worst-case operational scenarios, air emissions from the facility will be well below the federal and state air standards.

In considering the water permit, Safeland voluntarily agreed not to accept any ballast water, bilge water or slop water from its customers vessels, even though accepting such materials would have provided the company with an additional source of income.

Tanks were purposely located as close to the western side of the property to keep them as far away from residential property, and Safeland is committed to planting trees, landscaping or other steps to provide substantial light and sound barrier to the eastern side of the facility, DEQ said.

DEQ added that “construction of the facility is expected to improve local security, since once operational, the facility should minimize the possibility of undesirable activity on the property by trespassers.”

The tank farm is expected to provide 3,000 construction jobs and related jobs for one year, then begin with 35 full time employees with estimated annual salaries between $65,000 and $92,000.

In its final basis for decision, DEQ found that “the social and economic benefits of the proposed project will outweigh greatly its adverse environmental impacts.”