St. James Parish Council approves Petroplex’s build

Published 11:45 pm Friday, May 9, 2014

By Monique Roth

CONVENT – A single decision Wednesday night was heralded as a major victory by some and a reason to move out of St. James Parish for others when the St. James Parish Council granted Petroplex permission to build an $800 million tank farm in Vacherie.

The Council’s 6-1 vote for approval for the continuation of construction overruled the parish planning commission’s 5-3 vote to deny construction permission.

Strictly speaking, the project no longer fits with the designations of the recently adapted land-use ordinance, but company representatives hoped that because the project was approved well before the ordinance was passed, the commission would OK the request to begin construction.

The parish’s land use plan has the Petroplex site earmarked as an agricultural and residential area, not industrial.

Jimmy Percy of the law firm Jones Walker reiterated Petroplex is not a manufacturing facility, but rather a storage facility.

As such, the dangers presented by the project to the surrounding residential and commercial interests are less than a production facility, although certain dangers, especially that of fire or contamination, are present.

Percy explained if Petroplex cannot commence continuous construction at the site by July 31, it would have to reapply for an air permit with the Department of Environmental Quality. Appeals to Petroplex’s original air permit dragged on for two years.

Percy told the council Petroplex has spent $33 million on the project thus far.

At the meeting, public comments varied with several local residents expressing their displeasure with the idea of the farm being located so close to their homes, while others welcomed the economic boost to the parish the facility would bring.

Matthew Zeringue, a St. James resident who owns property next to the proposed plant, is part of Community Strength, a group that fought Petroplex’s air permit. On Wednesday night he reminded council members of a petition that garnered more than 1,100 signatures in opposition of the facility.

On the contrary, Paul Aucoin, chairman of the St. James Parish Economic Development Board, told the Council he was “requesting a favorable vote” for Petroplex and told the Council this Petroplex’s plan is “as good as it gets.”

Councilmen Jason Amato, Ken Brass, James Brazan, Charles Ketchens, Terry McCreary and Alvin St. Pierre voted in favor of Petroplex.

District 4 Councilman Ralph Patin, who represents the district in which the tank farm would be built, voted against Petroplex.