No one will win in fight with Petroplex

Published 11:11 am Thursday, December 11, 2014

Q: What does a pile of dirt in St. James Parish cost?

A: Ten of millions of dollars or more, according to the stakeholders in Petroplex International’s $800 million tank farm construction project near Vacherie.

Parish officials issued a stop-work order last week for the location, citing a lack of construction progress.

Essentially, parish officials maintain Petroplex missed various construction deadlines and benchmarks throughout the year and have just moved dirt around at the site.

“We are trying to hold their feet to the fire with the stop-work order,” St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said last week. “We are still in the process of debating it. We don’t know if we gained any ground towards any kind of agreement.”

It’s a stance Petroplex CEO Larry Sciacchetano firmly disagrees with; he’s also upset with how parish officials are handling the situation publically.

“If they continue this stop-work order, common sense will tell you, you can’t very well walk away from $45 million that has been invested in this project,” Sciacchetano said Monday morning. “We’ve got investors with really deep pockets who are not going to want to walk away from $45 million just because the parish thinks we’re moving dirt around, and they don’t see structures going up the first week.”

If the parish and Petroplex officials can’t come to an agreement, then this issue is destined for a lengthy and costly litigation, in which no one wins and St. James Parish residents surely suffer. Roussel said there are some “options open,” but he is unsure if all parties can agree, which might force a judge’s active role.

“I’m not sure if (Petroplex is) too happy with letting a judge decide,” Roussel said.

That might be the only point Petroplex and St. James Government agrees on at this time.

“If (St. James is) going to block us with things that are just not factual, then we do not have any other options but to defend ourselves,” Sciacchetano said.

“You can only take so much abuse, you have to stand your ground and do what’s right.

“Look, I was an Olympic wrestling coach and a college wrestling coach, my nature is to battle. If you’re telling me we have to kill this project, then I’m going to have to fight back.”