Parish Council recap

Published 8:59 am Wednesday, January 18, 2023

LAPLACE — During the most recent St. John the Baptist Parish Council meeting in Edgard, six council members voted to adopt a resolution expressing their disapproval of the proposed seismic survey and construction of two Class V test injections wells by Air Products in Lake Maurepas.

Air Products, an Allentown, Pennsylvania-based company, is building a blue oxygen plant in Sorrento and hopes to transport carbon dioxide via pipeline to be sequestered at the bottom of Lake Maurepas.

The seismic testing will determine if the lake is suitable for sequestration.

The resolution states the parish is “opposed to the location of this project, and this resolution is a method to voice our opposition and concerns on this project.”

The proposed resolution said “St. John Parish and residents of St. John Parish,” but Councilman Robert Arcuri asked the second part of the sentence be removed, though he and Councilwoman Tammy Houston said the constituents they spoke with were overwhelmingly against the project.

Councilman Lennix Madere reiterated the parish’s action “does not carry any power of law” and reminded residents the parish does not have control regarding Air Products attempt’ to move forward.

“This is just an opinion of how the council basically feels,” he said. “In no way will it affect the coming or going of this project.

Arcuri read a prepared statement stating he is not opposed to the methodology of carbon dioxide sequestration but called Lake Maurepas the “worst site in the state to look at this project.”

He explained Lake Maurepas is used by thousands of recreational boaters annually and is also a valuable habit for shrimp, crabs and other aquatic wildlife.

Arcuri said he is also not opposed to industries relocating to the parish and would welcome the jobs and the tax benefits that such an industry would provide. But he added the “majority of tax breaks would go to a neighboring parish, not St. John.”

“I’m sure there are other sites for this project,” he said.

Councilman Warren Torres, who along with fellow council members Tonia Schnyder and Tom Malik observed a seismic testing on the lake this past fall, said he believes Air Products is being singled out.

“There are more people involved in this than just Air Products,” he said. “This is just one piece of the puzzle.”

Rather than adopt the resolution Tuesday night, he suggested the council delay any action until more information becomes available “before we jump the gun.”

Torres, Schnyder and Councilman Tyra Duhe-Griffin abstained from the voting. It passed with six in favor and three abstaining.

In other news, a pair of state grants totaling more than $7 million will allow St. John the Baptist Parish to complete water and wastewater improvements in two specific areas.

President Jaclyn Hotard informed the parish council during its meeting this past Tuesday night the parish had been awarded the grants through the Louisiana Water Sector Commission, one totaling $5 million and other $2.49 million. Hotard said the $5 million grant will be used to consolidate sewer systems in the Cambridge and Woodland subdivisions in Laplace and also allow for the closing of the aging Woodland wastewater treatment plan.

The second grant will be used to expand water treatment capacities at the Lions treatment plan that serves Garyville and Reserve. The plant also serves as a backup water supply for the west bank of the parish.

She said both projects should be completed in 2023. Hotard said the original estimates for the projects were estimated at $11.5 million.

The grants will allow the parish to save 65% of the planned expenditures, Hotard said, and also help for future business growth and development.

She was most proud of the fact the parish was awarded the grants through what she called a “competitive grant application process.”

Also during the meeting, Council members elected Tom Malik as chairman and Kurt Becnel vice chairman.