RISE St. James: A message from our Founder & Director and Chief Operating Officer

Published 3:20 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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We fervently called for the rejection of the permit for the Koch Methanol Pipeline until the St. James emergency department is suitably equipped to respond to pipeline emergencies.

Since 2010, the Department of Transportation has diligently documented significant pipeline leaks, consistently ranking St. James, particularly block group 1 (220930405001), among the highest areas for oil and gas pipeline leaks in the United States.

Regrettably, our region lacks a fire station and a dedicated emergency response system for potentially life-threatening incidents. We implore establishing a fully funded fire station in St. James District 5, backed by paid personnel and emergency response exercises, with support from entities like Koch Methanol, Marathon, Exxon, Shell, NuStar, and others.

Since 2010, St. James District 5 has endured 30 major oil and gas pipeline leaks, occurring at an alarming rate of over twice a year, drawing concern from the US Department of Transportation beyond state police.

Koch Methanol must comprehensively evaluate the cumulative impact of wetland disruption due to pipeline construction. Data from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) since 1980 reveals 46 excavations for pipeline repairs in our block group and 128 excavations for pipeline repairs, anomaly digs, or emergency leak repairs throughout St. James District 5. This places our region in the top 90% percentile for wetlands excavation related to pipeline leak repairs within the entire coastal zone.

We must question why our area necessitates more pipeline repairs compared to most other regions in St. James Parish and along the Louisiana Coast.

St. James Parish must acknowledge that the land along Hwy 3127 consists of wetlands and is unsuitable for pipelines. Before granting any further permits, securing funding for emergency response capabilities is imperative, given that our region experiences more emergencies than most areas in the state, along the coastal zone, and throughout the United States.

Despite the need for a dedicated fire station and emergency response system, the Parish Council voted unanimously on October 11, 2023, to give Koch Methanol another tax break in the amount of $7.4 million over a 10-year period.  Exempting Koch Methanol from paying all of its taxes leaves the parish with less money to fund the school system, improve public safety (fire stations, dedicated response system, etc.), strengthen law enforcement, improve infrastructure for drainage, water, and sewer as well as a host of needed projects. The parish approved the expansion for only two additional jobs but will lose $7.4 million in tax revenue, including approximately $400,000 just for emergency services and the fire department. During that same Parish Council meeting, council members were told that the $7.4 million figure listed in Koch Methanol’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) application did not account for depreciation. They were wrong. According to Together Louisiana, who prepared the analysis, the $7.4 million in lost revenue was calculated following the guidelines laid out in Chapter 25 of the Louisiana Tax Commission’s rules, which take depreciation into account.

Additionally, during the September 27, 2023, Parish Council Meeting, all council members including Councilman Clyde Cooper for the 5th District of St. James Parish voted against the best interests of the residents of St. James Parish and his constituents.  His vote endorses Koch Methanol’s expansion, which is poised to increase pollution by 3,000%, posing health risks such as lung cancer, brain and nerve damage, kidney disease, and respiratory illnesses to our residents.

Councilman Cooper’s stance contradicts information from the EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, both of which have cited numerous violations by Koch Methanol, including exceeding ammonia limits, unreported methanol releases, and warnings about air quality violations.

Despite these violations and the potential harm they pose to residents, Councilman Cooper commended Koch Methanol for minimal post-hurricane aid efforts, underscoring the need for residents to hold their elected officials accountable.  

RISE St. James has invested considerable efforts in public awareness, yet it should not fall upon us to shoulder the Parish Council’s obligations. As we work towards recovery following the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, it is imperative that our elected officials prioritize our health and well-being above corporate interests. It’s evident that not all Council members are adequately representing the residents’ concerns and there is no more room to hurl the rock and veil your hand.  The people of St. James Parish are entitled to clean air and clean water, and it is our shared responsibility to guarantee they receive it.

Yours in Service,

Sharon C. Lavigne, Founder & Director

Shamell Lavigne, Chief Operating Officer

#RISEStJames #HoldingOurElectedOfficialsAccountable #StopKochCity #TheRenaissanceParishes