Groups Protest Permit for Louisiana Coal Terminal

Community and environmental organizations lodged a formal protest against the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources’s recent permit for a coal export terminal in the already polluted Plaquemines Parish corridor.

In a letter sent to LDNR Secretary Stephen Chustz, the organizations called for reconsideration of the coastal use permit granted this month, charging that the RAM coal  terminal would violate laws created to ensure that the state’s plan for coastal restoration plan is carried out.

The letter charged that “because LDNR did not adequately analyze alternative sites, LDNR cannot assess whether there are feasible and praticable alternative locations, methods and practices for use that are in compliance with the modified standard under the Coastal Use Permit regulations.”

The letter also argued that the RAM terminal conflicts with Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for coastal restoration. The terminal “will  severely impact wetlands and the $300 million Myrtle Grove with Dedicated Dredging Ecosystem Restoration Project…,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by the Christian Ministers Missionary Baptist Association of Plaquemines Inc., Sierra Club Delta Chapter, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), and Public Citizen’s Texas office. It was drafted with help from Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.

“The permit clearly violates Louisiana state law on multiple levels,” said Marylee Orr, executive director of LEAN, or Lousiana Environmental Action Network, a member of the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition (CGCC).

“The DNR issued it without considering alternative locations, which it is required to do. And since the terminal will undoubtedly impact both the wetlands and the Myrtle Grove diversion, it will compromise the state’s coastal restoration plan. That also breaks the law. The DNR has a legal responsibility to protect our coastal restoration plan, and it’s not doing that.”

Devin Martin, a Plaquemines Parish representative for the Sierra Club, said communities in the area oppose the terminal because it will worsen air pollution.

“People in Ironton and Myrtle Grove already suffer with respiratory problems because of the coal-dust pollution from the coal terminals already there,” he said. “The RAM terminal will make it worse.

“Even without the pollution problems, the terminal is a big economic risk for communities. It’s very possible that it won’t succeed because the international coal market is in decline. China, the main consumer of U.S. coal, is already cutting back. By the time this terminal is built, there may not be a market for the coal that the terminal is supposed to export.”

The RAM terminal is only one of five coal export expansion proposals that CGCC is fighting in the New Orleans area. The coalition will employ community organizing and legal strategies to stop the construction of new terminals, prevent the significant expansion of coal exports through the Lower Mississippi River, and address ongoing pollution at existing terminals.

Coal export terminals pollute local air and water with heavy metals, acidic runoff, and other toxic pollutants, and they supply coal-burning power plants that contribute to climate change. CGCC is working to promote clean Gulf Coast industries, such as commercial fishing, coastal restoration, and solar and wind energy, as alternative sources of jobs and revenue

 The Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition includes Air Alliance Houston, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Public Citizen Texas, Sierra Club, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, and Texas Organizing Project.