Residents and Wetlands Advocates File Suit Against Louisiana Department of Natural Resources for Failure to Protect Coastal Restoration Project

Community and environmental organizations filed suit today against Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for illegally approving a coastal use permit for the proposed RAM coal export terminal on the Lower Mississippi River in Myrtle Grove.

The suit, filed in Louisiana’s 25th Judicial District Court, argues that the DNR did not consider potential alternative sites or fully weigh the negative environmental and public health impacts of the proposal against its questionable economic benefits. DNR’s decision to issue the permit “was arbitrary and capricious and in violation of Louisiana law,” the suit says.

The suit – filed by residents near the proposed site for the terminal, Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), and Sierra Club – also asks the court to vacate the permit and require DNR to conduct a legally sound review.  Click here to read the suit as filed.

LEAN Executive Director Marylee Orr, explained, “By approving the coastal use permit in September, DNR violated its legal obligation to protect the Myrtle Grove diversion project. The diversion is absolutely vital to coastal restoration. The RAM coal terminal would be built right next to the diversion, and it would send coal-contaminated water right into the wetlands that the DNR is supposed to be protecting.”

Adding further support to the legal argument, a document obtained by GRN through a public records request shows that even state agency consultants agree the proposed coal terminal would be detrimental to coastal restoration by lowering the amount of sediment available for restoration and transporting coal pollution into the wetlands. (For the complete report, go to:  https://healthygulf.org/images/PDFs/Ram%20Terminal%20Technical%20Model.pdf )

The report – produced for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) by the Water Institute of the Gulf and CPRA’s engineering consulting firm ARCADIS – said the RAM terminal could reduce sediment to the diversion “by nearly 17%,” resulting in a loss of 80,000 to 500,000 tons of sand over a decade.

“Coal terminals dump into the river regularly – painting the riverbank black with spilled coal and petroleum coke,” said GRN coastal wetland specialist Scott Eustis. “The state needs the Mississippi River and sand from the riverbank to restore the coast. Louisiana’s best scientists have demonstrated that the RAM terminal would take much needed sand from the river. Ignoring their findings is a black mark on our entire coastal restoration effort.”

The proposed terminal, which would be used to ship highly toxic coal and petroleum coke to overseas markets, would be near existing coal export terminals – United Bulk terminal in Davant on the east bank and the International Marine Terminal on the west bank. Both facilities produce plumes of coal dust that blow over residential areas, generating air pollution that has created serious respiratory problems for local residents.

“We have had these coal terminals dumped on us,” said Bryan Ernst, a resident of Wood Park in Plaquemines Parish. “The air around here is already filthy with coal dust, and some people get sick because of it. I worry about those who have asthma and other respiratory problems. Sometimes I’m afraid to let my grandkids go outside because of the problems with coal dust.”

“When you pollute the air and water in a community, you degrade the quality of life of the people living in it,” Ernst said. “Families in this area are committed to their communities. We love this place for its nature, for the fishing and wetlands.  But the coal dust pollution is making our home unlivable. The last thing we want is another coal terminal moving in.”

More than 140 local residents showed up for Aug. 14-15 hearings on the terminal, which were held in Davant and Belle Chasse. Everyone who spoke at the hearing was opposed to the terminal and most shared concerns about air and water pollution.

Public Citizen’s Texas office is part of a coalition that is working to stop coal terminal expansions along the US gulf coast.  Our major focus at this time is the RAM terminal and the Port of Houston expansion projects.