Below is the press release from the Sierra Club:
Last night, concerned citizens gathered at St. James Parish Courthouse to voice concerns regarding the proposed Nucor Steel facility. Joined by the Sierra Club, citizen groups from the surrounding community raised concerns about the harmful emissions that the proposed Nucor facility would produce. The proposed Nucor facility will sit on 4,000 acres of property in the heart of Romeville in District Four. The fourth district in St. James Parish is home to the majority of industries in the Parish, and also has the highest record of unemployment in St. James.
“The proposed Nucor facility has a myriad of problems that will not only affect the environment, but will further harm the health and welfare of the surrounding community and the state,” notes Jordan Macha, Associate Regional Representative for the Sierra Club. “This is the air that we breathe. The toxic pollutants will not stop at the fence line.”
Earlier this year in May, Nucor was granted an air permit for their proposed pig iron plant. Three months later, Nucor announced their plan to build two Direct Reduction Iron (DRI) facilities and modify the pig iron plant to one coal-burning blast furnace from two. At issue last night were the initial permits for the DRI plant and modifications to the already permitted pig iron plant. “There is confusion regarding what Nucor plans to build, whether pig iron, DRI or both, and that was evident at last night’s hearing,” says Macha. “The DRI facility has served as a distraction to the real problems that exist with the already permitted pig iron plant.”
Citizen groups like Louisiana Environmental Justice Community Organization Coalition (LEJCOC), Concern Citizens and Youth of La. Hwy 18/44 District 4 and 5 of St. James Parish and Rev. Marshall Cooper, pastor of Pilgrim Full Gospel Church in Convent, expressed concerns that existing air and water quality problems should be addressed before new industry moves in. The use of coal for the pig iron plant is the primary culprit for the high emission levels in Nucor’s air permit.
“Even with the modifications to the existing pig iron air permit, the coal-burning facility will produce many harmful emissions and add to the air and water problems that already exist in St. James Parish,” says Macha. Mercury, arsenic, benzene and ammonia are just a few of the toxic pollutants that would be added to high levels of particulate matter and ozone pollution that already exist in the area. The modifications to the already permitted pig iron plant will only reduce benzene emissions by .01 tons per year, leaving allowable permitted emissions at 56 tons per year, according to the modified Title V pig iron permit.
While health and environmental hazards were the front focus of this hearing, groups also acknowledged the need for new industry and job development in Louisiana. The promise of the “smoke-stack” dream has not given Louisiana the economic prosperity we once hoped for, said Macha. “An investment in clean, environmentally responsible industry can do just that.”
In recent weeks, Louisiana has been named as one of the leaders in economic development including receiving top honors from national economic development lists.