Documenter Name: Natalie McLendon, with reporting from Carl Ambrose Jr.
Agency: Louisiana Bucket Brigade (James Hiatt), Green Army (LTG Russel Honoré)
Date: August 24, 2022 12:00 PM
Environmental groups say that allowing more liquid natural gas facilities in southwest Louisiana could be costly for residents, and in more ways than one. James Hiatt of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and the retired Lieutenant General Russel Honoré came together on Wednesday, Aug. 24, in Lake Charles, La. to shine light on the ways that the liquid natural gas industry harms the environment and makes the area more susceptible to greater destruction during natural disasters.
The press conference took place on Wednesday, August 24, 2022, the same week of Hurricane Laura’s second anniversary. It began promptly at 12:00 PM on the third floor of the old United Way Building in a large conference room. It was held inside due to the heavy rains that afternoon. The conference room had undecorated beige walls, no visible windows, and was equipped with multiple rows of metal folding chairs separated by a center aisle. In front of the chairs, there was a podium with a microphone clipped on, as well as a blue sign with General Honoré’s name on it. Next to the podium, there were informational posters displaying example photos of land loss from 2019-2021 on the Louisiana coast.
There were 10-15 people there, including reporters and members of the public. There were no public officials present. The majority of the crowd was composed of the press. Reporters and/or photographers and videographers from American Press, KPLC, The Advocate, Financial Times, The Independent UK, and Southwest Louisiana Journal were present. Michael Tritico from Restore Explicit Symmetry To Our Ravaged Earth (RESTORE) was also present.
The Press Conference
According to Hiatt, Louisiana’s eroding coast is projected to be two feet underwater by 2050. “Scientists tell us that if we continue to pump greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, we will continue to see global warming and climate change,” Hiatt said. “It’s really just insanity to place these facilities in the eye of storms that keep coming.”
“There is a safety concern when you build inside a hurricane zone,” said Gen. Honoré, who represents the Green Army, a coalition of environmental groups, and is considered an expert on emergency preparedness following his assistance during Hurricane Katrina.
He stressed that southwest Louisiana is a “high alert zone for hurricanes” and that increased global warming from many new plants including LNG is heating up the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in more intense weather events during hurricane season. Honoré warned that a facility in the path of a hurricane could cause uncontrollable fires.
The Bio-Lab chemical fire of 2020, for example, occurred after Hurricane Laura. As first reported by nola.com, the fire burned for three days. Public documents from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality show that the water that was pumped to the fire site reacted with trichloroisocyanuric acid (TCCA), creating chlorine gas. The reactive heat ignited materials within the facility, causing “a fire emitting a greenish brown smoke.” Those who had not already evacuated before the hurricane were told to shelter in place. The firewater entered the Clooney Island Loop channel, killing nearby fish when the contaminated water was “discharged into the waters of the state.” Bio-Lab broke ground for a new facility at the old site in 2021.
There are nine new LNG terminals proposed for southwest Louisiana, an area already inundated with industry. Honoré says it takes natural gas to make LNG, which is then shipped overseas. This raises the price of natural gas locally. Honoré emphatically stressed more than once that LNG is not used in the United States. He said that these companies do not have Calcasieu and Cameron in mind, that they are driving up the cost to heat and cool our homes. He said that building even more industry in a hurricane zone is “about as stuck on stupid as it gets.”
Calcasieu Parish will give tax breaks to LNG, Honoré said, referring to the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) that many petrochemical facilities have already capitalized on. The only benefit for the area, he claimed, was a temporary influx of jobs that are sourced out to workers from places other than southwest Louisiana. A few members of the public expressed vocal agreement with this sentiment.
Honoré said that concerned constituents should contact their public officials, especially the members of the Calcasieu and Cameron Parish Police Juries. The public should “demand that the Parish government ensure that we have safety procedures…because the danger of these plants is significant,” he said.
The press conference raised questions about the impacts of these facilities and influence of industry on public officials that we will continue to examine.
- What will be the full environmental impact of so many new LNG facilities in southwest Louisiana? Can such an impact be estimated in the short term? In the long term?
- Will these facilities also file for Industrial Tax Exemptions, and will they be approved? How many tax dollars will be lost to these exemptions?
In 2018, one LNG company was approved “for a controversial tax break that could reach more than $2 billion over 10 years,” according to Sam Karlin of The Advocate. If each new LNG facility receives similar approval, this could represent $18 billion in tax dollars which could be used to fund schools, libraries, infrastructure, and more. Approval for ITEP is given through the Parish school board, which means that local public officials are approving these exemptions.
- How many temporary versus permanent jobs will be created, and how many of those jobs will go to local residents? Which public officials benefit from industry, and in what capacity?