By David Reynaud, Editor - March 25, 2021 (editorial)
I must say I was a bit disturbed last Friday when I read an article published in The Advocate titled Democrats in Congress want permits for big La. Plastics plant revoked.
In the article, reporter David Mitchell cites a letter written by U.S. Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Arizona and Chairman of U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, and U.S. Rep. A Donald McEachin, D-Va., where the dynamic duo ask newly sworn-in President Joe Bidento “permanently revoke” wetlands permits for Formosa’s $9.4 billion plastics making facility proposed for St. James Parish.
First, the idea that people thousands of miles from St. James Parish, people who know nothing about St. James Parish and the local community, think they know what is best for us.
Since April of 2018, which was when Formosa (FG) announced their intentions to construct a $9.4 billion plastics making facility on the west bank of St. James Parish and create 1,200 permanent jobs and put millions into the local economy through sales and use taxes and property taxes, a war has raged on the ground and in the courtroom as a group of local residents and an army of environmentalists and protesting groups from around the country have flocked to our home to tell us what we need or do not need.
I don’t know about you, but I am not in favor of someone or some group who has made it their lifelong mission to stop any and all new industry from being built anywhere telling me what I need.
This is America! We have laws, numerous government watchdog agencies, and rules and regulations galore that these companies must deal with and follow in order to be permitted to build on U.S. soil. FG has followed every rule, every regulation, has received necessary permits from the local, state and federal government, and has and continues to invest in the local community in many ways. But all that could be for nothing should President Biden succumb to these outsiders and to political pressure.
To date, more than 20 initiatives and programs have been implemented by FG and more than 10,000 St. James Parish residents have been impacted by FG programs. Some of these initiatives are: voluntarily funded, designed and constructed improvements to Highway 3127 (recently completed); provided nonperishable food boxes for students and senior citizens, cumulative total of 2,956 boxes (commenced December of 2018 and continues today); mentored 20 young ladies at St. James High School (initiative is called FG’s Young Women of Distinction - commenced January 2019 to present); and hosted a community health fair for District 5 residents administered by St. James Parish Hospital (hosted October 2019).
It is time for St. James Parish residents to think long and hard about what we want for our future. We all know about Shell closing its Convent refinery and the massive and detrimental impact this closure has and will have on the local economy, the state and surrounding economies, and the local people.
Seven-hundred good paying jobs and roughly one-third of the Parish’s tax revenues will soon disappear. Shell’s closure also forces the St. James Parish School Board to find ways to cut $4-9 million, the Parish Government has to make as much as $6 million in cuts, and the Sheriff’s Office projects up to $4 million less in revenue. Also, St. James Parish Hospital is projected receive roughly $900,000 less in tax revenues.
These are staggering numbers and you can bet he repercussions will ultimately be far worse than projected. These cuts are forcing teachers to be let go, there will be less educational opportunities for our students, class sizes will no doubt increase, there will be much less money to spend on education and technology, and less funding to maintain all the programs and facilities our students enjoy through our schools.
On the parish level, employees will have to be terminated, services many depend on will possibly go by the wayside or have to be greatly reduced, funding to repair roads, water lines and upgrades will decrease dramatically, and public safety will take a big hit as well.
Remember, local industry pays a little more than 70% of the taxes and Shell paid roughly 30% of the 70%. There is no answer in the short term to avoid the cuts because I doubt the public is willing to raise taxes by one-third to fill the gap, but a facility like FG would sure help lessen the future impact and would provide new opportunities for those willing to work.
We have always lived harmoniously with the Parish’s industries and we have benefited greatly from them. Generations of families have made their livelihoods from industry. Formosa would be a great benefit to this Parish and its people and FG is working hard to give St. James Parish residents an opportunity to work for and better themselves.
If you are willing to learn and work hard, industries such as FG can provide you the means to raise a family and/or live a good life here in St. James Parish. On the flip side of the coin, the question is do we want to stop any and all future industry looking to locate here?
If so, we must be willing to give up or reduce the many, many services and programs the Parish offers to its residents (often times the Parish’s most poor population benefit the most from these services)?
These are just a few questions we should all ask ourselves.