Local environmental group protests Sasol decision

By By Eric Cormier / American Press

MOSSVILLE — Decades of environmental advocacy to educate and protect residents from industrial pollution took a major step

back this week after Sasol’s announcement to spend billions of dollars to expand its Louisiana footprint, according to the

president of Mossville Environmental Action Now.

Dorothy Felix told the American Press on Wednesday that the group is miffed that the company’s management team never met with residents in the hamlet — located

on Old Spanish Trail between Sulphur and Westlake — to discuss long-range expansion plans.

“This announcement is a complete shock to us. It is one we are sure they sat on and never once came to the community as a

good neighbor to let residents know that this plant would be so close to our homes,” Felix said. “We think this is unfair

and unjust.”

On Monday, Sasol announced it would

expand operations at its Westlake facility. The company wants to spend

$21 billion on

a facility that will cover 650 acres near its current site to

convert gas into chemicals, diesel and other products, according

to published reports.

At least 1,200 permanent jobs are supposed to be created, along with 7,000 construction jobs. The facility would be built

in two phases, with the first to begin operations in 2018 and the second in 2019.

During Monday’s announcement about the

facility — attended by Gov. Bobby Jindal, state Economic Development

Secretary Stephen

Moret, other political officials and businesspeople — it was said

that Sasol would have a $46.2 billion impact on the economy

over 20 years.

The Jindal administration has pledged $135 million in state incentives toward the project, which is considered the largest

private capital investment in Louisiana history.

“It was amazing to see how local and

state officials stepped up to the front of the line so quickly to

announce the expansion,”

Felix said. “But there was no mention of the residents or

community of Mossville and what effect the plant would have on us.”

She said the future of the community, which was settled by freed slaves after the Civil War, is at stake.

Michael Hayes, manager of public

affairs at Sasol’s office of new business development, said the company

intends to continue

being a good neighbor. “A company can’t force a community to

disappear,” he said. “The future of the community is in the hands

of the community.”

Hayes said some residents in the

Mossville area have talked to company officials. In the future, Sasol

will talk to the community

formally.

“We’ve been in and out of the community but did not have a community meeting. We announced intentions to conduct feasibility

studies about expansion over a year ago,” he said. “At that time, people who had questions, we explained things to them. I

talked to Ms. Felix a couple of times about property acquisitions.”

According to Felix, MEAN wants relocation of residents who want to move and access to health care for the community.

“What will happen to our community? Our health problems exist. Property will be devalued,” she said. “All the officials talk

about is how businesses can benefit from Sasol’s project. What is Mossville going to do? How will we benefit?”

Hayes said the new facility will meet state and federal environmental standards and “will be a fairly clean operation.”