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Sparks fly at Sasol public meeting

Last Modified: Thursday, December 05, 2013 10:11 AM

By Frank DiCesare / American Press

Sasol officials got an earful from Mossville residents Wednesday night, as a group from the Westlake community voiced their anger over the company’s proposed multibillion dollar plant expansion.

More than 70 residents from around Calcasieu Parish turned out at the Lake Charles Civic Center for what was intended to be Sasol’s public meeting on its U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands modification permit. Corps officials asked Sasol to hold the meeting for the public to ask questions and make comments on the company’s proposal to replace close to 2,000 acres of wetlands in the Calcasieu Watershed.

Less than halfway through the meeting, however, a group of residents from Mossville asked Sasol officials if they had any plans to give them the same considerations they would be giving to the waterfowl and wildlife their plant expansion would disturb.

“It sounds good that you guys are committed to improving the amount of wetlands that you’ll impact in a negative manner in building your facility,” said Mossville resident Jimmy Catlon. “Well, you’re having an extremely negative impact on an entire community that is basically destroyed at this point.”

Delma Bennett, a representative from Mossville Environmental Action Now, initially wanted to know if Sasol’s project would cause any flooding in the Mossville area. Charles Dartez, vice president and principal scientist of URS Corp., said the water within the construction site would be collected and released at a controlled rate to maintain the current flood elevation.

But after several business and political leaders voiced their support for the project, particularly Hal McMillin, the police juror who represents the Mossville area, Bennett grew angry.

“It’s nice for the big boys to come and stand here before everybody and talk about how much money that’s going to be made in this community because Sasol’s coming in,” he said. “For a representative from your area to come in and say what he just said is a sin and a shame!”

Mossville resident Erica Jackson wanted to know what her community was going to get out of Sasol’s expansion.

“We get to hear about the billions of dollars you’re going to spend on your plant, but you don’t care anything about me, about my children, or the things that we go through in our community,” she said. “You don’t even care about that. And then you won’t even give us a job. You say you’ve got a million jobs out here. Who gets them? You’re sure not giving them to the people of Mossville.”

Sasol’s wetlands mitigation plans will replace more than 1,900 acres of medium- to high-quality restored wetlands in the Calcasieu Watershed. More than 700 acres of those wetlands are on Sasol’s property, said Michael Thomas, Sasol’s vice president of U.S. operations.

Daniel Bollich, ecological program director of Delta Land Services, the Port Allen-based firm Sasol has hired to conduct the wetlands restoration, said the initial construction in the watershed will take up to a year.

“There are areas, though, that will develop into what they need to be over time,” he added. “For example, we’re restoring forest wetlands. But to plant the trees and prepare the site, that will not take a year. It may take 10 to 15 years for the forest to grow and develop and survive.”

Thomas said he hopes to get the Corps’ approval by spring 2014.

“At the end of the day, one of the most difficult things to predict in our line or work is when permits will be issued,” he said. “We hope (the Corps) they will issue it soon. We can’t begin building our projects until we have these permits. I hope it only takes a month or two, but we’ll see; it could take longer.”

Posted By: Charles M. Williams On: 1/21/2014

Title: Y'all don't know

It seems that most of the people who are making comments don't even live in the Mossville area. Well, I just so happen to be from Mossville, so allow me to shed a little light on the subject. The problem is that Sasol was never welcomed in the area in the first place. When they were finished destroying land and the environment at their site in Africa, they packed up and locked on to Southwest Louisiana. Our governor, without meeting with our council, decided that Sasol could move in on our area.
Not only is Sasol responsible for the deteriorating living conditions and overall health of the residents of Mossville, but they have basically polluted the land beyond repair. Yes, jobs for the people of that area would be nice, but what about their welfare as well. The nail was head on the head when the question about the consideration that was being given to the waterflow and wildlife being greater than that of the people of the community. You have ask yourself what kind of society do we live in where wildlife is more important than human life.
The other thing that has to be realized is that my entire community is being disbursed. Years of memories are going to be dug up and moved around without a care in the world. Most of the residents will not be able to relocate to an area where they can really afford to live, and others are either to old, or to set in their ways to understand how to start over. And why should we have to start over, because Sasol has ruined the land we live on and wants to create this public relations story about replacing the wetlands that they have destroyed? I ask again, what about the hundreds of lives they have destroyed?
So before you start saying someone is complaining, please know all of the factors that come with a situation. It may not be that they are complaining, but rather that they are crying for help!!!

Posted By: blueangel On: 12/22/2013

Title: Jobs

There are people that has applied for jobs from here in Westlake and other places, they haven't called any of them that I know of, since my son applied for a job and hasn't heard a thing from Sassol. He has the qualifacations amd experiences in the field that he applied for. He heard that they are hiring people from other countries, not people from our local towns and states.

Posted By: Judy Robinson On: 12/6/2013

Title: Mossville residents

I commend the people of Mossville for standing up for the rights of residents to a good job that doesn't injury or kill them or contaminate their children and future generations with toxic chemicals or pollute the environment beyond recognition or adequate repair. These people are cut from the same cloth as Nelson Mandela, while SASOL was cut from the power structure that imprisioned a nation and Mandela himself for lifting his voice to fight for equally basic rights. Give SASOL the benefit of the doubt to act to ensure the rights of its neighbors?! Are you serious? The facts of this company's history and the behavior and development projections by other massive fossil fuel and chemical corporations in Louisiana and elsewhere would not bear out that recommendation. I accept that people must work where the jobs are, that despite the history of a coporation's impacts, good people need to feed their families to survive another day. There's honor in that ambition. But please don't be a stooge or a fool. And please don't tear down the good people who have the courage to make demands on these insanely rich corporations. If they stop or are stopped who will take their place?

Posted By: KlassyRedBone On: 12/6/2013

Title: @ Who tf ever

@Beth It doy matter if they have skills or not!!! This is their they shouldn't have to sell the homes n and they.lived at for most of their lives to put up a Sasol Plant that will kill us all!!! I NEED Y'all To get it together!!! Dnt speak upon anything that you know nothing about!!!

Posted By: Dorothy Conner On: 12/5/2013

Title: Complainers

It seems there is always a few dissenters. We need to give Sasol a chance before complaining. Let the jobs come in; then Mossville people can apply...and if they qualify, I am sure Sasol would love to hire them. For years people have complained about living in Mossville, now they are being purchased out, with only few remaining. We need to give Sasol a chance to prove they are going to be good neighbors. Some are throwing stones at the cart before it's even at the gate......If they don't come up to the "plate" then complain.......

Posted By: Beth On: 12/5/2013

Title: Mossville Residents

Do the people of Mossville have the type of JOB SKILLS that Sasol needs? I would never expect to get a job with Sasol because I know what I'm able to do. There is time to train them. The question should be is how to train the local residents so they'll be job-ready. ANY one who expects to get a job should expect to get educated for it.

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