Cameron residents say they’re supportive of industry’s presence in area

Published 3:06 pm Thursday, November 2, 2023

A majority of Cameron Parish residents say they are in support of the proposed CP2 expansion in Cameron and CP Express pipeline planned for Southwest Louisiana.

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Office of Coastal Management hosted two public hearings at the Cameron Parish Police Jury West Annex on Wednesday that allowed residents to express their viewpoints on the two coastal use permits that Venture Global LNG has submitted for the projects.

If approved, these projects will expand Venture Global LNG’s Calcasieu Pass facility, which has seen high profits and large tax breaks.

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According to Reuters, Venture global LNG has sold over “200 LNG cargoes with about $18.2 billion” since pre-commercial operations began last March. In July, the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry approved about $184.6 million in Industrial Tax Exemption Program tax breaks from Calcasieu Pass LNG, the Louisiana Illuminator reported.

In accordance with the ITEP, Venture Global reported 240 jobs will be created for the facility with a payroll of $35.2 million. The ITEP contract will last five years and can be renewed for an additional five years.

Venture Global LNG was given the opportunity to present the projects to those in attendance before public comments were given, but chose not to participate.

More than 25 Cameron Parish residents spoke in support of the LDNR granting the coastal use permits. One of these was Cameron Parish Assessor Scott Lavergne, who lives in Lake Charles. He said the plant will produce “millions upon millions” in tax dollars for the parish.

Kellie McKoin, a resident of Grand Chenier, said her support for CP2 stems from the “close-to-home” employment opportunities Venture Global LNG has given her former students and the potential positive economic impact the new facility will have.

The expansion will bring new workers, and their children, she said. This would increase student enrollment in Cameron Parish schools, which saw a steep decline after the landfall of Hurricane Laura. Additionally, she noted new residents will patron local businesses and fishermen.

A common criticism of the LNG presence in Cameron is the effect on the fishing industry, but McKoin said her husband — a local fisherman — has seen “no effect” on his catch. Instead, she attributed the difficulties in the fishing industry to the import of seafood.

Travis Dardar, an indigenous fisherman, said the presence of the LNG gas export terminals negatively affects local fishing due to the number of tankers in the shipping channel blocking boat launches.

“This will destroy the fishing industry. Y’all are taking a boat launch where we would launch three boats at the same time and it solved us with one that we can’t even launch one boat in. That’s not made for commercial fishing. That’s not made for no fishermen.”

John Allaire, a Cameron resident, said he has seen the environmental effects — and flaring — of Calcasieu Pass LNG in his own backyard. He brought a sample in a ziploc bag of “the sludge they have lined the beach with” following dredging that took place two years ago. He said the “black, viscous mud” covers a mile and a half of the beach west of the jetty.

“The whole area, that whole beachfront is ruined. My dog can’t go in it, my grandkids can’t go in it.”

Some speakers expressed in rebuttal that the “sludge” could be from the Mississippi River.

New Orleans resident and Louisiana Bucket Brigade Director Anne Rolfes called Venture Global’s practices predatory, stating the promise of economic prosperity that would follow the expansion is a “really, really sad example of manipulation.”

“They come to one of the poorest parishes in one of the poorest states in the entire country because they know that because it’s been so desperately neglected, we can accept the pennies that they throw our way.”

She also criticized Venture Global representatives for not speaking at the start of the hearing, and said their goal is to create division in Cameron.

“They made a calculated decision not to speak today so that they would be out of the dynamic, and that would pit neighbor against neighbor. Person from Louisiana against person from Louisiana.”

Many of those who spoke in opposition were not Cameron Parish residents. This was a point of contention for some permit supporters. Cameron resident and permit supporter Howard Romero was critical of the speakers from out of town, stating “they must think we’re too damn dumb to do what we do.”

He said he believes the presence of Venture Global has been nothing but beneficial to Cameron, stating the depletion of natural resources is inevitable. He also listed multiple amenities provided by Venture Global LNG, including a medical center in Johnson Bayou, a gym for local children and portable buildings that were provided for Cameron residents to “live and operate in” after the hurricanes.

“When we look at our parish, we say ‘Where would we be today if it wasn’t for LNG?’ Once they start paying all their taxes, Cameron Parish is going to be the Riviera of the world, because you’re going to have all the money you need.”

LDNR will be accepting public comments until 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13. They can be submitted online or through mail.