A public hearing on a proposed coal export terminal in Plaquemines parish drew a big crowd on Thursday.
More than 150 people crowded the Belle Chasse Auditorium, many of them making their case to representatives from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
The proposed coal terminal would operate on 600 acres near Ironton, about 16 miles south of Belle Chasse on the Mississippi River. The development has been contentious since RAM Terminals proposed it several years ago. The DNR called the public meeting after the Gretna City Council and Jefferson Parish Council passed resolutions asking the state to intervene.
Ricky Templet, Chairman of the Plaquemines Parish Council, stood outside the packed auditorium and explained he wants the DNR to do a full environmental impact study.
“We represent the coastal areas of Jefferson Parish and the state of Louisiana — we’re spending billions of dollars to rebuild and remake our marshlands and hurricane protections. Our concerns are if this environmental impact would affect those projects," Templet says.
Citizens voiced concerns on everything from traffic to air quality to the impact on property values.
At moments the hearing was tense, as DNR officials tried to manage the long list of speakers. When a speaker was slow to get to the podium, an official said he planned to get home at a reasonable hour — a comment which drew outrage from the crowd. The DNR official then said he would have security remove anyone who was disruptive.
Reverend Tyrone Edwards of Plaquemines Parish took the podium soon after and said, “I came to say tonight that all of us that are Christian are here as stewards of this good earth,” and led a chant of “Not in my backyard.”
Last year, a state judge overturned a coastal permit issued for the coal terminal. State Judge Kevin D. Conner in Belle Chasse ruled that the state agency should not have granted a permit to RAM Terminals LLC because too little research was done into alternative locations for the terminal. Conner ordered DNR to re-evaluate the permit.
The Department of Natural Resources will issue a response after reviewing these public comments.
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