PLAQUEMINES PARISH, La. -- Today the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Gulf Restoration Network, and Sierra Club lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to settle their lawsuit against the United Bulk coal export terminal in Davant, La. Filing the citizen suit action in March of 2014, the groups alleged that United Bulk regularly spilled significant amounts of coal and petroleum coke at its coal export terminal in violation of the Clean Water Act. The groups presented evidence including photographs, video footage and satellite imagery documenting piles of black material on the river shore and in the river itself below United Bulk’s conveyors as well as plumes of black water spreading into the Mississippi River from the United Bulk terminal (see photos here and here).
Represented by Tulane University’s Environmental Law Clinic, groups reached a settlement with United Bulk that has been lodged with the Court and is currently being reviewed by the Department of Justice. The agreement will become final when it is entered into by the Court following DOJ’s 45 day review period.
“Anything that's going to make United Bulk comply with the Clean Water Act is a good thing,” said Plaquemines Parish Councilwoman Audrey T. Salvant. “The company should be held accountable."
The settlement requires the facility to update its pollution control technology and implement new inspection and monitoring procedures aimed at preventing spills of coal and petcoke into the Mississippi River. The facility has agreed to wet the coal and petcoke and stop operating during high wind conditions to try to reduce the amount of coal and petcoke dust blowing into neighboring communities and wetlands. In addition, the company has agreed to pay $75,000 to the Woodlands Conservancy to fund coastal restoration projects, such as non-native plant removal and wetland reforestation.
“It’s exciting to see that this lawsuit has resulted in an investment in coastal restoration, since we know that coal and petcoke from nearby coal export facilities are polluting coastal wetlands,” said Scott Eustis, Coastal Wetland Specialist at the Gulf Restoration Network. “Louisiana’s future depends upon the protection of our coastal wetlands; we can’t let coal pollution threaten restoration plans."
The United Bulk terminal is one of five existing coal terminals in Louisiana on the Lower Mississippi River, and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources is currently considering a proposal to build a new coal export terminal less than five miles away from United Bulk. The proposed RAM Terminal has reapplied for a coastal use permit, after its initial permit was vacated by the 25th Judicial District Court of Louisiana. A public hearing on the permit is scheduled for September 17 at the Belle Chasse Auditorium.
“The dust from coal terminals like United Bulk and IMT covers my house -- you can’t control the coal,” said Linda Ramil, a resident of Wood Park. “How do you put a coal plant in a place with hurricanes and strong winds and people? Coal terminals just don’t make sense for us. It’s a no win situation, and that’s why we don’t want the RAM coal export terminal in the community.”