BATON ROUGE, La. – Plaquemines and Jefferson parish leaders and residents scored a key victory toward preserving their coastal communities from the proposed RAM export terminal when the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) decided to reconsider a coastal use permit. Coastal communities, who have been fighting for more than two years for their livelihoods and future have successfully united, for the first time, state leaders against the out-of-state proposed coal export facility.
The proposal has been controversial not just among residents. In March, DNR re-issued RAM Terminals, LLC a coastal use permit after a state judge from the 25th Judicial District Court revoked RAM Terminals’ previously granted coastal use permit in late 2014. The court, having determined that DNR illegally issued the permit to RAM terminals, ordered the company to re-submit the permit application with more extensive analysis. The Plaquemines Parish Council denied RAM a building permit in 2015, and Jefferson Parish, the City of Gretna and the City of Westwego passed resolutions citing concerns with harmful air and water pollution, the destruction it would cause to coastal wetlands and restoration projects and calling for a comprehensive environmental analysis of the proposed coal export terminal.
"I thank Secretary Harris for standing with local leadership in Plaquemines Parish,” said Audrey T. Salvant, Plaquemines Parish Councilwoman. “The wellbeing and safety of Ironton, Wood Park, Myrtle Grove and neighborhoods throughout Plaquemines Parish and coastal protection must come before the interests of an out-of-state coal export facility."
The proposed plan would harm an important coastal restoration project in the region, the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, and fails to recognize the disproportionate risk of pollution facing the nearby historic African American community of Ironton. The proposal also relies on a beleaguered and ever-diminishing international coal market for economic justification.
"Our economy and livelihoods depend on coastal restoration and RAM could undermine important restoration work being done to protect our communities," said Ricky Templet, Jefferson Parish Councilman. "It's time for our state to stand behind its commitment to coastal restoration and reject this project once and for all."
The terminal would be the first facility in the area directly connected to rail. The facility’s construction and operation would result in mile-long, uncovered coal trains running through surrounding neighborhoods, and turning residential areas into an industrial corridor. West Bank communities expressed concerns over RAM’s proposed rail line -- which would usher in coal dust pollution and pose a risk to nearby homes and families.
"We don't want our homes shaken by train traffic and covered in coal dust blowing off the trains," said Gayle Bertucci, a resident of Gretna. "The risks are simply too high for our communities, with essential emergency response facilities potentially cut off by the rail lines. It has been long enough. It's a relief that new leadership with the Department of Natural Resources is taking our concerns seriously."
In April, Peabody Coal, the world’s largest coal mining company, filed for bankruptcy. For market watches across the globe, this was a decisive moment in the long decline of the industry. RAM has failed to submit an economic justification of its proposal. To date, RAM has not refuted the consensus financial industry analysis that the market for U.S. coal is in decline.
Gulf Restoration Network is a 22-year-old non-profit dedicated to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the health of the Gulf of Mexico.