Public hearing Tuesday on Sasol environmental permits - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Public hearing Tuesday on Sasol environmental permits

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Do economic development and jobs trump a clean environment?  That's the concern of at least one long time local environmentalist who wants people to know about thousands of pages available for public review dealing with the Sasol project.

The public has less than a week before the hearing dealing with multiple permits.

The Sasol project is the largest of those expected to bring about a huge economic development boom in Southwest Louisiana.  The gas to liquids plant and other facilities will require many state environmental permits-- to be discussed in an upcoming public hearing. 

Long time environmentalist Mike Tritico has been pouring over the thousands of pages available for public inspection at local libraries.

"Each part of the plant has a different permit application, about eleven or twelve different units.  And the permit notice breaks it down by  what kind of air pollution each different unit is going to produce," explained Tritico, sitting at a table covered with stacks of documents.

"These stacks also tell how that was developed:  gives the math, gives the modeling, gives  all the different details. The overall conclusions are however reduced to about three sentences that are in here and DEQ has decided there will be no adverse impacts," said Tritico. And that's a conclusion Tritico does not necessarily agree with.

"You might go through a stack like this and find seven or eight key things that are disturbing or that are reassuring, mostly disturbing. And so, it's just a matter of having to go through all this page by page by page.  Because if you decide you're going to skip a two or three inch section,  you might miss the key thing for the stack," said Tritico.

There at the Westlake Library with him, were two residents who also have concerns.

"Main thing so far I was concerned with is that I was told there was only 25% of African American people that were living in the area where Sasol was going to be setting up and I know that it's more than 25%," said Christine Bennett, from Mossville but now living in Lake Charles.

Debra Wiseman has concerns about her property buy outs being offered to residents.

"Either way it go they probably going to move in on us but we don't want to be up under all of those chemicals, so they just need to give us a fair price and move us up," said Debra Wiseman.

The upcoming public hearing deals with about seventeen proposed permits dealing with air and water pollution.

Tritico says he's barely made a dent in the massive amount of information.

"What we were doing or trying to do is to go through here and look at the details and so how they can conclude that there are no adverse impacts when there are such huge amounts of air pollution and water pollution," said Tritico.

The permit applications and draft permits are available for the public to look at the public libraries in Westlake and Sulphur.
Sasol manager of public affairs, Mike Hayes, says they are protecting the environment.

"As we foster job creation and economic development, protecting people and the environment are priorities for Sasol," said Hayes.

"Our permit applications demonstrate our desire to minimize the environmental impact of their operations,"said Hayes.

The public hearing is at 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 25 at the Westlake City Hall on Mulberry Street and the deadline for public comment is at 4:30 PM the next day. For a link to the public notice and permit applications click here.

For links to more information on the applications and proposed public hearings click here

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