State DEQ hosts public hearing on Sasol expansion project - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

State DEQ hosts public hearing on Sasol expansion project

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(Source: Theresa Schmidt / KPLC) (Source: Theresa Schmidt / KPLC)
WESTLAKE, LA (KPLC) -
Officials from the state Department of Environmental Quality got an earful Tuesday night from those for and against the upcoming Sasol expansion project.

To many, the multi-billion dollar industrial facility holds the promise of prosperity for the future with growth and jobs. Others see it as the prospect of more pollution, with sickness and disease.

Those on both sides crowded into the Westlake City Council chambers.

"Sasol jobs given to local workers will be manual labor jobs to haul garbage, trash, water, dig holes and will not be jobs that will train workers to become journeymen," said concerned resident Charlie Atherton. "The reality is that the residents of Calcasieu Parish will suffer the negative environmental impact of 10 million tons a year of new greenhouse gas emissions."

Some in favor of the project want it done right from an environmental standpoint.

"If you see that any portion of those applications needs to be tightened that you will require that," said Barbara Bankens. "But I do believe that our area will benefit."

Sasol spokesman Mike Thomas said Southwest Louisiana stand to gain a lot from the expansion.

"We're committed to protecting the environment through the way we design and build these plants," Thomas said. "We will use state-of-the-art equipment. The emissions that we have will be managed very carefully. We believe our permit applications will reflect our commitment to protect the environment."

Some at the meeting said they just don't buy it.

"Whatever you sow, you shall reap," J. Handy said. "And whatever go in that direction is coming to a town near you."

Area resident Dawn Kelly said she feels the economic boom is not worth the risk to future
generations.

"How much longer are people in this parish just going to sit back and bury their heads in the sand?" Kelly asked. "How much longer? Enough is enough. Your 1,200 jobs are not worth our children, our grandchildren and future grandchildren."

Sasol officials who live here say it will be safe and well-run. 

"Modeling done demonstrates ambient air quality is protected and that growth for industry in the area is protected," Hayes said. "I believe DEQ did an excellent job writing this permit and I hope they issue it."

In all, Sasol is seeking 17 permits.

The state DEQ has extended the public comment period until April 9, which means people have until then to send in written remarks on why they are for or against the Sasol project.

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