The project is being funded by South African chemical company SASOL and La. Governor Bobby Jindal and is projected to cost $21 billion (the state plans on allocating $115 million in direct funding). According to a study from Louisiana State University, SASOL’s project will bring a $46.2 billion economic windfall to the state. It is also the largest industrial project in Louisiana history.
However, it would guarantee the destruction of Mossville, a 224-year-old settlement founded by Jim Moss, a freed slave who purchased the patch of land in the Houston River in southwest Louisiana.
The small village eventually became one of the first settlements for free Blacks in the country. Now a community of 500 residents, Mossville is already surrounded by 14 industrial plants.
As a result, chemical toxins in the town’s air are 100 percent higher than the national standard. Another study discovered that 84 percent of residents have a central nervous system disorder.
Still, some in the town aren’t going down without a justified fight.
“These people are not interested in moving,” said retired Lt. General Russel Honoré,a Louisiana native who is helping residents to block the plan upon their request last fall. “This is their ancestral home. These are descendants of slaves that moved here when they weren’t wanted in any other parts of the community.”
Unfortunately, the horrid breathing conditions have forced other residents to leave the area.
A class-action lawsuit against Condea Vista (now absorbed into SASOL) resulted in the company buying out 206 Mossville homeowners in 1998. The lawsuit alleged that Vista had allowed ethylene dichloride, a carcinogen, to enter the town’s soil.
SASOL is also offering to buy out remaining properties in the town at 160 percent of their estimated value. The company is stating that the actions against their plan are from a few people; 80 percent of homeowners eligible for their buyout plan have registered. From those who have received buyout offers, 99 percent have accepted, they claim.
But the project could also further harm the environment.
According to a report from the Louisiana Department Of Environmental Quality, the plant “will result in significant net emissions increases” of greenhouse gases, promethium, sulfur oxide, nitric oxide, and carbon monoxide. The department also estimates the project will create more than 10 million cubic tons of greenhouse gases annually.
One longtime resident who says she will have to move if the plans go forward spoke to Mother Jones.
“That’s the thing that hurts,” says Dorothy Felix, a seventh-generation Mossville resident. “I’m going to leave all of this behind — a place that I love so much, a place that I grew up, a place that I saw go from rags to riches. Now it’s about to go to nothing but the plants.”