NOLA Oil permit granted by 5-4 vote, but not without a fightMar 18th, 2013 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: top story
By a narrow 5 – 4 vote, a soil boring permit was finally granted to NOLA Oil Terminal— but not until residents who neighbor the prospective site reamed the council for putting industry before individuals. The soil boring permit was deferred twice before coming to vote again at the March 14 PPC meeting.
“It’s a sad day when your constituents have to explain their concerns when five million barrels of oil [if spilled] could cut off the only evacuation route out of the parish,” said vocal opponent, Mike Mudge. “Look at what happened with Stolthaven.” Hurricane Isaac toppled over 30 chemical tanks at the Stolthaven petroleum and chemical storage and transfer facility in Braithwaite, and released thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals. The calamity caused widespread panic among residents as well as road closures for several days.
One of the most heated topics of discussion before the vote was zoning. Opponents of the terminal allege that the property is not zoned properly for a facility of its nature, and should not be built near two neighborhoods. The location is planned for south of Ironton and caddy corner to Myrtle Grove Marina.
According to their website, “NOLA will be a five million barrel heavy oil blending and storage facility located at mile marker 59 on the Mississippi River. Our close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes it an ideal location for import/export. NOLA features two main deep draft ship docks with multiple barge positions. NOLA offers insulated tanks with heating and mixing capabilities to meet our clients’ blending needs. We will also provide crude oil storage to meet the rapidly growing demand in our region.”
The property site is currently zoned in I-2 Light Industrial but Mudge argued that the parish’s zoning code book clearly states a facility akin to NOLA Oil Terminal falls no where under the I-2 umbrella.
Councilman Turner agreed with the incorrect zoning notion, citing the parish’s
zoning code book:
“Under the list of items in I-3, it says ‘Petroleum, gasoline and wholesale storage,’ which is the type of facility that NOLA Oil is looking to build.”
Mudge alledges that NOLA Oil was trying to dodge the I-3 heavy industrial classification to avoid having to do an Environmental Use Study, which is not required of those classified in I-2 but found a loophole because it is located in a flood plain.
But Amedee said he “feels confident that we don’t require I-3 zoning.”
“We’re not refining anything; there will be no smoke or haze so it cannot be classified as heavy industrial,” said Amedee. “Heavy Industrial usage is a refinery.”
Price of economic development?
Citizens in opposition to the oil blending and storage facility chastised parish government for sacrificing the health and safety of their neighborhoods for economic
development. In a Town Hall meeting on March 7, Amedee said that the NOLA Oil Terminals is going to employ around 50 – 75 workers. However, residents feel that an oil tank farm was not the only way to spawn growth.
“When I bought into this concept Billy Nungesser had property on the canal… he said that he’d like to see some economic development down there maybe a hotel, a gas station, car wash, a civic center where professionals can meet and fish over the weekend, a place to raise children and grandchildren—I bought into that concept,” said Myrtle Grove homeowner Boyd Mothe.
“We’re in phase 1 now, there are still 100 lots, but there’s a lot of economic development that will come with the residences. This big tank farm, to be right in the face of this nice community is a misapplication of mixing heavy industrial with a neighborhood.”
140-year-old community of Ironton was also a concern for many residents. Mothe reasoned that the historic neighborhood has fought incredible adversity over the years, and putting the burden of another industrial facility on them was unfair.
“This tank farm might be great, but I have a problem with the location…Ironton has fought so hard to come back, and fought so hard just to get sewage and water just a few decades ago,” said Mothe.
Amedee says he understands the residents frustrations, but feels that in an area like Plaquemines that is constantly competing with more populated areas for federal dollars, big industry is a necessity.
“The parish needs this industry, Louisiana needs this industry,” said Amedee. “At the end of the day, when the parish needs money from the feds…that’s going to come
when industry comes. The more industry, the easier its going to be to get federal
Councilchair Byron Marinovich did not hide his frustration with the drawn out argument on something that he and other councilmen felt was as routine as a soil boring permit.
“What we’re voting on today is for 20 soil borings; we’re not talking about tanks, buildings, oil, gasoline,” said Marinovich. “If we’re not happy with the results then the project won’t go forward.”
Amedee, in a follow-up interview also expressed his concerns over the delay.
“Soil borings are a data thing; there is no reason to delay the approval other than for political reasons,” he explained.
After much debate from both sides of the argument, the permit was approved by District 2 Councilman Keith Hinkley, District 3 Councilman Kirk Lepine, District 4 Councilman Stuart Guey, District 5 Councilman Anthony Buras, and District 8 Councilman Byron Marinovich.
“I know there are some obvious causes for concern and we’re here to address those concerns. I thinking we’re moving forward on the right path,” said Amedee after the vote.
Claire LeBlanc of Myrtle Grove said she was disappointed but knew that the green light for the soil boring permit was not the end of the road.
“They still have to come back for a construction permit,” said LeBlanc. “It’s not over yet.”