Development of Citrus Lands causing controversyAug 12th, 2013 | By Candace Griffin | Category: top story
Council grants construction permit to NOLA Oil Terminal
Changes in the Citrus Lands landscape are coming, and where you live is often the deciding factor on if those changes are an economic boom or an environmental bust.
Citrus Lands is the area once without back-levee protection in Plaquemines’ Westbank midsection. With new federalized levees and river access, the area is now seeing lots of interest from industry— a good development economically unless you happen to be a resident of Myrtle Grove or Ironton.
NOLA Oil’s next step
At last week’s meeting, the council granted NOLA Oil Terminals a construction permit. To be built south of Ironton and caddy-corner to Myrtle Grove, NOLA is planned to be a transfer hub for oil coming in and going out of the U.S. by way of the Mississippi River.
The permit allows NOLA to start Phase 1 of their construction, which includes the installation of pilings, foundations, petroleum holding tanks, pipe racks, and two deep water docks (one for barges and one for ships), access roads, and fire suppressant systems, all due for completion in May of 2014.
“We’re trying to develop this industrial corridor, which will help raise the tax base,” said Council Chairman Byron Marinovich in an interview after the meeting.
However, this permit was not granted without an onslaught of opposition. While the Council, with the exception of Councilman Burghart Turner of District 6, was in favor of allowing NOLA Oil to begin construction, the residents of Myrtle Grove showed up in full force to voice their opposition.
Residents of both towns are concerned about the impact that this facility along with other proposed facilities, such as RAM Terminals and the expansion of International Marine Terminals, both coal terminals, may have on their neighborhoods.
“We’ve presented a petition to you [the Council] with 200-250 names on it opposing this action [granting permits to NOLA Oil],” said Myrtle Grove resident, Mike Mudge. “These are real people, with real concerns that need to be met.”
Mudge went on to voice the residents’ concerns about the potential hazards of incorporating a rail line into the property, fire hazards and zoning issues.
“They want to install a rail line, carrying barrels of oil, that will pass within 100 yards of two schools,” said Mudge “That is a safety hazard.”
However, NOLA Oil Terminals says it wants nothing to do with building a rail line.
“We have no plans to install a rail line, we don’t need one,” the Civil Engineer for the NOLA Oil project, Roy Carubba said in a phone interview. “All of our shipping will be done by ships and barges.”
Carubba also expressed that this facility will not have any negative impacts on the surrounding areas due to well thought out plans and safety precautions.
“This is going to be the most modern terminal on the river,” said Carubba. “This facility has been designed to exceed all of the environmental and safety requirements that were needed. We have surpassed all of our requirements.
“We met with Roy Robichaux (Plaquemines Parish Fire Chief) to discuss our fire safety precautions, and designed our facility to exceed the safety requirements,” Carubba continued. “Some of the fire trucks will be equipped with foam fire suppressants— foam systems will also be installed on all of our holding tanks.”
Lastly on the residents’ list of concerns is zoning. They are adamantly opposed to allowing an industrial entity to build next to a residential area, and state that such an action goes against the zoning laws. The consensus among them is that NOLA Oil, a company they think should be deemed as I3 (a heavy industrial classification), should not be allowed to build in an area deemed as a flood plane.
But NOLA Oil Terminals does not believe that it should be included in the I3 category.
“We will only be storing and transferring oil,” said Carubba. “There will be no processing going on.”
This means that NOLA Oil will be in compliance with the current zoning, and the Council with the exception of Turner felt this to be true. They granted the permit 5-1 with Turner voting against the measure, with Councilmembers P.V. Griffin, Kirk Lepine, and Marla Cooper being absent from the meeting.
After numerous complaints by the public, the Department of Natural Resources has agreed to hold part of the RAM Terminal public hearing on both sides of the river. The Davant meeting on August 14 will be at the Percy Griffin Center, 6:30 p.m. It will then be continued the next night, August 15, at the Belle Chasse Civic Auditorium at 6 p.m.