Ironton residents protest new coal terminal plansAug 27th, 2012 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: top story
“Here we go again—industry before human life,” said Ironton native Rose Jackson at the August 23 Plaquemines Parish Council meeting.
Nearly a dozen Ironton residents showed full force at the temporary courthouse in Belle Chasse to protest the council’s support of RAM Terminals, a coal export company looking to build in the area.
Jackson and other Ironton residents demanded that the council initiate a study to fully examine the environmental impact of another coal facility on the area before any further plans are finalized.
RAM Terminals purchased the land just south of Alliance refinery earlier this year and was recently granted an air quality permit by the DEQ. International Marine Terminal, IMT, located two miles south of Ironton near Myrtle Grove expanded the southern end of their facility in January and have plans to expand north.
Port Director John Pennison says that the land RAM purchased is over a mile away from the north side of Ironton and that the south-southeast winds would blow any dust away from the community. Additionally, he says that IMT’s expansion plans are two miles away from where the south end of Ironton starts.
District 6 Councilman Burghart Turner argued that allowing another coal facility to be built in the area would be choking the community out.
“This is not a small issue. There’s the possibility of displacing a community,” Turner stated. “Once this train gets steam behind it, there’s no stopping it.”
Pennison says that he has seen no plans from RAM Terminals that have called for the relocation of Ironton.
Residents’ main concern was the lack of notification or public hearing on the matter.
“I answer to God, and you answer to the people,” said Pastor Haywood Johnson of Ironton’s St. Paul Baptist Church. “We should have been informed, you should have gotten our opinion.
Think about the children and elderly people who will have to breathe this coal dust— I feel like you wouldn’t do this to any other community but Ironton.”
In April, the Port, Harbor and Terminal District passed a resolution to adopt official intent to issue revenue bonds to RAM Terminals. If issued by the Port, Harbor and Terminal District, the bonds would allow the company to finance the cost of the design, planning, and construction of their facility.
Port Chairman Anthony Buras said it was good move for the Port, as it would show they were serious about development; and a good move for the parish because the company would be bringing in much-needed jobs. Pennison says that RAM Terminals would bring in around 150 jobs to Plaquemines Parish.
During the April discussion, Buras explained that RAM came to the Port asking them to be a “conduit for bonds in order for them to finance the building of their facility.”
Doing that would pass along the federal tax exempt status of the Port to RAM Terminals. Pennison also explained that the resolution does not commit the parish to anything, it is “just a resolution of intent.”
“I think it sends a good message that we are like other Ports in the region and interested in development by assisting RAM Terminals in their endeavor,” Pennison said.
The April bond resolution, passed by a 6 – 1 vote, with Turner as the sole opposition.
Councilmen P.V. Griffin and Keith Hinkley were absent from that vote.
“I’m against a coal facility there because of the communities located there; I do want Port Development, but we do not need another coal facility in that area,” Turner said. “From an environmental standpoint, I’m in opposition to it.”
At the most recent PPC meeting, Turner introduced a resolution which rescinds the April 26 resolution, and encouraged the people of Ironton to make their opposition known at the September 6 PPC meeting, when the matter will be taken up for vote.
Councilchair Byron Marinovich said that the council is in no way a spokesperson for RAM Terminals, and has no intention of displacing or disrupting any neighborhoods.
District 1 Councilman P.V. Griffin assured the residents that the right decision would be made.
“Our job is to protect the people that voted us into office— are we here to protect people or industry?,” Griffin asked.