Support, criticism of PLT intensifies ahead of permit hearing

Advocates and opponents of the proposed Plaquemines Liquids Terminal are finalizing their pitches ahead of a joint Department of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Quality public hearing this Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Belle Chasse Auditorium.

Environmental groups and a handful of local officials have criticized the proj ect at every step of its development from the Parish Council’s October 2018 approval of Plaquemines Port Harbor & Terminal District’s deal with Tallgrass Energy and funders Drexel Hamilton to the reveal of damning emails in October 18 that brought accusations of “appraisal shopping.” Now nonprofit groups are accusing the state of prematurely holding public hearings for air and coastal use permits without releasing details that would inform public opinion on the project.

“We’re very concerned that the state is barreling ahead with this hearing… despite not yet releasing key information about how this project will impact our natural storm defenses and restoration,” said Raleigh Hoke, campaign director for Healthy Gulf. “How is the public supposed to comment on wetlands impacts without knowing what they are?”

An email blast from the group Restore the Mississippi River Delta ties those concerns more directly to the Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority’s proposed $1 billion Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, which is slated for construction downriver from the PLT site. CPRA announced in April 2019 that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Tallgrass noting that PLT is “not inconsistent” with the state’s coastal restoration master plan, which includes the sediment diversion.

CPRA did not respond to an email requesting com ment for this story.

A Tallgrass spokesperson said the company’s relevant subject matter experts will be on hand at the Feb. 6 meeting to answer questions and address concerns, although it is unlikely that information will include “anything that’s not already public.” She said any further official information or environmental studies will be issued by state agencies.

“We are committed to making sure our project has minimal impacts on the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion,” said Phyllis Hammond, senior director of corporate communication for Tallgrass. “The bottom line is we’re going to walk through the project and talk about the steps we’ve taken and listen to the concerns the general public has to share.”

Plaquemines Port Deputy Director Paul Matthews said the port had no official response to public complaints from nonprofit groups except to note that Tallgrass has followed DNR and DEQ processes at every step.

The Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry released a statement last week voicing its support for the PLT project based on job creation and “long-term tax revenues.”

“PABI supports the regulatory review process and related permit approval or denial that is critical to our environmental and coastal protection,” read the statement from PABI 2020 Chairperson Timothy Schotsch.

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