Mixed reactions over proposed fertilizer plant in St. John Parish

Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
Email: jkelley@wwltv.com | Twitter: @jkelleyWWL

NEW ORLEANS -- A new company has decided to call Louisiana home. EuroChem, a Russian company, plans to build its first ever fertilizer plant here in the U.S.

While it will create jobs, some do not like the idea of another dangerous chemical plant moving into the neighborhood.

Gov. Bobby Jindal made the unexpected announcement Wednesday, saying the company has select two possible locations for the fertilizer plant -- a property in Iberville Parish and a property in St. John the Baptist Parish.

'It's a huge win,' said St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom. 'It's a huge win for the state of Louisiana, but it would be an even bigger win for St. John the Baptist Parish.'

Officials say the $1.5 billion construction project would create 200 jobs and 1,500 indirect jobs, as well as 2,000 construction jobs.

Yet, critics say there are safer ways to create jobs in local communities.

'Last month we had people die, people go to the burn unit because of explosions at chemical plants, so it's really time to get a new vision of economic development,' said Ann Rolfes, the founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

'Our goal as parish leaders is to find that harmony. Find that balance. Yes we need you here, but yet maintain the rural aspects of our community and make sure it's safe,' said Robottom.

The possible St. John Parish site would be on privately owned land, roughly 915 acres. Still some are concerned about the residents that live right next to the property.

'It's displacing the community for economic gain, which is something I am totally against,' said St. John Parish Councilman Arthur Smith.

Smith said building on the property would inevitably displace those living in nearby homes, including Elizabeth Johnson who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 60 years.

'It's very dangerous and all of this stuff. All the different chemicals in the air that's not good for you,' said Johnson.

Parish leaders say safety is always a concern, especially in a community that relies heavily on industrial plants.

'We have addressed many concerns along the way. Safety is one of them. There is a very good safety history with the company,' said Robottom.

Officials say the company is expected to select a final location within a year and will likely break ground on the four-year construction project in 2015.


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