MASON: Seeing Red About The Communist Chemical Plant In St. James

Editor’s Note: a guest post from John Mason, a candidate for Louisiana House District 80 who is most certainly not a communist.

What if I told you that there’s a breaking story, happening right now in the town of Convent in St. James Parish that has shock and horrified a lot of people, but doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of press coverage in Louisiana, although The Washington Times has covered the story?  What if I told you it was a really juicy story?  Would you believe me?  After all, why wouldn’t a really juicy story be front page news?  Wouldn’t it be on the nightly news?  Let’s take a look at The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, with apologies to Clint Eastwood.

The Good

  • A major chemical company has decided to build a chemical plant in St. James Parish.
  • According to this story in The Lens, building and operating the plant will provide hundreds of new and temporary jobs for the residents of St. James Parish.
  • According to this story in The Morning Advocate, the average pay for the permanent jobs will be $80,000.
  • The CEO of the company has promised to buy as many of the raw materials as possible from local and Louisiana companies

That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  As a conservative I’m all for the creation of hundreds of jobs that pay above state average.  I mean, you’d have to be a communist to oppose that, right?

The Bad

  • According the Washington Times story cited above, the plant will spew some 300 tons of toxic air emissions.
  • These emissions include about 1,700 pounds of phosgene, a gas used in chemical warfare.
  • Another ten million pounds of liquid waste will be produced. If my calculation of 270 gallons of water is about 1 ton is correct, then that’s slightly over 37,000 tons of liquid waste.
  • According to the documents submitted to the Department of Environmental Quality, “wastewater that is not reused will be handled/treated … and discharged to the Mississippi River”.
  • One of the chemicals that will be manufactured at the plant is a type of isocyanate. The Center for Disease Control says exposure to this isocyanate may have dire consequences: “Death from severe asthma in some sensitized subjects has been reported”.
  • The chemical company had an explosion at another plant in 2016 that killed four people.

Yikes!  That doesn’t sound nearly as appealing, does it?  Especially if you have a large city, say like New Orleans, that is downriver from the plant.  Or if you don’t enjoy dying in explosions.

The Ugly

  • The name of the company is Wanhua, and it’s owned by the communist government of China.
  • The South China Morning Post states that Wanhua and Yuhuang (another company owned by the communist government of China that built a plant in St. James Parish) only intend to sell 20 to 30 percent of the chemicals manufactured in St. James in the United States. The rest will be sent back to China.
  • Louisiana is providing 3 million dollars of taxpayer money to offset infrastructure costs.
  • Wanhua will pay zero percent property taxes for a decade.
  • Wanhua is attempting to establish a Foreign Trade Zone, which would exempt it from tariffs and local taxes.

You read that right, Wanhua will pay zero percent property taxes for a full decade.  I couldn’t find any estimates of how much of a tax break this was, but a company called Formosa built a $9 billion dollar plant in St. James and got the exact same tax breaks.  The Daily Comet reported that this tax incentive cost the state of Louisiana about 1.5 billion dollars of tax revenue.  The Formosa project may not take up the same amount of land, but even if the Wanhua tax break is only half as much that still a lot of money.

Now you probably expect that this is the part of the article when I tell you that my opponent, Polly Thomas, voted for this travesty, right?  She didn’t.  No one in the Louisiana Legislature got to vote on this.  Not a single legislator had a say.


The “Say What?!?”

How on God’s green earth did a company owned by the Chinese Communists get such a huge tax break without a single Louisiana congressperson or senator voting for it?

The answer is ITEP, Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program.  ITEP first passed in 1974, by then-Governor Edwin Edwards, who was not noted for being especially conservative.  Basically, ITEP is run by a “Board of Commerce & Industry”, whose members are appointed by the Governor.  These unelected board members do not answer to the public, and until very recently, acted with no local input.

This is why we NEED a Conservative Governor!

As always, I encourage you to do your own research.  ITEP is controversial, and currently, John Bel Edwards decides who serves on it.  I definitely don’t think that’s a good idea.  I’ll write a follow-up article on ITEP, but I can promise you this, right here and right now: if you send me to the Louisiana House of Representatives, I will work to reform this system.  I want duly-elected legislators that answer to the voters to have a say in these decisions.  I want the local governments that represent the people who have to live in the affected areas to have a say in these decisions.  I don’t like having unelected “Board Members” who have almost no accountability making decisions that affect Louisiana for years to come.

Until next time, keep Seeing Red.



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