By Jeffra DeViney
The Cameron Parish Police Jury met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, Nov. 10, at the West Annex Building in Cameron. All jurors were in attendance.
Paul Varello, Founder of Commonwealth, addressed the jurors in the morning session. Varello presented a slideshow updating the status of their facility, which will be located near Holly Beach. Commonwealth has been in business for almost 10 years. They have been in the permitting phase for seven years, and have spent millions, having received final permits from FERC in September, and have expectations that the commissioners will sign off next month. The air permit from the state is forthcoming. There are 29 different agencies to comply with. Most of the money is spent on engineering.
Commonwealth wants to respect and live with the natural environment. There is $6 billion to be spent with enhanced career opportunities, over time for young people, with job possibilities for them at the facility. The company is expected to create up to 250 jobs for Cameron Parish and the community. The company has worked with the Cameron Parish Tax Assessor, and unlike some of the industries taking advantage of a 10 Year Tax Holiday, will pay property taxes because it’s the right thing to do.
Varello indicated that Commonwealth is proud to be one of the founding sponsors of the LNG Center for Excellence, being built at McNeese State University. It will become a World Center to make LNG cleaner.
Katie Barnes, with the National Audubon Society, addressed the jurors. Barnes manages the Coastal Stewardship Program work on beaches, different habitats, and the study of different marsh birds. She has been part of an on-going scientific research team in Cameron Parish for the last seven years. Research has shown that beach nesting bird habitat is unique.
They are currently working on a species that is threatened, now on the endangered species list, the Eastern Black Rail. On behalf of the Audubon Society and their 1.5 million members, Barnes expressed a strong objection by the society against the Commonwealth LNG Project. They expect disruption of the area ecosystems and deteriorating habitat for the Black Rail caused by this project. There are also concerns about worse flooding, as well as greenhouse gas emissions and the effect on air quality for the area. She stated it is not too late to take action to consider other sites and to find alternatives.
Barnes stated she wasn’t opposed to the LNG plants, but once the habitat is gone, it’s gone. The Audubon Society did make an objection to FERC.
Landowner -John Allaire
John Allaire, Cameron Parish Landowner, spoke to the jurors about BP America. He wanted to thank BP for conducting investigation to evaluate the environmental conditions of subsoils in the Grand Lake area. and evaluating cleanup. He supports the approved permit by the Police Jury.
He asked that the permit for Venture Global be revised to require them to do a sediment testing on dredged materials that they plan to pump into the refuge due to historical contaminants.
In regards to Commonwealth, he noted concerns from EPA and NOAA, and adverse effects from the development for wildlife and the environment. He asked if they realized they are going to be cutting down trees on the Chenieres, where tropical birds come, and that they will fill in the marsh with 60,000 truckloads of fill. This is endangered Black Rail habitat and estimates that 30 will be killed.
To read the rest of this story, please see page three of the print edition of The Cameron Parish Pilot.