Reflection on RAM Coal Terminal Community Meeting

By Bianca Walters, Community Organizer

The residents of Plaquemines Parish may be getting a new neighbor. On August 14th and 15th, community members gathered together to express their concerns and dissatisfaction of the possible building of a new coal terminal in the area. Belle Chasse is already home to two coal terminals and two oil refineries. Louisiana is no stranger to industrial facilities. This new coal terminal won’t be the first and it, unfortunately, will not be the last. That’s beside the point. The point is residents were allowed to discuss and voice their opinions to members of the Department of Natural Resources, the people who control whether or not this facility will be built. On Thursday, a few LABB staff members and I were privileged enough to attend the meeting. A large percentage of the attendees live in Ironton, a small town comprised of the descendants of freed slaves. The RAM coal terminal would be built less than a mile from their front doors. Their health is already impacted by the existing facilities nearby; the addition to the neighborhood would only exacerbate upper respiratory issues many already face. The residents of Plaquemines Parish know the health effects associated with living so close to these facilities and won’t stand behind another one being built so close to home. I cried for most of the meeting if for no other reason than the sheer fact of how much passion the speakers had. Louisiana is not my native land; by most accounts I’m not even local yet, but it is my home. The mix of emotions resonated inside of me, woke something up that had long been dormant. These people were scared and confused, had been left in the dark. They were angry and justifiably so. No one from RAM or the DNR had spoken to them about the proposed building plan. No one had asked if it was okay. No one said anything. So now the residents of Plaquemines were speaking up. Members of the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition spoke after the RAM coal terminal representative. They were beautifully crafted speeches, filled with poignant remarks and unsettling facts. The words that touched me the most were from the Plaquemines community, from those whose lives would be the most affected. People rose from their chairs in solidarity shouting “not in our backyard!” A line formed around the inside of the auditorium of people who had something to say but had not made a formal request at the beginning of the meeting. The most common topic touched upon was a simple question directed at the DNR panel. One after another, people took to the podium and asked “would you want this is your backyard?” I don’t know what’s going to happen with this terminal. Based on what I know of Louisiana politics I have a pretty good feeling as to what the outcome will be. I’d rather stay optimistic, but I know I’ll have to keep fighting. So please, stand up with me and say “not in our backyard.”

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One Response to Reflection on RAM Coal Terminal Community Meeting

  1. Thanks for the post. I do love the manner in which you have presented this specific matter. I would love to share your blog with my friends on Social Networking Sites.

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