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Organizations Demand St. John Parish Council Hold A Meeting On the Proposed Grain Elevator

RE: Demand the St. John Parish Council Hold Formal Meeting to Discuss Proposed Grain Elevator in Wallace, Louisiana

Via Hand-Delivery and Email

 

To:

Councilmember Lennix Madere, Jr., At-Large Division A

Councilmember Michael P. Wright, At-Large Division B

Councilmember Kurt Becnel, District 1

Councilmember Warren “Bosco” Torres, District 2

Councilmember Tammy Houson, District 3

Councilmember Tyra Duhe-Griffin, District 4

Councilmember Robert Arcuri, District 5

Councilmember Tonia Schnyder, District 6

Councilmember Thomas Malik, District 7

Dear St. John Parish Council, 

 

Your constituents deserve to have a place where they can honor their family’s past, present, and future, to be able to bring their children to visit their ancestors’ graves and use their memories and wisdom to inform the present and build the future. From Wallace, to Edgard and Vacherie, the very people who built St. John Parish are now fighting for their safety and livelihood against threats from petrochemical and heavy industry, including the proposed grain elevator by Denver, Colorado-based Greenfield LLC. 

 

The Descendants Project was founded to preserve and protect the health, land, and lives of the Black descendant community located in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley—including our hometown of Wallace, Louisiana, which will be most impacted by the proposed grain elevator.

 

We—members of the Black descendant community, residents of St. John Parish, and the undersigned organizations and individual supporters and allies—request that the St. John Parish council hold a formal meeting to hear their constituents’ concerns over Denver, Colorado-based Greenfield’s proposed grain elevator and consider using their power to stop its construction.

 

For our past, our present, and our future, we need the support of our elected officials to continue in this fight and preserve Wallace, Louisiana.

 

Denver, Colorado-based Greenfield and its proposed grain elevator are a threat to the place The Descendants Project calls home and the untapped potential growth of our city and parish. The plans for this massive 284-acre footprint terminal with over 50 grain silos, 300-foot-high structures (taller than a 20-story building) and 1.2 million cubic yards of excavation and fill were made without any consultation of St. John Parish residents, any consideration of our needs and quality of life, nor any concern for our dreams of what our community should look and feel like.  

 

Our Black descendant community—residents in your districts who will be most impacted by the construction and continuation of this grain elevator—was not informed of this grain terminal project nor given the opportunity to express our concerns or communicate our opinions. Despite Greenfield’s public campaigns purporting to prioritize the health and livelihood of our Parish, the science, research, and lived experiences prove there is no way residents can be protected from the noise, fumes, dust/dirt, and dangers that the elevator will bring. 

 

Hence the grain elevator is opposed by your residents, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Urban League President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Morial, and countless other global and national intergovernmental organizations, including the organizations signed on at the bottom of this letter.

 

The world is watching, and the St. John Parish Council has an opportunity to protect our community from the deadly petrochemical corporations that seek to push us out. 

 

According to a recent analysis conducted by our partners at Together Louisiana—a statewide network of religious and civic congregations across Louisiana—government bodies like yours in St. John Parish are set to miss out on over $200 million in tax revenue over the next 30 years as part of a tax-reduction cooperative endeavor agreement between the Port of South Louisiana, the parish sheriff’s office, and Greenfield in their attempts to construct the grain elevator. 

 

This proposal will deprive our local government bodies — including public schools, courts and the parish council for general government services — of $209 million over the course of three short decades. Can you stand by as your district loses millions of dollars to a harmful petrochemical corporation that stands to make money killing off our community, without even hearing the concerns of your constituents?

 

The histories of Black and Indigenous peoples in this region provide opportunities for funding new businesses, jobs, and programs around historic preservation, heritage tourism, and agritourism to stimulate our local economy. Wallace's eligibility to become its own National Historic District is supported by federal preservation authorities including the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.

 

The proposed terminal would damage the important historical sites that ground our community in its past and offer a path towards a thriving future, including unmarked slave burial grounds, and nearby plantations, including the Whitney Plantation Museum and the Evergreen Plantation, which has been designated a national landmark and national historic district. These burial and historical sites are not only important to preserve in honor of our lineages, but are also important to the economic success of your constituents. These surrounding plantations are expected to return to pre-pandemic numbers, considering Whitney Plantation surpassed 100,000 visitors by the end of 2019. That museum visitation can translate into 100,000 people annually visiting Wallace by 2024.The grain terminal construction, noise, pollution, odors, and massive structures would disrupt the business and visitation of these historical museums, prohibiting telling the history of enslaved people in southeastern Louisiana while impacting the tourist economy.  

 

The grain terminal would also have devastating effects on our natural environment. It would destroy portions of the marsh and impact local wildlife that are listed as endangered, federally protected and state protected.   

 

As our elected leaders, you have a duty to honor and protect our community from the petrochemical industry’s constant attacks, and instead foster a safe and burgeoning place where we can all thrive. The Descendants Project and the undersigned organizations urge you to join your Black descendant residents, the United Nations, national preservation societies, and countless other intergovernmental entities by hearing from your constituents on how the grain elevator would negatively impact their life and future, and consider using your power to stop the grain elevator construction.  

 

We request a formal public Council meeting where your constituents' concerns will be further expressed and considered.

 

Respectfully,    

The Descendants Project

Undersigned Organizations

Antenna

Common Ground Relief

Dancing Grounds

Foundation for Louisiana

Franciscan Action Network

Front Porch Research Strategy

Equation Campaign

Extinction Rebellion New Orleans

Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition

Greater NOLA Climate Reality

Healthy Gulf

Inclusive Louisiana

Levees.org

Louisiana Bucket Brigade

Louisiana Just Recovery Network

Louisiana Progress

Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation

Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans

Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary

Sunrise New Orleans

Taproot Earth

The Undivide Project

UCBR Social Justice Team

Westside Sponsoring Committee

Whitney Plantation

Women With a Vision