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Jefferson Parish revokes permit for cyanide plant at Waggaman

Corporations whose businesses require governmental permits must constantly pay attention to the attitudes of local government entities. such as county boards, city councils and local zoning boards. Nowhere has this necessity been more acutely illustrated than in the action of the Jefferson Parish board's decision to revoke a permit for a cyanide plant that it had unanimously granted in January 2018.

The controversy involves Cornerstone Chemical Company's intention to construct a $100 million plant directly across the Mississippi River from the Louis Armstrong International Airport. In January 2018, the parish board voted 7-0 to approve a special permitted use for the site. When the public learned of the plans for the expansion after the permit was granted, several citizens' groups began an intense lobbying campaign. On April 3, 2019, the board voted 6-1 to retroactively rescind the permit.

The controversy stirred up two common arguments that beset such projects. The executive director of the Jefferson Business Council accused the board of "taking away, essentially, somebody's property right." In the other corner, the woman who is credited with digging out the facts of the case and stirring up citizen opposition, said that the plant threatens people who live in the neighborhood. When one supporter of the plant said that the board's action sent an "ominous signal" to other businesses, the argument was met with the observation that Cornerstone needs the Mississippi River and it will make appropriate revisions to satisfy objections to the plant's adverse environmental impact.

Cornerstone has two options apart from abandoning the project. It can revise its plans to eliminate objections, or it can seek judicial review of the council's action. These actions are not mutually exclusive; they can both be pursued at the same. This dispute is a large but not uncommon example of the sort of business law conflicts that often pit business interests against neighborhood environmental concerns.

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