Port Arthur citizens oppose construction of new plant near their homes

ZeoGas is a start-up company that wants to convert natural gas into methanol, which will then be turned into gasoline.  It's interested in building a plant in Port Arthur along Highway 73 near the city's water plan, but families living nearby, in the El Vista area, don't want it.

They voiced their opposition during a town hall meeting Thursday evening hosted by District 4 Councilman Stephen Mosley.

Storms knocked out power to the St. John's Catholic Church community building, where the meeting was held, but people still showed up and stayed despite no lights nor air conditioning.

ZeoGas wants a 10-year, 100 percent tax break from the city, but the council does not want to give that much of an incentive, and has offered a counterproposal.

The city offered a 10-year agreement with a 75 percent tax abatement during construction years. Once operational, the plant would be eligible for a 90 percent abatement that would decrease to 50 percent over the course of the 10 years.

Supporters of the project say the $1.2 billion project will pump millions of dollars into the local economy and create 3,000 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs.

ZeoGas also says the gasoline it produces has 70 percent less benzene than conventionally refined gasoline, but those at Thursday's meeting aren't buying the promises.

They say they've been promised job opportunities before and have just gotten industry that's harmed their health.

Former District 4 Councilman Robert Troy said, "In the whole of Port Arthur, this area is the highest cancer rate."

And Councilman Mosley said, "They're getting a lot of chemicals from the local refineries already, a lot of traffic and then no jobs.  And so they just had enough of it, and the idea is they want to draw a line in the sand."

Since the plant is within city limits, it's Port Arthur that has the final say on tax abatements, but Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick has giving ZeoGas a letter of intent that if Port Arthur approves an abatement, county commissioners would consider offering the company at 10-year, 100 percent break on county taxes.

However both Commissioners Bo Alfred and Michael Sinegal have expressed concern that the judge has yet to approach them about the proposal.

In addition to Port Arthur, ZeoGas is also considering two other places for its plant, Corpus Christi and Louisiana.

Another public hearing on the project will be held July 14 inside council chambers at Port Arthur City Hall.


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