In surprise vote, Westwego city council votes against Wanhua chemical company

Updated: Jan. 28, 2020 at 9:40 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -In a shocking turn of events, the Westwego city council passed a motion to stop a Chinese chemical plant from locating in the city.

Tonight's public meeting was supposed to just be a public hearing. By design, the council was not supposed to vote on a motion. However, after more than an hours' worth of testimony from the company rep, and further questioning from both council members and the public, Councilman Glenn Green interrupted proceedings to volunteer a motion.

Residents packed the meeting space tonight but opened with the Wanhua company representative making a 30-minute presentation.

The Wanhua Chinese chemical company proposed to build a storage facility to hold a chemical, referred to as MDI, on the Kinder Morgan industrial site across the river from Audubon park.

The facility would distill, store, and then distribute MDI across the country, and promised to create hundreds of construction jobs, and 75 full-time jobs, with 15 of those jobs going to locals.

Company reps explained how MDI is a safe chemical, but many residents and city leaders grew frustrated after the rep was not able to answer questions as to exactly how dangerous it would become under different conditions like reacting to heat and water and in the event of a hurricane.

After the surprise motion was unanimously passed by the council, residents applauded the decision.

“The main will of the people was they didn’t want another chemical plant, and then my house was two blocks from that, so I didn’t' want that,” said Councilmember Glenn Green.

“Once the council seen that it wasn't the thing for them, that's why we voted and ended it tonight rather than drag it on,” said Mayor Joe Peoples.

“I live about a mile from here and I don’t want that anywhere near the city of New Orleans, Westwego, the west bank we're way to populous for that,” said Joel Waltzer.

“I’m really happy it didn't go any further, I feel like that gentleman only knew the good things he didn't have anything to say about the bad things so I’m ecstatic,” said Judith Clark.

Company reps quickly left after the vote.

The council also passed a motion to add another agenda item to the next council meeting, to examine the city ordinances regarding allowing chemical companies to locate in the city limits.

The mayor also told me there were no legally binding agreements between the city and the chemical company.

He said of chemical companies looking to locate in the city, that this is not an indication they’re not wanted in the city but will always examine the proposals on a case by case basis.

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