Bloomberg Funds Program to Block US Petchem Projects

26.09.2022 - Michael Bloomberg, the founder of US-based financial, software, data and media group Bloomberg LP and a United Nations special envoy on climate ambition and solutions, has launched a campaign to stop the expansion of petrochemicals and plastics production in the US.

The $85-million program—called Beyond Petrochemicals: People Over Pollution—seeks to “turbocharge” existing efforts to block more than 120 proposed petrochemical projects in Louisiana, Texas and the Ohio River Valley.

According to research from non-profit organisation RMI, which was supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the projects would “double emissions from the petrochemical and refining industry to comprise 15% of the total US carbon budget, making it nearly impossible for the US to meet its Paris Agreement climate goals.”

Bloomberg said as the world transitions to clean and renewable energy, demand for oil is projected to shift from fuels to petrochemicals. By 2050, petrochemical applications are estimated to account for nearly half of the growth in oil demand and will exceed carbon emissions of coal-fired power by 2030.

“This campaign will help ensure more local victories, support laws that protect communities from harm and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling the climate crisis,” Bloomberg said. The initiative also builds on the Beyond Coal and Beyond Carbon campaigns, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which are said to have helped retire more than 65% of US coal plants in the past decade.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said Bloomberg’s move is based on “unfounded environmental concerns.” “As the science behind sustainability, chemistry is the single most important element to transitioning to renewable energy and combating climate change,” said ACC CEO Chris Jahn. “From lithium-ion batteries to solar cells and wind turbines, to energy-efficient insulation and windows, to lightweight materials for fuel efficient cars and automobiles, chemistry—and the facilities that produce chemistry—are guiding the way forward.”

He added that with more than 135,000 workers across Texas, Louisiana and Ohio, ACC member company employees are also community members, committed to helping protect the earth’s land, air and water for their families and neighbors.

Beyond Petrochemicals will focus on four pillars: community leadership; data and research; legislation and litigation; and stakeholder engagement. Essentially Bloomberg will provide resources to empower advocates in the target regions of Louisiana, Texas, and the Ohio River Valley "to challenge industrial buildout and enforce environmental and health protections."

It will also fund studies and supply data and analysis to government and financial decision makers, and “use the power of the law to protect public health and the climate."  In addition, Bloomberg will engage with the general public and private sector to “improve enforcement of regulations and reduce demand for plastic and petrochemical products."

ACC said its members “will continue to welcome the opportunity to partner with governments and the activist community on our journey to becoming even better corporate stewards. Jahn commented: “We encourage the NGO community to put fundraising rhetoric aside and join us in maximizing chemistry’s potential to solve the world’s sustainability challenges while continuing to safeguard the communities where we live, work, and play.”

Bloomberg will work with frontline groups and aligned organizations that include Beyond Plastics, the Bullard Center at Texas Southern University, Defend Our Health, Earthjustice, Earthworks, Hip Hop Caucus, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and Rise St. James.

Cancelled projects

The campaign’s announcement follows a Louisiana court’s rejection of Formosa Plastics’ petrochemical project in St. James Parish earlier this month. A judge at the Baton Rouge District Court overturned all 14 environmental permits after legal action by environmental and citizens’ organizations. Formosa is reported to be exploring options to continue with the project, which is called Sunshine and comprises an ethane cracker and downstream PP and PE plants.

Also this month, South Louisiana Methanol effectively cancelled its proposed methanol project in St. James Parish, having failed to respond to an Aug. 19 deadline set by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which has withdrawn its review of the application.

Author: Elaine Burridge, Freelance Journalist