Monsanto preps public for $1B plant upgrade

Permit documents available for review

In anticipation of Monsanto jumping its last hurdle to start construction of its nearly $1 billion plant upgrade in Luling, company executives detailed the project to the public.

Some 42 people attended last Thursday’s three-hour information meeting at the Edward Dufresne Community Center.Luling Plant Manager Ariel Lorenzo said public comment focused on potential traffic congestion during construction, potential safety issues and how they’ll be managed through engineering design as well as equipment used in the project and how work shifts will be scheduled.

Brad Phillips, who handles permitting for Monsanto, said the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is expected to open the 30-day review and comment period on the company’s draft to make dicamba, a herbicide that will be included in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready XTend System product. DEQ’s approval would clear the way to begin construction, which is anticipated by early 2017.

Phillips said the review should begin in about two weeks and could be finalized by December. Permit documents, including the permits, permit application and environmental assessment, will be available for viewing at the West Regional Library, 12439 Hwy. 90 in Luling.

“We want to answer your questions,” Phillips said. To answer those questions, he pointed out the company has established an expansion hot line at (985) 785-4545.

Phillips emphasized Monsanto’s commitment to the use of latest-available technology and safety backups to make dicamba.

Calling this Monsanto’s largest project in its history, Lorenzo said the plant will not expand in size but be retrofitted with the technology necessary to make dicamba.

The herbicide is the fifth most used worldwide, but it will soon become a new product for Monsanto, he said. The local plant, which produces glyphosate for Roundup, was chosen because of its technical expertise and safety record in addressing what he called “dicamba complexity.”

Lorenzo said the mix became necessary when weeds developed a resistance to Roundup, a major Monsanto product used worldwide.

Upgrading the company’s largest plant site will entail major adjustments, including the addition of a new rail spur, Lorenzo said. Materials for construction will enter three entrances: Paul Maillard Road, U.S Highway 90 and River Road.

Monsanto plans to retrofit the plant and start making dicamba by 2019-20.

The project was set in motion when the company’s board of directors signed off on the project on April 16.

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