By the time C&EN visited Mossville, La., in February 2016, most of the town’s residents had left, opting to take a voluntary buy-out offered by Sasol, the South African petrochemical company that is in the midst of a big expansion of its operations on the town’s outskirts.
Many of those remaining claimed they could not afford to relocate with the amount of money Sasol offered. They said they planned to meet with the company to discuss getting a better deal.
According to Wilma Subra, an environmental consultant involved with the community, the group did meet with Sasol but without resolution. “For the most part, they never did get back to the community on that,” she says.
Kim Cusimano, manager of public relations for Sasol’s North American operations, says she is unaware of a formal petition for changes to the voluntary buyout program and that the company continues to meet regularly with residents. Sasol estimates that approximately 100 homes will remain in Mossville after everyone who agrees to a buyout leaves town.
For those who’ve stayed, things remain in a holding pattern. Haki Kazi Vincent is negotiating with Sasol to get the company to lease family property that he claims cannot be sold because of a long-standing deal with the federal government. Negotiations have not advanced since February, he says.
Vincent adds that he is also having no luck getting Sasol to fix a fence around 10 acres of property that he says the company’s construction crew destroyed when it was laying pipe.
“The people who you met are still there,” Subra says. “The construction is just disrupting their lives, and it’s just getting worse and worse.”