July 21–LAPLACE — Two years after residents successfully fought plans for a 10 million-barrel oil storage site in western St. James Parish, two companies are in the parish seeking approval for a similar project.
Llogic Petroleum Terminal and All American Refinery want permission to build a tank farm on 1,700 acres of agricultural and wooded property near Vacherie. The land is currently earmarked for residential use.
The Port of South Louisiana had said in March it would sue the parish for the right to develop the 10 million-barrel tank farm. After a July 13 closed-door meeting among investors, the parish president and port officials, the investors’ plan now is to go through the parish’s land use process, which is similar to a zoning commission. They hope to illustrate the project is an appropriate use for the land.
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Port officials say the companies have been checked out and have the financial resources to pull off the project, though details about Llogic Petroleum and All American remain unclear.
State business records say All American Refinery is a New Orleans-based company with its principal business office at a modest house in Baton Rouge’s Sagefield neighborhood off Gardere Lane. A reporter from The Advocate knocked on the door and found that the elderly mother-in-law of All-American’s registered agent lives there.
The Port of South Louisiana’s earlier announcement that it would seek the lawsuit renewed public opposition to putting a major industrial facility in the area after years of resistance and federal litigation pursued by parish government that eventually killed the planned Petroplex tank farm.
The huge site sits along the Mississippi River but extends far inland — to near a new high school that is opening this fall. The school system sold the old St. James High School to make way for the Yuhuang Chemical complex and other industrial development expected along the river.
Until recently, the port’s plan for the old Petroplex property, which the port bought last year after Petroplex’s investors went under, had remained largely under wraps as the port commission vetted two unknown suitors.
In mid-June, the port agreed on the advice of its financial adviser to negotiate with Llogic Petroleum, disclosing then for the first time the winning competitor for the site. Port director Paul Aucoin told the commission Tuesday that All American Refinery and its “affiliates” were being added at Llogic Petroleum’s request because All American Refinery is one of the “major financial partners in this endeavor.”
With neighbors opposed to the prospective tank farm watching, the commission supported the change, 6-1, with no discussion and two members absent.
“I live two miles away from that site, and I’m just not for it,” Whitney Hickerson, the only commissioner who voted “no,” said after the meeting.
Aucoin and some port commissioners initially declined to comment on the project. On Thursday, Aucoin said he could not discuss the companies’ plans because of a confidentiality agreement but said the port’s financial advisers checked out the companies’ finances.
David Larroquette, who says he is an All American partner, said in an interview his business is a service-disabled veterans company that is trying to capitalize on the need for more oil storage.
“We’re just trying to get our ducks in a row so we can produce this because there is a huge, a huge cry for these storage tanks because we got all this product and no place to put it in the world,” he said.
He and fellow investor Larry Ditoro declined to offer more details until after All American Refinery finalized its plans and set up new offices in Baton Rouge and possibly in New Orleans.
Ditoro referred further questions, including about the current location of its business office, to a consultant who didn’t return a call for comment this week.
Parish property tax records show the house where All American’s current business office is located is owned by Theron Larroquette, All American’s registered agent, or legal point of contact. Investor David Larroquette identified himself as Theron Larroquette’s brother.
Theron Larroquette also claims homestead exemption on the reported oil company business office, tax records say. The state tax break is reserved for a person’s principal residence.
On Wednesday, Kiuko Peebles, 86, responded to a note left Tuesday evening on the front door of the home in Sagefield. In a telephone interview, she said she is Theron Larroquette’s mother-in-law and she hasn’t ever heard of All American Refinery.
Business records also say the home is the address for All American’s president and vice president, Jesse Grantham and Richard Cantwell. Peebles said she didn’t know them either.
“I don’t know anything about it,” she said.
But she did say her son-in-law, Theron Larroquette, comes by the house about once a week to visit.
Llogic Petroleum Terminal is a Louisiana company based in a rural residential area of Gonzales, state business records say.
Sandy Fielden, a Morningstar energy analyst who has written about the future of oil operations in the St. James area, said neither company “jumps off the page” as a big player.
He added that tank farm operations in St. James Parish are seen as declining endeavors. He said there is a push to receive oil from Texas, North Dakota and even Canada toward the South for international export, but the industry is aiming for storage closer to the Gulf of Mexico, where large oceangoing ships can more easily receive the shipments.
“All the action is going to move toward the coast,” Fielden said.
Parish President Timothy Roussel signed a confidentiality agreement to meet with the investors and cannot disclose their plans. But he said their proposal could go before the Planning Commission as soon as August. The Parish Council would have the final vote.
But Aucoin, the port director, said that the agreement to go through the parish land use process does not mean the once-promised lawsuit isn’t possible in the future.
“We’re hoping that the (land use) process works, and anything after that is to be determined,” Aucoin said Thursday.
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