‘David-and-Goliath Story’ As Texas Environmental Activist Diane Wilson Wins $50 Million Judgment Against Plastics Giant Formosa

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Above Photo: Environmental activist Diane Wilson on Tuesday saw a settlement reached with Formosa Plastics approved by a federal judge, clearing the way for $50 million in cleanup for Lavaca Bay in Texas. (Photo: Chelsea Green)

Environmental activist Diane Wilson on Tuesday celebrated the approval of a settlement with plastics giant Formosa Plastics Corp. that will see the company devote $50 million to remediating areas of the Texas Gulf Coast it polluted.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt approved the settlement (pdf), which was reached in October.

“If this isn’t a David-and-Goliath story, I don’t know what is,” tweeted Texas Tribune reporter Kiah Collier.

Wilson and a coalition of environmental groups sued Formosa for its Point Comfort plant’s pollution of Lavaca Bay area, about 125 miles east-southeast of Houston

Collier’s reporting in the Tribune Tuesday about the settlement detailed the way the money will be used:

TRLA said the $50 million settlement is the largest in U.S. history involving a private citizen’s lawsuit against anindustrial polluter under federal clean air and water laws. The money will be poured into a trust over the next five years and used to pay for programs supporting pollution mitigation, habitat restoration, public education and other environmental efforts on the middle Texas Gulf Coast.

In a statement, Wilson expressed her satisfaction with the settlement’s approval.

“Having the $50 million settlement go to local environmental projects feels like justice,” said Wilson. “Formosa polluted Lavaca Bay and nearby waterways for years. Now it will pay for strong community projects that will improve the health and welfare of our waterways and beaches.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, took to Twitter to congratulate Wilson and remembered their shared activism from decades ago.

“So proud of Diane Wilson, a fantastic activist who just won $50 million settlement against Formosa for illegal dumping into Lavaca Bay,” said Jayapal. “I went on hunger strike with Diane almost 20 years ago against Dow Chemical for dumping—she has not stopped. Congrats, Diane!”

Wilson’s lawyer, Erin Gaines, said that the agreement is an example of how the public can fight for the environment—and win.

“This is a standard that citizens all over the country are fighting to get enforced in their communities,” said Gaines. “Another key point is that Formosa must clean up illegally discharged plastics. This comprehensive settlement means that the natural resources in the Point Comfort area will not only be protected, they will also be revitalized.”