Media Contact

Candi Richardson, ACLU-MS, 

February 14, 2024

GULFPORT, Miss - Yesterday, the Mississippi Court of Appeals issued a disappointing ruling in favor of the Mississippi Environmental Quality Permit Board, in EEECHO, ET AL. V. MISSISSIPPI ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY PERMIT BOARD, ET AL., a case that determined whether the permit board improperly issued a water quality certification to the Mississippi Port Authority that would allow the construction of a military facility near a historically Black community in Gulfport.

The case was filed on behalf of EEECHO (Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization)  and other community groups by the ACLU of Mississippi and EarthJustice, amid residents’ concerns about the potential risks of toxic exposure from contaminated soil and water, increased flooding of nearby neighborhoods, and the danger of possible military-grade explosives near their homes.

In response to the ruling, Rodrigo G. Cantú, Senior Attorney for the EarthJustice Gulf Regional Office issued the following statement:

"We are extremely disappointed with the court’s decision. This allows the Permit Board to endanger the health and safety of a historically black community by ignoring the possibility of storing explosive ammunition in a residential area. There are better alternatives for this type of facility. The fight is far from over, and we will be with the North Gulfport community every step of the way.”

Joshua Tom, Legal Director at the ACLU of Mississippi said the following:

“Before a state agency grants a permit to build a military installation that may include high explosives in your community, you deserve adequate notice, not only as a matter of justice and fairness, but also as a matter of law. Adequate notice was not provided. For that and other reasons, we are disappointed that the Court of Appeals has upheld the grant of this permit. We continue to explore all of our options on behalf of our clients.”

The case dates back to 2019, when the state’s environmental permit board signed off on a Mississippi State Port Authority proposal for the project.  That same month, EEECHO, the North Gulfport Community Land Trust, the Anointed Temple AOH Church of God, and three impacted residents requested an evidentiary hearing before the  Permit Board regarding its decision. In August of 2021, after a two-day evidentiary hearing earlier in the year, the Permit Board affirmed its initial issuance of the water quality certification. 

Although the Permit Board maintains the project is safe for community members, the board failed to investigate whether or how explosive ammunition would be stored near the community or the potential hazards.