EPA administrator addresses emissions in St. John Parish

Published 2:42 am Saturday, April 8, 2023

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ST.JOHN PARISH — During a press conference held Thursday in St. John the Baptist Parish, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan announced new actions to address emissions from chemical plants and reduce cancer risks in many communities across the country.

EPA’s proposal would update several regulations that apply to chemical plants, including plants that make synthetic organic chemicals, and regulations that apply to plants that make polymers such as neoprene. The proposed updates, when fully implemented, would reduce 6,053 tons of air toxics emissions each year, which are known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health effects. The proposal is most focused on reducing ethylene oxide (EtO) and chloroprene, which is produced at the Denka Performance Elastomer facility in St. John Parish.

EPA will accept written comments for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register and will hold a virtual public hearing. The Agency also will hold a webinar training for communities on April 13, 2023, to review the proposal and answer questions. The webinar is free and open to the public, and participants can register using the following link: https://usepa.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_52Yiu68ST8GJi0Xze_xuCQ

A final ruling on the proposal must be made by March 29, 2024.

“For generations, our most vulnerable communities have unjustly borne the burden of breathing unsafe, polluted air,” said EPA Administrator Regan. “When I visited St. John the Baptist Parish during my first Journey to Justice tour, I pledged to prioritize and protect the health and safety of this community and so many others that live in the shadows of chemical plants. I’m proud that this proposal would help deliver on that commitment and protect people from toxic air pollution in communities across the country –   from Louisiana and Texas, to Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio. Every child in this country deserves clean air to breathe, and EPA will use every available tool to make that vision a reality.”

The proposal also advocates for fence-line monitoring for facilities that handle any of the following air toxics: EtO, chloroprene, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride. Action levels will be set as a “limit” for each chemical. According to the EPA’s fact sheet released April 6, a 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter limit is being considered for chloroprene. Facilities would be required to submit quarterly data to the EPA beginning one year after the implementation of fence-line monitoring, and data would be made available to the public.

Congressman Troy Carter welcomed Regan in St. John Parish Thursday and expressed his commitment to environmental justice.

“My district includes an industrial hub of nearly 150 oil refineries, plastics plants, and chemical facilities spanning from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, but it is foremost an area that thousands of families call home. It is important that we reduce emissions from these dangerous plants to improve the quality of life for residents, raise life expectancy, and lower the risk of cancer,” Carter said. “Environmental justice MUST be at the center of any action to address disproportionate health and environmental impacts on communities, especially communities of color.”

For more information on the EPA proposal, visit https://www.epa.gov/hazardous-air-pollutants-ethylene-oxide/proposal-strengthen-standards-synthetic-organic-chemical