A proposed settlement of lawsuits against the EPA could further reduce toxic emissions at Denka Performance Elastomers and other plants in the area of the state that environmentalists have dubbed “Cancer Alley.”
The proposed settlement includes two lawsuits filed by environmental groups against the Environmental Protection Agency. It could use the results of a new health risk assessment of chloroprene to further reduce emissions of the cancer-causing chemical at Denka Performance Elastomers’ LaPlace manufacturing facility, as well as levels of toxic ethylene oxide, formaldehyde and butadiene there and at other facilities.
The settlement, announced Tuesday in the Federal Register, could also result in tighter regulations for flares used to burn emissions from some plastic manufacturing plants in Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere in the country.
In May 2021, concerned citizens of St. John petitioned the EPA to conduct an emergency review of the health and environmental risks of exposure to chloroprene, the chemical used to make neoprene, a rubberized plastic material best suited for its use in neoprene known in the manufacture of wetsuits. On the same day, the EPA’s inspector general also requested that the agency quickly improve regulation of chloroprene and also ethylene oxide, another chemical used in plastics manufacturing, to reduce cancer risk in the parishes of St. John and Ascension and 16 others US locations decrease.
The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating whether two state agencies…
In November 2021, Concerned Citizens, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Sierra Club sued the agency to demand that it update its rules on emissions of these and other toxic chemicals from similar plastic manufacturing facilities.
On April 7, 2022, the EPA announced that it is also investigating the state Departments of Environmental Quality and Health for their actions related to permit approvals for Denka. And on March 4, the EPA announced that it would conduct an updated study on the human health risk of chloroprene concurrently while it reviews the rules for the plastic manufacturing process.
In that announcement, the agency said that based on the risk assessment, it would “take appropriate action to ensure that the standards” contained in its regulations for the manufacture of polymers and resins “continue to provide an adequate safety margin to protect human health.” provide health.”
“The EPA’s acknowledgment that it must implement this long-overdue rulemaking is an important step toward finally strengthening protections from the cancer-causing toxic air that St. John’s parishioners have been breathing for years,” one said Citizens and LEAN statement published Tuesday by Concerned. “This is an example of Biden’s EPA beginning to chart a new course on environmental justice and clean air after years of ignoring the daily reality of border communities of being overwhelmed by cancer-causing pollution.
“The ultimate test will be whether the EPA will listen to members of the St. John community, follow the science, and strengthen airborne toxin standards to protect public health. Emissions of chloroprene and other extremely toxic chemicals from facilities are particularly dangerous to the health and well-being of children and require immediate attention,” the statement said.
Concerns about the Denka plant’s emissions arose in 2014 when the EPA released a report stating that five census counties near the plant had the highest cancer risk in the country due to exposure to airborne emissions. The plant, owned by Tokyo-based Denka Co., is the only one in the country that emits chloroprene. Concerned citizens have since urged the EPA to reduce the plant’s emissions, and have been partially successful.
23 residents waited too late to appeal, insufficiently connected society with their grievances, the decision said
In early 2017, Denka entered into a voluntary agreement with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to drastically reduce emissions from the facility, at a cost of approximately $17 million.
But in 2016, the EPA recommended that chloroprene levels on monitors around the facility should not exceed 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter on an annual average. Between January 6 and April 14 of this year, the EPA found that average levels at all 18 monitors around the facility remained above that target, with the highest reading being 1.67 micrograms per cubic meter.
Despite its efforts to reduce emissions, Denka still insists the EPA’s risk assessment is wrong, pointing to data from the Louisiana Tumor Registry that claim cancer rates near the facility do not match the EPA assessment reflect.
Denka Performance Elastomer, owner of a LaPlace facility that is the only one in America…
The second settlement agreement involves a separate lawsuit filed against the EPA in October 2020 by a number of national and local environmental groups, including many in Houston, alleging that the agency violated a Clean Air Act requirement that required it to regulations for flares used for incineration review air emissions at chemical plants that produce polymers and resins used in plastics manufacturing every eight years.
The groups that filed this lawsuit were the Environmental Integrity Project, Clean Air Council, Air Alliance Houston, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Earthworks, Environment America, Environment Texas, Hoosier Environmental Council, PennEnvironment and the Texas Campaign for the environment.
The groups claim that flares at the chemical plants should meet at least as stringent regulations to reduce air emissions of toxic chemicals as are required by the EPA from oil refineries in 2015.
Judge Trevor McFadden of the US District Court in Washington, DC last year ordered the two lawsuits to be consolidated. The settlement announced Tuesday includes two separate proposed settlement agreements, both of which are subject to McFadden’s approval after a public comment period ending July 7.
Public comments can be submitted online at https://www.regulations.gov by searching for Docket ID No. Search EPA-HQ-OGC-2022-0403. There you will also find a copy of the Federal Register notice and the two settlement agreements.
As part of the Concerned Citizens Settlement Agreement, EPA has agreed to submit a proposed rule based on the new health risk assessment no later than March 31, 2023, with a final rule effective by March 29, 2024.
The settlement of the second lawsuit requires the EPA to determine by September 28, 2023 whether new standards for emissions from volatile organic liquid storage vessels at the polymer and resins facilities are required, and if a rule is required, the final rule must be by September 28, 2023 be enacted on September 28, 2023. March 30, 2024. Torch regulations at epoxy resin and non-nylon polyamide manufacturing facilities must be proposed by March 31, 2023, and a final rule must be in effect by March 29, 2024.
The EPA will be given more time to consider revisions to the ship tank loading rules, with a proposed rule due by December 19, 2025 and a final rule no later than December 18, 2026.
The settlement agreement also allows for daily delays in these deadlines if Congress fails to provide EPA with enough money to complete the rulemaking process.