Plant in Louisiana Warns It Will Close If EPA Deadline Not Extended

Claiming it would have to close “likely permanently” if compelled to fulfill the Biden administration’s emission reduction goal, a synthetic rubber firm is accused of raising cancer risks for the neighboring majority-Black town in Louisiana. The company is standing before a federal appeals court.

On Tuesday, Denka Performance Elastomer laid the blame at the feet of a new EPA regulation that addresses emissions at over 200 industrial plants. The company claimed that more hazardous facilities are given a two-year deadline to comply with the rule, while it was unfairly given an “illegal and politically motivated” 90-day deadline.

Neoprene is used in wetsuits, car belts, and other products at the Denka plant, which has about 250 employees. The plant is located in Reserve, Louisiana, inside the 85-mile Mississippi River Chemical Corridor, about half a mile from an elementary school. Cancer Alley is the common name for this area.

The Biden administration has pledged to use its regulatory and enforcement authority to improve the lives of people residing in communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution, which disproportionately affects minority and low-income areas.

The EPA rationalized the 90-day deadline it set in its final rule by stating that the discovery was warranted.

The EPA claims that the new laws will significantly lower the risk of cancer by regulating a variety of pollutants, including chloroprene.

The firm is requesting that the EPA delay its 90-day deadline. The document states that the agency would not consider extending the deadline until Denka presents a plan to reduce pollution. Chloroprene is a chemical that the plant releases; the corporation claims the government has exaggerated the danger it poses and has drastically cut emissions in recent years.

In 2022, environmentalists took legal action by filing civil rights charges with the EPA. They claim that air regulators in Louisiana had permitted additional facilities in areas where Black inhabitants were already subjected to excessive pollution and that these regulators were not doing enough to implement tighter controls at these hazardous plants.

In a statement, the business expressed gratitude to Gov. Jeff Landry and other state authorities in Louisiana for their “steadfast support.” In a lawsuit filed when Landry was attorney general, his office claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overstepped its bounds in its civil rights inquiry by concentrating on inadvertent discrimination that hurt Black communities more than deliberate discrimination. The state gained an early victory in that lawsuit this year when a federal court sided with them.