The EPA and the Concerned Citizens of St. John and other environmental groups have reached a deal for federal agencies to take over monitoring toxic air pollution in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, resolving a lawsuit that charged the EPA as being years behind its deadlines for reviewing emissions standards for industrial plastics and rubber manufacturing, E&E reported.
The proposed consent decree will impel the EPA to undertake a long-overdue review of hazardous air pollutants, apply general control device requirements for flares, set up rolling deadlines for EPA review and strengthen regulations on marine vessel loading operations and other sources. An EPA report in 2015 confirmed what was long believed to be true: that the heavily industrialized 80-mile stretch along the Mississippi River known as Cancer Alley, where local regulators are known for being cozy with industry and lax in enforcing regulations or levying fines, experiences profoundly higher cancer risk thanks to rampant pollution from the many petrochemical, oil and gas, and other facilities there.
St. John’s Parish, at the heart of Cancer Alley, has a risk of cancer 50 times greater than the national average, the highest in the U.S. Little has changed since 2015: As of September, the majority Black communities in St. John’s Parish breathed chloroprene air concentrations at 12,000 times the ambient concentration cancer risk value. In January, the Biden administration announced plans to deploy mobile air pollution monitoring units in the area and conduct surprise inspections of the industrial facilities there.
The decree will be made available Tuesday for 30 days of public comment and still requires a federal judge’s approval, with a proposed rule coming next March and final version expected in March 2024. (E&E $)