Loading...

EPA Acts on Environmental Justice in Three Gulf Coast States

January 26, 2022by Matthew Daly. Associated Press
EPA Administrator Michael Regan, right, speaks to reporters at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, a Ridgeland-based facility near Jackson, Miss., about longstanding water issues that have plagued the city, on Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is taking a series of enforcement actions to address air pollution, unsafe drinking water and other problems afflicting minority communities in three Gulf Coast states, following a “Journey to Justice” tour by Administrator Michael Regan last fall.

The agency will conduct unannounced inspections of chemical plants, refineries and other industrial sites suspected of polluting air and water and causing health problems to nearby residents, Regan said. And it will install air monitoring equipment in Louisiana’s “chemical corridor” to enhance enforcement at chemical and plastics plants between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The region contains several hotspots where cancer risks are far above national levels.

The EPA also issued a notice to the city of Jackson, Mississippi, saying its aging and overwhelmed drinking water system violates the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The order directs the city to outline a plan to “correct the significant deficiencies identified” in an EPA report within 45 days.

In separate letters, Regan urged city and state officials to use nearly $79 million in funding allocated to Mississippi under the bipartisan infrastructure law “to solve some of the most dire water needs in Jackson and other areas of need across Mississippi.”

The actions were among more than a dozen steps being taken in response to Regan’s tour last November. Regan visited low-income, mostly minority communities in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas as part of an effort to focus federal attention on communities adversely affected by decades of industrial pollution.

A Toxics Release Inventory prepared by the EPA shows that minority groups make up 56% of those living near toxic sites such as refineries, landfills and chemical plants. Negative effects include chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension.

“In every community I visited during the Journey to Justice tour, the message was clear: residents have suffered far too long and local, state, and federal agencies have to do better,” Regan said in a statement. ”Our actions will begin to help not only the communities I visited on this tour, but also others across the country who have suffered from environmental injustices.”

The unannounced inspections of chemical plants and other sites “are going to keep these facilities on their toes,” Regan said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.

Inspections currently are done on a schedule or with advance notice, Regan said, but that is about to change. “We are amping up our aggressiveness to utilize a tool that’s in our toolbox that … has been there for quite some time,” he said.

When facilities are found to be noncompliant, the EPA “will use all available tools to hold them accountable,” he added.

A pilot project combining high-tech air pollution monitoring with additional inspectors will begin in three Louisiana parishes, including St. John the Baptist, St. James and Calcasieu. The parishes are home to scores of industrial sites and are long plagued by water and air pollution.

Regan, a former environmental regulator in North Carolina, has made environmental justice a top priority since taking over as EPA head last year. As the first Black man to lead the agency, the issue “is really personal for me, as well as professional,″ he told The Associated Press in November.

“As I look at many of the folks in these communities, they look just like me. They look just like my son, and it’s really tough to see them question the quality of their drinking water,″ Regan said.

Historically marginalized communities like St. John and St. James, along with cities such as New Orleans, Jackson, Mississippi and Houston, will benefit from the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden, Regan said. The law includes $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure, while a sweeping climate and social policy bill pending in the Senate would pump more than twice that amount into EPA programs to clean up the environment and address water and environmental justice issues.

As part of its enforcement action, the EPA is requiring a former DuPont petrochemical plant in La Place, Louisiana, to install fence-line monitors to identify emissions from the site, Regan said. The plant is now owned by the Japanese conglomerate Denka.

The agency also said it will push for greater scrutiny of a proposed expansion of a Formosa Plastics plant in St. James and issued a notice of violation to a Nucor Steel plant that emits hydrogen sulfide and other harmful chemicals.

Regan said he has spoken with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell about Gordon Plaza, a city neighborhood built on the site of a former toxic landfill. Gordon Plaza was designated as a Superfund site in the 1990s, but dozens of mostly Black families still live there.

The EPA will review the site, starting in March, Regan said, and will add nine homes not included in earlier plans to help families move. City officials hope to use money from the infrastructure law to relocate families and build a solar farm on the site.

In The News

Health

Voting

Environment

May 18, 2022
by Dan McCue
US Army Leading By Example On Climate Change Adaptation

WASHINGTON — Though its primary mission remains warfighting, the U.S. Army is playing a leading role in an entirely different... Read More

WASHINGTON — Though its primary mission remains warfighting, the U.S. Army is playing a leading role in an entirely different battle — the nation’s response to the challenges of climate change. The scope of this mission is laid out in the Army’s Climate Change Strategy, which... Read More

Colorado, Nebraska Jostle Over Water Rights Amid Drought

OVID, Colo. (AP) — Shortly after daybreak on the high plains of northeastern Colorado, Don Schneider tinkers with seed-dispensing gear... Read More

OVID, Colo. (AP) — Shortly after daybreak on the high plains of northeastern Colorado, Don Schneider tinkers with seed-dispensing gear on a mammoth corn planter. The day’s task: Carefully sowing hundreds of acres of seed between long rows of last year’s desiccated stalks to ensure the... Read More

May 16, 2022
by Kate Michael
Countries Negotiating First Legally Binding Global Agreement to End Plastic Pollution

WASHINGTON — Countries have been negotiating limits on plastic use for years, but China’s 2018 announcement that it would stop... Read More

WASHINGTON — Countries have been negotiating limits on plastic use for years, but China’s 2018 announcement that it would stop accepting 24 kinds of plastic scrap import waste from foreign countries was undoubtedly a spark that ignited 175 countries of the United Nations to pass a... Read More

May 12, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Hydropower Offers Potential for Energy but Only With Revisions, Lawmakers Told

WASHINGTON — Hydropower offers a promising clean energy option for producing electricity but only if the current regulatory obstacles can... Read More

WASHINGTON — Hydropower offers a promising clean energy option for producing electricity but only if the current regulatory obstacles can be overcome, according to energy industry and environmental officials who testified to Congress Thursday. Last year, hydroelectricity generation produced about 260 billion kilowatt hours or 6.5%... Read More

May 12, 2022
by Dan McCue
DC Most Accessible Metro in DMV When It Comes to Charging Electric Vehicles

NEW YORK —The District of Columbia is hands down the most accessible metro in the DMV when it comes to... Read More

NEW YORK —The District of Columbia is hands down the most accessible metro in the DMV when it comes to charging your electric vehicle, a new study by the financial comparison site Forbes Advisor has found. The study, based on data provided by the U.S. Department... Read More

May 11, 2022
by Kate Michael
Food for Thought: Agro Accounts for a Third of Global Emissions

WASHINGTON — While manufacturing and industry processes are cited as responsible for emitting the most greenhouse gases, food systems also... Read More

WASHINGTON — While manufacturing and industry processes are cited as responsible for emitting the most greenhouse gases, food systems also account for a hefty portion — 31% — of global emissions, and the U.S. and China, as food superpowers, are the two largest contributors. Emissions from... Read More

News From The Well