EPA acts for environmental justice in 3 Gulf Coast countries



The Environmental Protection Agency is taking a series of enforcement actions to address air pollution, unsafe drinking water, and other issues affecting minority communities in three Gulf Coast states, following: Administrator Michael Regan’s “Journey to Justice” tour last fall.

Regan said that the agency would conduct unannounced inspections of chemical plants, refineries and other industrial sites suspected of polluting the air and water and causing health problems for the public. nearby residents. And it will install air monitoring equipment in Louisiana’s “chemical corridor” to strengthen enforcement at chemical and plastic plants between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The region has several hotspots where cancer risk far exceeds national levels.

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

In separate letters, Regan urged city and state officials to use the nearly $79 million in funding allocated to Mississippi under the bipartisan infrastructure law “to address a number of critical water needs.” most important in Jackson and other areas of need throughout Mississippi.”

The actions were among more than a dozen steps taken in response to Regan’s tour last November. Regan visited low-income, predominantly minority communities in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas as part of an effort to focus national attention on communities negatively impacted by public pollution. industry for many decades.

An inventory of toxic releases prepared by the EPA shows that minorities make up 56% of people living near hazardous locations such as refineries, landfills, and chemical plants. Side effects include chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

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

Unannounced inspections of chemical plants and other locations “will keep these facilities up and running,” Regan said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.

Regan said that the inspections are currently being carried out on schedule or with advance notice, but that is about to change. “We’re ramping up our push to use a tool in our toolbox that… has been around for a while,” he said.

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

A pilot project that combines 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 many industrial sites and have long been affected by water and air pollution.

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

“When I look at a lot of people in these communities, they look just like me. They look like my son, and it’s really hard to see them question the quality of their drinking water,” says Regan.

Historically marginalized communities like St. John and St. James and cities like New Orleans, Jackson, Mississippi and Houston will benefit from a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden, Regan said. The law includes $55 billion for water and sewer infrastructure. A sweeping climate and social policy bill awaiting passage in the Senate would inject double that money into EPA programs to clean up the environment and address issues of water and environmental equity.

Regan said that as part of the enforcement action, EPA will require a former DuPont petrochemical plant in La Place, Louisiana, to install fence monitoring devices to identify emissions from the area. Denka Corporation of Japan currently owns this factory.

The agency also said it would push for closer scrutiny of the proposed expansion of the Formosa Plastics plant in St. James and issued a notice of violation against a Nucor steel plant that emitted hydrogen sulfide gas and other harmful chemicals.

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

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

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