Appeals Court Refuses to Block EPA Action Slashing Toxic Air Pollution in Louisiana

June 27, 2024
Lexi Ambrogi, (973) 960-0073

(WASHINGTON – June 27, 2024) The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit late Wednesday rejected an emergency stay that would have delayed critical parts of an Environmental Protection Agency action to reduce cancer-causing pollution—in particular, the highly carcinogenic pollutant chloroprene.

Denka Performance Elastomer, which operates a synthetic rubber manufacturing facility in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, had asked the court to block its deadline to comply with EPA standards for hazardous air pollutants while it considers Denka’s separate lawsuit challenging the rule. EPA’s rule requires Denka to bring its facility into compliance with the standards within 90 days or to apply to EPA for a waiver, including interim steps Denka will take to ensure that it does not cause endangerment to community residents’ health.

“The court’s refusal to block EPA’s rule is a win for the communities of St. John the Baptist Parish,” said Earthjustice attorney Deena Tumeh. “The chloroprene reductions required by the rule are long needed, and EPA’s decision to require swift compliance is a recognition of the danger Denka poses to community members’ health. We’ll continue to defend and ensure the implementation of these important protections.” 

Pollution from Denka’s plant has been linked to extraordinarily high cancer rates in nearby Louisiana communities, primarily due to the facility’s chloroprene emissions. Denka is the sole chloroprene emitter in Louisiana and is responsible for 95 percent of chloroprene emissions in the U.S. EPA’s standards are expected to slash more than 6,200 tons a year of air pollution at about 200 industrial plants across the country, reducing air toxics-related cancer risks in nearby communities by 96 percent.

“EPA’s air pollution standards for the nation’s largest petrochemical facilities are commonsense, foundational safeguards that will deliver cleaner air and protect people’s health,” said Peter Zalzal, Environmental Defense Fund’s associate vice president of Clean Air Strategies. “The Court’s decision is vital, it will ensure Denka complies with EPA’s pollution safeguards and will deliver urgently needed reductions in toxic and carcinogenic pollution that have long harmed community members in St. John the Baptist Parish. We will continue to vigorously defend these essential safeguards.”

EDF and Earthjustice, on behalf of its clients—Air Alliance Houston, California Communities Against Toxics, The Concerned Citizens of St. John, Environmental Integrity Project, LEAN, RISE St. James, Sierra Club and T.e.j.a.s.—have intervened in defense of EPA’s standards and filed a response in opposition to Denka’s motion to stay the rule.

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