Environmental Advocates Join Court Case in Defense of EPA Action to Reduce Cancer-Causing Air Pollution

Denka, a synthetic rubber maker whose pollution has wreaked havoc on nearby communities' health, is trying to block an EPA rule setting pollution limits 

June 13, 2024
Lexi Ambrogi, (973) 960-0073, lambrogi@edf.org

(WASHINGTON – June 13, 2024) Earthjustice clients and Environmental Defense Fund moved to intervene in a lawsuit designed to stop an Environmental Protection Agency action that would significantly reduce cancer-causing pollution. 

Denka Performance Elastomer, which operates a synthetic rubber manufacturing facility in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, has asked the court to block its deadline to comply with EPA standards for hazardous air pollutants. Pollution from Denka’s plant–in particular, the carcinogen chloroprene–has been linked to extraordinarily high cancer rates in nearby Louisiana communities. 

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.–and EDF filed a Motion to Intervene in defense of EPA’s standards with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The groups also filed an opposition to Denka’s request to halt its compliance deadline.

“Right now, these plants are monitoring their own air on the honor system—but there’s nothing honorable about them,” said Robert Taylor, founder and executive director of The Concerned Citizens of St. John. “We have the highest cancer risks from air pollution in the country, and we can’t afford to wait two more years for Denka to comply with the rules. Just 1,500 feet from this plant, over 400 students breathe toxic air every day at Fifth Ward Elementary School. These children are first and foremost in our minds as we fight for a better future.”

In April, EPA finalized stronger standards to limit petrochemical pollution from more than 200 industrial facilities across the country. The rules specifically reduce six highly toxic chemicals, all of which are known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health harms. 

Citing its ongoing enforcement action to address Denka’s “imminent and substantial endangerment” to the surrounding community, EPA gave Denka 90 days to comply with these standards to significantly reduce its air pollution through a series of actions, including mandatory monitoring for cancer-causing chloroprene at the facility fenceline. Denka has asked the court to block that 90-day compliance deadline. 

Earthjustice clients and EDF strongly oppose Denka’s request to stay the compliance deadline, as immediate pollution reductions are needed to protect nearby communities.

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