Under the Biden Administration, the EPA is planning to closely regulate and enforce air quality rules in high-problem areas, like the infamous ‘Cancer Alley’ in Louisana.
In a January 26 press release, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan announced the plan as part of his commitment to action from his Journey to Justice Tour, in which Regan visited areas throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas and saw the damages of refinery and other plants first-hand.
He stated: “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. The pollution concerns have been impacting these communities for decades. 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.”
Historically, low-income and people of color have been disproportionately impacted by these southern, high-pollution areas, and the Biden administration is hoping to lessen the burden on already marginalized populations. Not only do the petrochemical plants impact the surrounding communities, but they play a role in climate change and global warming.
According to the press release, the EPA plans to increase its number of unannounced inspections of facilities suspected to be operating out of compliance. It plans to develop a new program to monitor air quality and invest additionally in community air monitoring. It also outlined a plan to hold companies more accountable for their roles in burdening the communities surrounding them. Lastly, the EPA intends to increase its monitoring and oversight of facilities that produce air pollution.
The air pollutants produced by companies like Denka, in Louisiana, are especially concerning for the health of community children. According to The Guardian, the chemical firm, Denka, owns the only site in the U.S. to emit the toxic pollutant chloroprene (and it regularly exceeds the EPA’s lifetime exposure guidance). Not only does it endanger the surrounding community by emitting chloroprene, but the plant is positioned nearby a school.
As part of the EPA’s new commitment, Regan has contacted Denka concerning the troubling reality the school children face being close to a chloroprene-emitting facility. In a letter addressed to the company, Regan wrote: “As a parent I remain extremely concerned about the more than 500 children at the elementary school. I am writing to you today to reiterate what I hope are our shared concerns and expectations regarding the health and wellbeing of the students. The EPA expects DuPont and Denka to take other needed action to address community concerns.”
The EPA’s role in better regulating and overseeing plants that are causing toxic levels of air pollution is a step towards equality for low-income populations and people of color who’ve spent decades being impacted by poor air quality.
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