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Chemical companies at centre of Guardian's Cancer Town series face legal action Chemical companies at centre of Guardian's Cancer Town series face state legal action
(30 minutes later)
Louisiana’s environment agency has moved to sue the two chemical companies associated with America’s only neoprene plant in Reserve, the Guardian has learned. The legal action relates to alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and Louisiana state environmental laws.Louisiana’s environment agency has moved to sue the two chemical companies associated with America’s only neoprene plant in Reserve, the Guardian has learned. The legal action relates to alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and Louisiana state environmental laws.
The state’s move to sue the two chemical companies comes a month after the Guardian launched a year-long reporting project from Reserve, called Cancer Town, that tracks residents’ ongoing struggle for clean air and report from other areas between New Orleans and Baton Rouge known colloquially as Cancer Alley.The state’s move to sue the two chemical companies comes a month after the Guardian launched a year-long reporting project from Reserve, called Cancer Town, that tracks residents’ ongoing struggle for clean air and report from other areas between New Orleans and Baton Rouge known colloquially as Cancer Alley.
The move, quietly announced in a letter from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) to Louisiana’s attorney general, marks a significant and rare escalation in the state environment agency’s response to air pollution in Reserve, which, according to US government science, has the highest risk of cancer due to airborne toxicity anywhere in America.The move, quietly announced in a letter from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) to Louisiana’s attorney general, marks a significant and rare escalation in the state environment agency’s response to air pollution in Reserve, which, according to US government science, has the highest risk of cancer due to airborne toxicity anywhere in America.
The letter, dated 5 June, is written by LDEQ’S general counsel, Herman Robinson, and requests “concurrence to file a civil action” in federal court against Japanese neoprene firm Denka and American chemicals giant DuPont. Denka is the current operator of the neoprene unit at the Pontchartrain Works facility in Reserve, which it purchased in 2015 from DuPont, who had operated the site since the 1960s.The letter, dated 5 June, is written by LDEQ’S general counsel, Herman Robinson, and requests “concurrence to file a civil action” in federal court against Japanese neoprene firm Denka and American chemicals giant DuPont. Denka is the current operator of the neoprene unit at the Pontchartrain Works facility in Reserve, which it purchased in 2015 from DuPont, who had operated the site since the 1960s.
Neoprene, a synthetic rubber, is primarily made of the compound chloroprene, which the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says is likely to be carcinogenic to humans. Chloroprene emissions around Reserve have routinely been dozens of times above the EPA’s recommended guidance that is safe for humans prompting recent outcry from residents living close to the plant.Neoprene, a synthetic rubber, is primarily made of the compound chloroprene, which the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says is likely to be carcinogenic to humans. Chloroprene emissions around Reserve have routinely been dozens of times above the EPA’s recommended guidance that is safe for humans prompting recent outcry from residents living close to the plant.
LDEQ’s said it would not comment on pending legal matters. The Louisiana attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Denka told the Guardian that it would not comment on pending litigation, citing the advice of counsel.LDEQ’s said it would not comment on pending legal matters. The Louisiana attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Denka told the Guardian that it would not comment on pending litigation, citing the advice of counsel.
Marylee Orr, director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (Lean), said that for the agency to potentially file suit “against a major industry in Louisiana’s pro-business climate is no small feat.Marylee Orr, director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (Lean), said that for the agency to potentially file suit “against a major industry in Louisiana’s pro-business climate is no small feat.
“Hopefully this is a step towards relief for a community that has endured 50 years of hazardous exposure to a likely carcinogen,” she said.“Hopefully this is a step towards relief for a community that has endured 50 years of hazardous exposure to a likely carcinogen,” she said.
Although the precise details of the requested lawsuit are unclear, LDEQ had warned Denka last month that readings of chloroprene had not fallen below the agreed standards set in voluntary agreement back in 2017. That agreement committed the firm to reducing chloroprene emissions by 85% by 2018. The possible suit comes amid reports of rankling between LDEQ and local government over the failures to meet emission reduction targets.Although the precise details of the requested lawsuit are unclear, LDEQ had warned Denka last month that readings of chloroprene had not fallen below the agreed standards set in voluntary agreement back in 2017. That agreement committed the firm to reducing chloroprene emissions by 85% by 2018. The possible suit comes amid reports of rankling between LDEQ and local government over the failures to meet emission reduction targets.
Hugh Lambert, a lead attorney in a lawsuit filed against Denka and DuPont by a number of residents in Reserve, urged the Louisiana attorney general, Jeffery Landry, to act on the LDEQ request.Hugh Lambert, a lead attorney in a lawsuit filed against Denka and DuPont by a number of residents in Reserve, urged the Louisiana attorney general, Jeffery Landry, to act on the LDEQ request.
“Hopefully politics doesn’t get in the way of this health and environmental issue that should have nothing to do with politics. If the attorney general does his job, he will approve this LDEQ request and OK the filing of a suit against Denka. That ought to happen,” Lambert said.“Hopefully politics doesn’t get in the way of this health and environmental issue that should have nothing to do with politics. If the attorney general does his job, he will approve this LDEQ request and OK the filing of a suit against Denka. That ought to happen,” Lambert said.
A representative for DuPont did not respond to specific questions on the potential litigation but argued the company continued “to uphold our commitment to safe operations for our workers and neighbors”. The representative insisted that DuPont met chloroprene emissions limits in its state permit before sale of the neoprene unit to Denka.A representative for DuPont did not respond to specific questions on the potential litigation but argued the company continued “to uphold our commitment to safe operations for our workers and neighbors”. The representative insisted that DuPont met chloroprene emissions limits in its state permit before sale of the neoprene unit to Denka.
LouisianaLouisiana
Cancer TownCancer Town
Air pollutionAir pollution
PollutionPollution
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