Today, the Department of Justice, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a motion for preliminary injunction under the Clean Air Act (CAA) requesting that the court order Denka Performance Elastomer LLC (Denka) to require significant pollution controls to reduce chloroprene emissions, a pollutant that EPA has determined to be a likely carcinogen. The request for immediate relief by EPA and the Justice Department follows the United States’ complaint filed on Feb. 28, alleging an imminent and substantial endangerment to the communities surrounding the facility as a result of Denka’s manufacturing operations.
The Clean Air Act section 303 imminent and substantial endangerment lawsuit is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
“Today’s motion asks the court to require Denka to take strong action to protect neighboring communities from the urgent dangers caused by its harmful emissions,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This action shows our determination to address environmental justice concerns of overburdened communities and to protect children living and studying today near this facility.”
“All communities deserve to breathe fresh, clean air; it is one of EPA’s top priorities as we work to protect human health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This is another action that sends a clear message that the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to the health and safety of St. John the Baptist Parish, and I will continue to pledge that EPA will use all legal remedies available to reduce harmful air pollution in this community.”
“As Regional Administrator, I am committed to reducing exposure to chloroprene in St. John the Baptist Parish,” said Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance of EPA Region 6. “Transparent engagement with the community is a top priority because people who live near Denka deserve to understand the purpose of the motion filed today and what EPA hopes to achieve by bringing this Clean Air Act Imminent and Substantial Endangerment case.”
Denka’s facility, located in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, manufactures neoprene, a flexible, synthetic rubber used to produce common goods like wetsuits, beverage cozies, laptop sleeves, orthopedic braces, and automotive belts and hoses. Chloroprene is a liquid raw material used to produce neoprene that is emitted into the air from various areas at the facility.
In 2010, EPA published its peer-reviewed assessment of chloroprene that concluded it is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Approximately 20% of the total population living within two-and-a-half miles of Denka are children under the age of 18, and between 800-1,000 are children under the age of five. Children under the age of 16 are particularly vulnerable to mutagenic carcinogens like chloroprene. Denka’s chloroprene’s emissions reach more than 300 young children who attend the 5th Ward Elementary School, located within approximately 450 feet of Denka’s facility. Additionally, 1,200 children who attend East St. John High School, located about a mile-and-a-half north of Denka, are also exposed to the facility’s chloroprene emissions.
For more information on EPA’s actions to reduce chloroprene emissions from the Denka facility: www.epa.gov/la/laplace-st-john-baptist-parish-louisiana.
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