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EPA Will Finally Investigate "Cancer Alley" as a Civil Rights Violation

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened a series of civil rights investigations into state agencies in Louisiana to examine whether permits granted in the highly polluted industrial corridor, known locally as Cancer Alley, have violated Black citizens’ rights.

The news, first reported by the New Orleans Advocate, marks further enforcement action taken by the federal agency in the region since the EPA administrator, Michael Regan, visited the area late last year.

The civil rights inquiries will investigate Louisiana’s environment department (LDEQ) over a series of permits approved in both St. John parish and St. James parish and elsewhere in the region, where chronic air pollution in majority Black communities has led to a wave of activism and international attention.

One investigation, targeted at the state’s health department, will examine whether the department violated the rights of Black residents and schoolchildren living near a neoprene facility in St. John “by allegedly failing in its duty to provide parish residents with necessary information about health threats”, and whether the department failed to make recommendations to community members and local government over how to reduce exposure to pollution.

The neoprene facility, operated by the Japanese chemicals firm Denka, is the only location in America to emit the pollutant chloroprene, listed by the EPA as a likely human carcinogen. Residential locations around the site, including an elementary school near the plant’s fence line, often record levels of chloroprene well above the EPA’s lifetime exposure guidance levels.

The investigations will also examine permits related to a proposed gargantuan plastics site in the neighboring parish of St James, operated by the Taiwanese company Formosa, permitted to emit up to 15,400 lbs of the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide. That project has been placed on hold during a federal government review.

The investigation will also examine permits for a proposed grain terminal in St. John parish.

Read entire article at Mother Jones