FIRST ON FOX: Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry sued the Biden administration over so-called environmental justice actions targeting his state’s petrochemical industry in a federal lawsuit late Wednesday.
The federal lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, challenges the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) opposition to state permits granted in 2020 to the Denka Performance Elastomer plant and the FG LA Formosa facility, two petrochemical facilities located in St. John Parish, Louisiana. The EPA has argued the permitting process violated federal anti-racial discrimination statute.
“Activities that would be perfectly lawful under environmental law are thus now threatened because EPA believes those activities occur proximate to the ‘wrong’ racial groups,” the lawsuit states. “EPA does not bother to deny that it would be unconcerned if the exact same emissions occurred in areas with differing racial demographics.”
“But EPA has nonetheless arrogated to itself the authority to decide whether otherwise-lawful emissions are affecting the ‘right’ racial groups,” it continues. “Put succinctly, EPA frequently does not care about the content of air and water emissions, but only the color of the skin of those proximate to them. That dystopian nightmare violates the Civil Rights Act.”
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According to the lawsuit, the EPA has explicitly acknowledged the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) “followed the environmental law” when issuing the permits to the Denka and Formosa facilities. However, the agency has instead argued the permitting process discriminated against the surrounding community which is majority African American in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
In October, amid negotiations with the LDEQ related to private complaints regarding the permitting process for the two petrochemical plants, the EPA without warning sent state officials a letter of concern highlighting an investigation it conducted. The letter stated that Louisiana is failing to protect minorities toxic petrochemical air pollution.
However, the lawsuit Thursday criticized the investigation for not including the state while mainly relying on information from environmental opponents of the petrochemical industry and two articles.
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“EPA’s investigation underlying that letter was a perfunctory pretext that, upon information and belief, consisted of extensive communications with the complainants, review of an “environmental justice” law review article and an article in The Atlantic magazine, but little else beyond a cursory review of LDEQ’s and LDH’s websites,” the lawsuit states.
“Worse, upon information and belief, at least LDEQ sought to participate in the investigation, but was told by EPA to wait for the Letter of Concern to be issued,” it continues. “EPA then, without apparent shame, faulted LDEQ for not participating in its pre-letter investigation — even though LDEQ had done so at EPA’s specific suggestion.”
It also noted that the EPA apparently ignored the articles it cited which noted the petrochemical industry’s location could be explained by its close proximity to “some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.”
“Louisiana has complied with federal environmental law, and the EPA has repeatedly acknowledged as much,” Louisiana Deputy Solicitor General Scott St. John told Fox News Digital. “Yet, they continue to threaten the livelihoods of our people and our communities. This is more biased, outcome-driven overreach from an ever-expanding federal government.”
And the lawsuit further criticized the EPA for losing sight of its “actual environmental mission, and instead decided to moonlight as a social justice warriors fixated on race.”
“To that end, EPA officials declare compliance with environmental law and actual environmental standards is not enough: to avoid loss of federal funds, States must also satisfy EPA’s increasingly warped vision of ‘environmental justice’ and ‘equity.'”
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Louisiana argued the EPA is ceding its authority to private climate organizations while simultaneously assuming authorities it doesn’t have under the Civil Rights Act. The state also argued the EPA is broadening its actions to impact permitting activities beyond the two facilities in question.
Overall, the multibillion-dollar petrochemical industry in Louisiana is a key driver of jobs and investment in the state. The industry is also a central reason why the state is the third-largest consumer of petroleum and largest consumer of petroleum per capita in the nation, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The Denka facility represents the only U.S. plant to produce neoprene, a synthetic rubber common in military equipment, wetsuits, medical technology and cell phone cases, Real Clear Investigations reported in March.
And the Formosa plant is a $9.4 billion complex currently being constructed that its developer projects would create thousands of jobs and pay employees an average of $84,500 per year. The facility would produce polyethylene, polypropylene, polymer and ethylene glycol which are chemicals found in cars, ropes, pipes, artifical turf, playground equipment and antifreeze.
However, the petrochemical industry has long been target of environmentalists who argue it is responsible for harmful emissions and pollution negatively impacting surrounding communities’ health.
“For generations, our most vulnerable communities have unjustly borne the burden of breathing unsafe, polluted air,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said last month in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, upon announcing a slate of new regulations targeting the petrochemical industry.
“When I visited St. John the Baptist Parish during my first Journey to Justice tour, I pledged to prioritize and protect the health and safety of this community and so many others that live in the shadows of chemical plants.”
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Additionally, on behalf of the EPA, the Department of Justice sued Denka Performance Elastomer in February as part of an effort to compel the company to reduce pollution.
“We allege that Denka’s emissions have led to unsafe concentrations of carcinogenic chloroprene near homes and schools in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said at the time.
“The Justice Department’s environmental justice efforts require ensuring that every community, no matter its demographics, can breathe clean air and drink clean water. Our suit aims to stop Denka’s dangerous pollution.”