Justice Department wants manufacturing plant in 'Cancer Alley' to reduce emissions
The Department of Justice is seeking to compel a chemical manufacturing plant to curb its emissions in a region where the estimated cancer risk is among the highest in the United States. The action raises the stakes in a longstanding conflict between the Louisiana plant, nearby residents and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Denka Performance Elastomer plant in LaPlace, Louisiana, along the Mississippi River, is the only facility in the U.S. that produces chloroprene, a chemical used in the production of neoprene. Neoprene is a synthetic rubber found in products such as wetsuits and adhesives. The EPA identified chloroprene as a likely human carcinogen in 2010. Denka said in a statement that it has reduced emissions by about 85% since it took over the plant in 2015. But the estimated pollution-related cancer risk in the area is still one of the highest in the country, according to the EPA. Now, the DOJ has filed a complaint to compel Denka to further reduce its hazardous emissions. The complaint, first repod by NBC News, was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for Eastern Louisiana on behalf of the EPA under the Clean Air Act. In its statement, Denka said it strongly disagrees with the federal government's decision to file a legal complaint and with the EPA's assessment of the health risks the plant's emissions pose to the surrounding community. "EPA’s allegation directly contradicts the agency’s own prior statements, credible data on health in St. John the Baptist Parish and the best available science on the chemical chloroprene," the statement said. The company added that it "remains committed to identifying and implementing additional emission reductions where possible."