Air of Uncertainty: Louisiana AG clears way for federal lawsuit against Denka-Dupont plant

Air of Uncertainty: Louisiana AG clears way for federal lawsuit against Denka-Dupont plant

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - For years the Denka-Dupont rubber plant has been criticized because of its levels of chloroprene emissions. The EPA has labeled chloroprene as a likely carcinogen.

Those living in the area say it's slowly killing them, but that hasn't stopped residents like Bobby Taylor from fighting.

“We’ve marched now, we’ve made visits, we’ve picketed," said Taylor. “It’s very demanding, we don’t have days off we don’t have weekend.”

But now the state attorney general penned a letter, saying that “the best course of action is for LDEQ to institute a civil action”. This essentially clears the way for LDEQ to take Denka to federal court for violating the Clean Air Act and the Louisiana Environmental Quality Act.

Letter from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry
Letter from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry

Reporter: “How common is this?”

“Very uncommon, in my experience as an environmental lawyer there are very few times that DEQ takes a company to federal court,” said Environmental attorney, Joel Waltzer.

In 2015, the EPA published a report, and Denka responded in spending 30 million dollars to reduce chloroprene emissions.

Leaders at the Denka plant maintain they continued to work to reduce those emissions by the required 85 percent. But in May, the LDEQ notified the plant they had not fulfilled that requirement.

The Louisiana Environmental Action Network says air monitors showed instead the plant only reduced emissions by 66 percent.

Environmental attorney, Joel Waltzer says it's no question in his mind the plant is not up to standard, simply because the attorney general would not support the lawsuit otherwise.

“The Clean Air Act requires these companies to do the max they can the max control technology to deal with this extremely pollutant, apparently they haven’t done it because there’s no way LDEQ would be going to federal court to get a judge to order them to do so,” said Waltzer.

LDEQ has not filed the lawsuit yet. Waltzer says it's unlikely the end result will be shutting down the plant. It's more likely the court will require Denka to take more measures to deal with the emissions.

“As the science has come out on the chemicals they're emitting, we're more concerned about the community and people that live around there,” said Waltzer.

There are already several lawsuits pending against Denka, including one that has Bobby Taylor's name listed as the defendant.

And for Mary Hampton who lives nearby the plant, another lawsuit doesn't give them much hope.

“I think it’s just another figment of someone’s imagination because who gains with a lawsuit it’s not going to help us at all,” said Hampton.

LDEQ would not comment on pending litigation.

Denka spokesperson Jim Harris said in part "their understanding is this is part of a normal, procedural matter".

Harris also said LDEQ recently approved their request for an extension. That deadline to submit more information regarding emissions was June 16th. Harris says it’s been extended to July 1st.

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