Air of Uncertainty: Attorney critical of Denka’s request for new chloroprene emission guidelines

Air of Uncertainty: Attorney critical of Denka’s request for new chloroprene emission guidelines

LAPLACE, La. (WVUE) - In 2010, the EPA labeled chloroprene as a likely carcinogen, and recommends that emissions levels not rise above that .2 micrograms per cubic meter.

But now, nine years later and amid a major lawsuit, a plant that’s been found to emit the chemical wants that level to be reviewed.

Hugh “Skip” Lambert is the attorney representing nearly 1,000 people who have lived near the Denka-Dupont plant in Laplace and he says the request is absurd.

“How many times can you ask for a correction or reconsideration there needs to be an end,” Lambert said.

According to Lambert, if the EPA were to accepts the plant’s request for reconsideration and change that .2 threshold, it would be a decision based on politics, rather than science.

“The law, fortunately, is not for sale, and the real risk is assessed by our experts who are academics from Johns Hopkins University. And they are scientists that assess risk, and they assess that the people around that plant are at a greater risk,” Lambert said.

The Denka-Dupont plant is working with the Ramboll Group, an environmental consulting agency. In a June 12 meeting with the EPA, both Denka and Ramboll presented a PowerPoint with their data, theories and findings about chloroprene emissions to the EPA.

“During the meeting, both the EPA and Ramboll agreed that ‘additional attention should be given to the approach and to uncertainties,' when it comes to some of the data the company presented,” Lambert said. “The EPA said, ‘Do you have anything new?’ And they didn’t, so they asked them to keep it open, and that’s the part that’s bothersome,” Lambert said.

In response, the EPA responded said it intended to “pause reconsidering” the chloroprene guidelines until industry scholars and researchers can also review the findings.

A spokesperson for Denka said it is “a big deal” for the company.

But Lambert said with filing another request for reconsideration, the plant is trying again to circumvent scientific processes to fit their agenda.

“This example pits the EPA’s findings, which are scientifically based, against industry’s attempt to manipulate those findings by purchasing science from groups like Ramboll,” Lambert said.

Furthermore, he said there’s nothing to correct, and Denka’s science isn’t founded in fact. But, while the plant files another request, he said it’s unfair to those who have a right to know the limit and fight to protect their families for the future.

“They shouldn't be exposed to this stuff,” he said.

FOX 8 reached out to the EPA for comment but did not receive a reply Wednesday.

The peer review process, where industry scholars and researchers will need to review Denka’s proposal, will take several months.

According to that letter from the EPA, this could take up to nine months and will update December 2019.

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