Federally required levies would increase funding for LDEQ by $10 million, protect health and environment under Clean Air Act
NEW ORLEANS, La. – The Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the Environmental Integrity Project and refinery neighbors are calling on Gov. Bobby Jindal to make major polluters in the state pay their fair share under the Clean Air Act.
Currently major polluters in Louisiana pay a third of what is federally required and less than half of what these same industries pay in Texas, according to an analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project. The groups joining LABB and EIP to call for action are Residents for Air Neutralization, Community Empowerment for Change, Concerned Citizens Around Murphy and St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality.
“We’ve been living with the pollution for too long, the Louisiana Department for Environment Quality can’t fulfill its obligations to protect us under the status quo,” said Velma White, president of Residents for Air Neutralization.
The Title V program of the federal Clean Air Act helps improve air quality and protect public health and the environment by requiring permits, inspections and monitoring of pollution from major air pollution sources. The Clean Air Act also requires major polluters to pay for the cost of this program.
However, Louisiana only collects about $15 per ton of pollutant on average, taking into account the differences in fees paid for specific pollutants. That’s far short of the $41.18 per-ton minimum set by federal statute. This shortchanges LDEQ by more than $10 million per year, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for a program that is required by law to be paid for by the biggest sources of air pollution.
“We understand the importance of refineries and chemical plants to Louisiana’s economy. But people in Louisiana deserve protection just as much as Texans," said Anne Rolfes, founding director of LABB. "These companies can afford the fees and the infusion of cash would be good for our economy and for clean air.”
Companies operating in Louisiana are already paying rates more than two times higher for emissions at their facilities in Texas. ExxonMobil reported profits of $7.35 billion in the third quarter of this year; it can afford to pay a few thousand dollars more for the privilege of running large refineries in Louisiana. Facilities that don’t want to pay these fees can invest in equipment to reduce their emissions.
How much pollution is going unchecked in Louisiana?
Under EPA’s Annual Compliance report, Louisiana’s program ranks near the bottom for several compliance and enforcement assessment indicators. For example:
* Louisiana completed full compliance evaluations on less than 50 percent of major facilities within the state from 2008-2009. Only one other state completed compliance evaluations at a lower rate during this two-year period. EPA policy requires 100 percent of major facilities to have full compliance evaluations every two years.
* At the end of 2009, more than 30 percent of the state’s identified high-priority violations went unaddressed for more than 270 days. Because of infrequent compliance assessments, it is likely many high priority violations are never detected.
LABB and partner groups sent a letter to Gov. Jindal, urging him to work with the state legislature to raise emission fees so the state can meet its obligation under the Clean Air Act. Raising fees to the statutory minimum will increase LDEQ’s budget, enabling it to clean up Louisiana’s air and protect taxpayers from paying the bill for Louisiana industries.
Today, LABB will have a media availability at its office (4226 Canal Street) from 10:30 a.m.-noon. Please contact the office at 504-484-3433 for more information.
About the Louisiana Bucket Brigade:
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice organization supporting neighborhoods’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable communities free from industrial pollution.