air pollution

Years After EPA Cited Health Risks From Chemical Plant, Is Enough Being Done to Protect its Louisiana Neighbors?

Read time: 10 mins
Denka Performance Elastomer plant, located in LaPlace, Louisiana.

What should be done about a chemical plant in Louisiana’s St. John the Baptist Parish that releases chloroprene — a chemical so toxic that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined nearby residents face the highest risk in the country of developing cancer from air pollution?

How Has the US Fracking Boom Affected Air Pollution in Shale Areas?

Read time: 7 mins
Trucks in front of a flare at a fracking site

By Gunnar W. Schade, Texas A&M University

Urban air pollution in the U.S. has been decreasing near continuously since the 1970s.

Federal regulations, notably the Clean Air Act passed by President Nixon, to reduce toxic air pollutants such as benzene, a hydrocarbon, and ozone, a strong oxidant, effectively lowered their abundance in ambient air with steady progress.

But about 10 years ago, the picture on air pollutants in the U.S. started to change. The “fracking boom” in several different parts of the nation led to a new source of hydrocarbons to the atmosphere, affecting abundances of both toxic benzene and ozone, including in areas that were not previously affected much by such air pollution.

Louisiana’s Cancer Alley Residents Push Back Against Industrial Polluters

Read time: 9 mins
Concerned citizens sit with signs at a DEQ permit hearing in St. Gabriel

A group of residents in St. Gabriel, a suburb of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is no stranger to industrial pollution. The small town is on the banks of the Mississippi River in a stretch of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge containing more than 100 petrochemical factories. To the industry, it’s known as the “Petrochemical Corridor,” but to everyone else it’s “Cancer Alley.” This fact is fueling a local drive to stop any new industrial plans that would add to the area’s already heavy pollution burden.

The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) has been assisting the Citizens for a Better St. Gabriel, a citizens group formed with the goal of halting one such company from expanding operations in their neighborhood. 

One Community’s Fight for Clean Air in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley

Read time: 9 mins
Denka's chloroprene plant in Louisiana

It doesn’t take carefully calibrated measurements to realize there is something wrong with the air around the Denka Performance Elastomer plant in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. 

From a small plane, I photographed the petrochemical manufacturing facility, until recently owned by DuPont, noting its proximity to the community around its fence line. The emissions were horrible. Breathing them while circling the plant twice left me with a headache that lingered for hours.

The surrounding communities and I were inhaling emissions of chloroprene and 28 other chemicals, which the plant uses to make the synthetic rubber commonly known as Neoprene.

Chemical Plant Boom Spurred by Fracking Will Bring Smog, Plastic Glut, and Risks to Workers' Health, New Report Warns

Read time: 6 mins
Petrochemical plants in Texas

On the heels of the shale gas rush that's swept the U.S. for the past decade, another wave of fossil fuel-based projects is coming — a plastic and petrochemical manufacturing rush that environmentalists warn could make smog worse in communities already breathing air pollution from fracking, sicken workers, and expand the plastic trash gyres in the world's oceans.

“Thanks to abundant supplies of natural gas, the U.S. chemical industry is investing in new facilities and expanded production capacity, which tends to attract downstream industries that rely on petrochemical products,” the American Chemistry Council's President and CEO, Cal Dooley, said in a January press release. “As of this month, 281 chemical industry projects valued at $170 billion have been announced, about half of which are completed or under construction.”

A new Food and Water Watch report, How Fracking Supports the Plastic Industry, calls attention to the dark side of those plans, warning of air and water pollution and the risk to people's health, especially for those taking jobs in the plastics industry.

How Politics and Pollution Could Push China Into the Climate Leader Role the US Is Giving up

Read time: 7 mins
Wind turbines in China

Earlier this month China halted more than 100 coal-fired power projects. Scrapping these projects, with combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts, may have more to do with China’s current overcapacity in coal production than its commitment to mitigating climate change. Nevertheless, Chinese leaders are likely happy that the move is framing their nation as a green energy leader, according to experts in Chinese and environmental policy. 

That’s because, they say, the Chinese government is now eager to fill the vacuum in climate change leadership that is being left by the U.S. And, they say, China is poised to eat America’s lunch in the renewable energy sector. 

Gutting The EPA Will Put Millions Of Lives, And The Economy, At Risk

Read time: 4 mins

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has made it clear that his administration is going to be hostile towards his predecessor’s environmental policies, going as far as to promise a massive roll back of current environmental protections.

This is all  under the guise of reducing bureaucratic red tape that is supposedly hindering energy development. While there are plenty of studies available that refute the “excessive regulations hurt businesses” talking points, those studies haven’t seemed to penetrate the climate denial shield that some politicians have surrounded themselves in, so a different approach is called for.

Trump Economic Adviser "Pushing" for Climate Denier and Fossil Fuel Apologist to Head EPA

Read time: 7 mins
Kathleen Hartnett White

Stephen Moore — economic adviser for Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign — recently told Politico's Morning Energy that he is “pushing” to have a climate change denier and fossil fuel promoter, Kathleen Hartnett White, named as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if Trump is elected president in November.

Environmental Concerns — and Anger — Grow in Month After Thousand-Year Flood Strikes Louisiana

Read time: 11 mins
Contents from a flooded home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, awaiting removal on Sept 9.

In the aftermath of the 1000-year flood that hit southern Louisiana in August, environmental and public health concerns are mounting as the waters recede.

Residents want to know why many areas that never flooded before were left in ruin this time, raising questions about the role water management played in potentially exacerbating the flood. The smell of mold lingers on streets where the contents from flooded homes and businesses are stacked in piles along the curbside, as well as in neighborhoods next to landfills where storm debris is taken.

High Levels of Chemicals Found in People Living Near Gas Wells: New Report

Read time: 5 mins

Chemicals from gas wells were discovered in biological samples drawn from residents of Pavillion, Wyoming, at levels as much as ten times the national averages, according to a new report. The study is the first to sample both the air near drilling sites and the levels of chemicals in people living and working near those wells, allowing researchers to study the ways that toxic air pollutants are entering people's bodies near gas wells and putting their health at risk.

The researchers found evidence of 16 potentially dangerous chemicals in 11 individuals who volunteered to participate in the study by wearing air monitors and providing blood and urine samples. They found benzene, toluene, 2-heptanone, 4 heptanone and evidence of roughly a dozen other substances — including some known to be quite dangerous and others for which little safety information is available.

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