Landry steps up fight on behalf of DENKA plant in dispute with EPA

Gov. Jeff Landry, R-La., is fighting to keep open the only plant in the United States that produces neoprene.

The state is also in a fight to keep the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s right to grant extensions to give industry a more realistic window to come into compliance with the EPA’s latest rules.

Not only the fate of the chemical plant DENKA and its employees are at stake. It’s a fight that could be significant for the petrochemical industry and the Southwest Louisiana economy, as well.

DENKA, located in St. John Parish, employs about 250 people. Neoprene is used to produce significant components for U.S. military equipment and automotive, healthcare and construction industries, the governor explained in a Monday press conference.

He claims DENKA was singled out when it was given only 90 days to retrofit its plant to meet the EPA’s newest compliance arules. Other facilities were granted two years.

Louisiana DEQ Secretary Aurelia Giacometto called the timeline impossible and used the press conference to announce a two-year extension for DENKA to retrofit its plant to reduce emissions. However, it’s up to the courts as to whether the extension will be honored.   

“We are filing a petition for review of the rule that forces DENKA into this impossible box,” said Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill.

What happens could affect the state, the country and supply chains, she said.

The state is challenging the EPA on a number of fronts.

The State of Louisiana and DENKA have filed suit in the District of Columbia circuit, and DEQ will lose its authority to prevail on July 15 if the extension is not granted.

“It’s a complicated rule, with a lot of technical aspects that affect the whole way the plan is constructed. We are working through the legal challenges,” Murrill said.

Murrill said the EPA’s accusation that DENKA held “imminent endangerment” did not have science to back it up. DENKA began reducing emissions in 2015, and went  from 118 tons per year to 18.

The governor also accused the Biden administration of  targeting American workers and companies, sending jobs to China and making Americans more dependent on China at the Monday press conference.

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