New EPA Rule Targets 200+ Chemical Plants

( – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brought a new rule into force on Tuesday, April 9, that will force petrochemical plants to lower their emissions of chemicals linked to cancer.

The rule targets six different chemicals, including ethylene oxide, used in the medical industry to sterilize equipment, and chloroprene, which is used in the process of making the rubber used in shoes. Almost half of the 218 plants subject to the new standards are situated in Louisiana or Texas, including several plants located in the area colloquially known as “cancer alley”, an 85 mile stretch of land near the Mississippi River which accounts for a quarter of the U.S. petrochemical production.

The April change in regulation should cut emissions of these potentially carcinogenic chemicals by 6,200 tons each year and should benefit the 104,000 people in the U/S. currently living within 6 miles of affected plants, according to the EPA, which says that the cancer risk for locals will be reduced by 96%. As part of the new rule, these petrochemical plants will need to introduce fence-line monitoring which will allow them to identify leaks to be repaired should they meet the EPA’s threshold.

It is the second new rule from the EPA in as many months aimed at reducing the emission of these particular chemicals, with a new regulation in March aimed specifically at the ethylene oxide created by commercial sterilizing products. The two rules combined should reduce emissions by 80%, according to the agency.

Denka, a Japanese company that bought the DuPont rubber production plant in 2016 and was previously sued by the Department of Justice in 2023 over allegations of unsafe chloroprene emissions, has released a statement in opposition to the new ruling. Denka maintains that the EPA’s actions are “unsupported by the law or science”. Denka’s plant, which operates within the so-called “cancer alley” has been targeted by protestors living in the area, although it says it has already invested $35 million into reducing its chemical emissions. Rep. Troy Carter (D-La.) called the newest EPA rule a “monumental step” towards better safeguarding of the American environment and human health.

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