EPA Administrator Michael Regan is visiting Southeast Louisiana talking to regional and local leaders.
The country’s top environmental regulator is traveling across south Louisiana this week, holding conversations with local and regional leaders on how to help low-income and minority communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan kicked off his visit Tuesday in New Orleans East, listening to concerns raised by more than a dozen researchers, environment advocates, lawyers and business leaders, among others. A day earlier, President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that includes about $240 billion for environmental justice projects. Since taking office, Regan said, he has asked his staff to detail how the agency can incorporate environmental justice and equity into all of its functions, making it “part of the DNA.”nola.com
Regan served in North Carolina as the EPA chief, becoming the first Black chief.
Before he was tapped to be the first Black man to lead the EPA, Regan oversaw the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, creating its first environmental justice advisory committee and spearheading negotiations with Duke Energy Corp. over the 2014 coal ash spill in the Dan River. His Louisiana visit serves to give the EPA chief personal exposure to environmental issues in a different state and to demonstrate the Biden administration’s stated commitment to environmental justice. “I’ve been working on environmental justice issues for quite some time, not as long as some, but not as short as others,” Regan said in his opening remarks Tuesday, before the event was closed to reporters. “This information is grounded in data, it’s grounded in science. It’s not a feeling; it’s factual, and we can prove it.” The meeting was marked by calls for the federal agency to reject carbon capture and sequestration as a solution to the climate crisis, increase air monitoring of industry and launch a civil rights investigation into “Cancer Alley,” the nickname of some environment advocates for Louisiana’s 85-mile-long chemical corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. “The EPA should bring its full legal tools and authority to the work of achieving environmental justice,” said Monique Harden, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice’s assistant director of law and policy, after the meeting. “That means stronger oversight of the [Louisiana] Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources, which have done a really horrible job in Louisiana communities for decades.”nola.com
Carbon capture and sequestration are questionable with the industry saying yes and environmentalist saying go easy.
Carbon capture and sequestration uses technology to contain emissions that would otherwise enter the atmosphere, cool it for transport in pipelines and then pump it into the ground for storage. Oil and gas industry advocates, as well as top government officials including Biden and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, have touted it as one tool for lowering the amount of fossil fuel emissions that cause climate change, but many environment advocates call it unproven and a “false solution” to the climate crisis, because it does not wean the world of burning fossil fuels. Harden and Rev. Gregory Manning, the Broadmoor Community Church pastor who is active in the Coalition Against Death Alley, said meeting attendees asked that EPA maintain oversight over the state permitting of carbon capture and sequestration projects. Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality has asked for authority to permit these projects, hoping to expedite the process. “It was mentioned several times that LDEQ has failed in its permitting process, and that EPA needs to exercise some oversight,” Manning said. Manning said Regan promised the local leaders “access” to his office. He also told them he plans to work with Congress to change laws that limit EPA action. After the meeting, Regan visited St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes to hear about industrial air pollution. On Wednesday, he plans to tour the Lower 9th Ward and Gordon Plaza, a New Orleans subdivision built on top of a landfill, before journeying to southwest Louisiana to visit Mossville on Thursday.
Regan is a breath of light and openness not seen is any administration I can remember.