The state senate is about to enact air monitoring legislation.

For each of the past three years, Sen. Cleo Fields has proposed an ill-fated bill that would require each of the more than 450 petrochemical plants in Louisiana to install monitors that alert nearby communities when air pollution reaches toxic levels. But on Tuesday, the Baton Rouge Democrat’s persistence paid off. The fourth iteration of the bill cleared its first legislative hurdle, passing out of the Environmental Quality committee. It now awaits a vote by the full Senate. Senate Bill 35 faces fierce opposition from the petrochemical industry, which says the new monitors will be costly and may spark unnecessary fear among the public. Fields knows the bill has “a lot more hurdles to go,” but called its committee-level approval “a step in the right direction.” “People have a right to know what they breathe,” he said. “That’s the whole basis of this bill.”

If you produce toxic chemicals you monitor the air.

The bill would require all facilities that produce toxic chemicals to install and operate monitoring systems that can detect violations of air quality standards and trigger alerts when pollution levels threaten public health. The systems would need to offer immediate, “real-time” data to the public and text message alerts to emergency responders and people living near the facilities. Companies would have to maintain monitoring data records for five years and report data to state regulators twice a year. If approved, the rules would go into effect July 1, 2024. Here’s how the committee voted on SB 35: Against – Sen. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales and For – Sens. Ed Price, D-Gonzales; Patrick Connick, R-Marrero; J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs; Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans. Supporters cheered and bumped fists after the bill was approved. “Right now, the public has no idea about what’s released from these chemical plants,” said Larry Sorapuru, an Edgard resident who worked in the chemical industry for 36 years. He said some plants already have the technology the bill calls for, and can trigger shutdowns when chemicals are detected, but the vast majority do not, leaving communities and plant workers vulnerable to toxic chemicals that are sometimes difficult to see or smell.

Air quality in Cancer Alley is getting worse.

Air quality in the 85-mile-long chemical corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, commonly called ‘Cancer Alley,’ has been steadily worsening as the amount of toxic air pollution from refineries and chemical plants rises, according to a 2019 analysis by The Times-Picayune and the nonprofit news organization ProPublica. That analysis also showed that predominantly Black and low-income communities are acutely affected. Louisiana’s current system for detecting spikes in air pollution are spotty. The state Department of Environmental Quality has 39 stationary air monitors, three community air monitors that are relocated about once a year, and two truck-mounted mobile monitoring labs. The stationary monitors can test for up to six types of pollutants, while the mobile labs can detect the “full array of air pollutants,” according to DEQ. The agency also has drones and hand-held devices that can check air quality during emergencies and suspected releases.  The costs associated with installing and maintaining the new monitors would fall almost entirely on individual plants, according to the bill. DEQ estimates the average financial burden on plants during the first year of implementation would be just under $18,000. “What’s exciting is we now have low-cost, (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)-approved methods for generating reliable air quality data that can (meet) legal standards,” said Kim Terrell, a research scientist with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.

Can’t defend the need the attack the cost.

Industry representatives disputed the notion that the new systems will be cheap. Robert Berg, the regulatory affairs manager for the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, said the costs would likely be about $1 million for many facilities. Greg Bowser, president Louisiana Chemical Association, said not everyone will be able to understand the data, making some people fearful of releases that may not pose serious health threats. The new system would “basically collect a bunch of data and dump it on the public and say ‘here you go, figure out what it means,'” he said. “I’d rather leave the system the way it is so folks aren’t alarmed,” Berg added. “I worry that generating a lot of data will create a lot of fear.” Bowser said the bill is unnecessary because the EPA is already proposing similar rules. Early this month, the EPA announced that it was considering rules that would require certain facilities that manufacture chemicals used in plastics and synthetic rubber to install air monitors along their fence lines. But supporters of Fields’ bill say the EPA rules are more limited in scope and could be appealed if President Joe Biden isn’t re-elected. “We may get a new administration in two years and they might go right back and say ‘we’re going to reverse course,'” Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, said. “I don’t think we can cite any proposed regulations as a reason why this bill isn’t needed today.”

Of course we are ignorant and won’t understand the data but we learn.

State Sente and air monitoring
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