The Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition is proud to be one of the signatories to a very important letter from Earthjustice to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The letter is critical of DOJ & EPA for their capitulation to a lawsuit by then-Attorney General (and now Governor-elect) Jeff Landry. The letter takes DOJ & EPA to task for their failure to demand Louisiana’s regulatory agencies comply with federal civil rights laws and regulations. The laws and regulations at issue protect communities from discriminatory exposure to cancer-causing air pollution โ€” at least in theory. The letter focuses on majority-Black communities in St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes.

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Read the letter.

Some background notes might be in order:

In 2022, EPA formally “accepted” Earthjustice’s complaint that the Louisiana Departments of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and Health (LDH) had discriminated against residents of St. John the Baptist Parish and St. James Parish. Residents experience “disproportionate” exposure to the cancer-causing substances ethylene oxide and chloroprene. Further, the Louisiana agencies failed to consider “disproportionate” impacts on majority Black neighborhoods when granting new and expanded permits to industrial facilities in those parishes and other areas.

EPA began an official investigation in April 2022 into both complaints against LDEQ. On October 12, 2022, EPA wrote a “Letter of Concern” presenting the evidence it had developed. The evidence proved LDEQ had violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, causing harm to the residents of St. John and St. James parishes.

EPA and DOJ almost reached an Informal Resolution Agreement with LDEQ. This agreement would have transformed the entire process of air permitting in Louisiana. It would have included a requirement that โ€” in each permit application โ€” there would be a determination of whether a community was already being exposed to a disproportionate amount of hazardous air pollution.

Then, in May of 2023, the state of Louisiana sued the federal government, alleging that EPA’s Title VI regulations were illegal. One month later, on June 27, 2023, EPA closed its three complaints and its ongoing investigation without providing any relief. EPA promised not to take any further action under Title VI against LDEQ or LDH.

The posted letter protests the betrayal of trust of the citizens of St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes. That’s why GNOICC signed on. The letter calls on the Biden Administration to enforce violations of the nation’s civil rights laws and regulations. It also contains almost two pages of detailed requests for how this should be done.

Please read the letter and express your thanks to the Louisiana individuals and organizations that have signed it. Urge them to continue their efforts to force EPA and DOJ to do their jobs.

Dear DOJ and EPA Leadership