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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Stiffer EPA regulations to impact local business and industry

Stiffer EPA regulations to impact local business and industry

More stringent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality regulations, to be adopted nation-wide by June 2015, will add to the cost of doing business in Lafourche Parish, says Kevin Belanger, South Central Planning’s CEO.

“We have to develop a strategy now to educate the public, the legislature, and the business sector. Doing nothing renders us at the mercy of the EPA,” he said during a presentation to the Lafourche Parish Council Tuesday in Mathews.

To protect public health, especially for older adults and children with asthma and other lung diseases, the EPA is proposing a lower allowable ground level ozone standard for business and industry from the current 0.075 parts per million to a lower range of 0.065 to 0.070 ppm.

Ground level ozone occurs as a result of chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight.

Emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are some of the major sources of NOx and VOC.

The EPA says the majority of ozone comes from on-road and non-road mobile sources, industrial processes (including solvents), consumer and commercial products, and the electric power industry.

As an example, Belanger listed the Discovery Producer Gas Processing Plant on Hwy. 24 in Larose as one local business that is monitored by EPA for its emissions.

The marine vessel industry, particularly that part of it which is based in Port Fourchon, is included by EPA as a source of emissions which can affect ozone levels.

Belanger said increased business costs as a result of EPA standards would be seen in things like educating employees on new regulations, and increased costs of vehicle inspections, permits, and modification of business processes to control emissions.

Additionally, the EPA will require states such as Louisiana to develop and maintain an air quality management infrastructure that includes enforceable emission limitations, a permitting program, an ambient monitoring program, an enforcement program, air quality modeling capabilities, and adequate personnel, resources, and legal authority.

Belanger’s presentation included a proposed plan by SCP to develop an environmental division to help Lafourche Parish comply with the new EPA regulations, set to be enforced beginning in June of 2016.

SCP is asking the six parishes in the SCP region -- Lafourche, St. Charles, Terrebonne, Assumption, St. James, and St. John the Baptist -- to share the cost of forming the environmental division and paying for employees in that division.

The proposal’s 3-year plan would cost the region $180,000 in the first year, half paid by government and the other half shared by industry sources, says Belanger. Lafourche’s share would be $6030, according to a formula based on the percentage of emissions which the parish actually puts out. Lafourche dispenses about 6.7% of all emissions for the six-parish region, SCP says.

Several councilmen agreed with SCP’s assessment of a need for action now to offset EPA changes. Mike Delatte warned of EPA regulations shutting down industry in the parish.

“What if EPA shuts down Fourchon? We’ll all have to go flip burgers at McDonald’s. We need to voice our opinion. I think that’s what ya’ll (SCP) propose to do,” he said.

Phillip Gouaux said Lafourche’s cost to join a coalition to express the parish’s concerns is a “drop in the bucket.”
Jerry Lafont and Lindel Toups agreed with Gouaux who said it is money well spent. But Parish President Charlotte Randolph responded differently to the proposal.

“It’s not just us. Counties all over the U.S. are fighting this. We need to address this through Congress, not locally,” she said.

Randolph felt joining a smaller “group” such as SCP would be like giving in to the problem. But Belanger characterized the state’s stance as having already acquiesced to the new standards.

“It is better to get on board now than for one business to have to pay a higher permit fee down the road to get started if we don’t,” he stated.

Randolph, still not satisfied with SCP’s approach, said her administration would analyze the proposal and come back to the Council in the near future with the parish’s own recommendation.

The Council on Tuesday also passed a resolution requesting EPA to delay implementation of air quality standards and asking EPA to “create a program allowing regional consideration of non-attainment status.”

A “non-attainment area” is an area considered to have worse air quality than the federal standard. These areas must have a plan to meet the standard or lose certain federal financial assistance, according to the Clean Air Act of 1970.

South Central Planning and Development Commission was formed under state law to provide long-range planning services to meet the needs and challenges of its member governments.

Lafourche Parish has a yearly agreement with SCP for such services at a cost of about $30,000 annually.