JSouth of Oil City, where Louisiana Representative Danny McCormick is from, is the predominantly black town of Shreveport. Residents breathe the most toxic air in the country. Oil refineries owned by UOP and Calumet contribute to the city’s toxic emissions, according to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.
But McCormick, a Republican, introduced a bill in the Louisiana capital last week that would protect oil companies, not residents of his district who must breathe that air. The bill would establish Louisiana as a “fossil fuel sanctuary state” and prohibit local and state employees from enforcing federal laws and regulations that negatively impact petrochemical companies.
The idea for the bill, McCormick said, originated after President Joe Biden began imposing new restrictions on oil and gas companies, including a pause on new oil and gas leases on land and water. federal. “Look what they’ve done to the coal industry,” he said during a Louisiana House committee hearing. “We already know what the game plan is. They’ve already collected some charcoal. Now they are going after oil and gas. “
The bill – which is not expected to go ahead in its current state due to legality concerns – is among several bills introduced to the Louisiana legislature this session that would likely reduce regulation of oil and gas companies. in the state. Lawmakers believe deregulation is necessary to preserve the tax revenues generated by oil and gas companies and to halt further job losses. A separate bill introduced by McCormick would redefine pipelines from modes of transportation to facilities, to prevent Louisiana state police from fining pipeline companies for not immediately reporting gas leaks.
Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards also pushed back on the Biden administration’s energy agenda, writing a letter to the president that included talking points from petrochemical lobbyists, according to HuffPost. Documents showed an oil and gas trade group coordinated between senior officials in Louisiana and their counterparts in New Mexico – another oil state with a Democratic governor. Although the states are run by Democrats, they remain obstacles to Biden’s climate plans. Texas, which has a Republican governor and legislature, is also advancing bills to protect the oil and gas industry from climate efforts.
Nixing of environmental requirements would disproportionately affect communities of color. Shreveport, which is 57% black, ranks between the 90th and 95th percentiles for cancer risk from inhaling toxicants in the air, according to the National Air Toxics Assessment ‘EPA. In 2013, the EPA fined the Calumet refinery $ 326,000 for nine overhead violations, prompting a new fence monitoring system.
Shreveport is located in northwest Louisiana, almost on the border with Texas. But southeast Louisiana, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, is also known for its heavy industrial presence and pollution. It has been nicknamed “Cancer Alley”. Louisiana U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy bristled at Biden using the term and opposed Democrats’ campaigns to revoke permits for a large plastics factory proposed for the hallway.
McCormick uses M&M Oil. Before becoming a lawmaker, he was a member of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, an industry lobby group. Last week, when asked by other lawmakers about the constitutionality of the bill, McCormick said he didn’t know anyone was against the law. “I don’t know who would have a problem with that, honestly,” he said.
But Velma White, 71, who lives in the McCormick District, said she was concerned about the bill. “It’s going to hurt people,” she said of McCormick’s bill. “I don’t think it’s fair to people.”
White lives one block from Calumet Shreveport Refining and believes his family’s health problems were caused by air emissions from the facility. White’s daughter was diagnosed with kidney failure at a young age. White’s husband and sisters also struggled with health. “They literally put me and my family in hell,” she said of the refinery. “I know there should be someone who cares about people’s lives.”
White and other residents sued the former owners of the Calumet, Pennzoil-Quaker State refinery in 2001. White said she hoped the lawsuit would open a dialogue with the company about buyouts. to help residents move away from pollution. “These people cannot come out of this community,” White said. “They will continue to be exposed by what is going on in this refinery. You can’t just stop and run.
In January, White received an offer to settle his 20-year claim against the oil companies for $ 2,500. She had nausea, difficulty breathing and a miscarriage in 1987, according to E&E News.
“That’s what they gave me,” she said. “I’m just stunned.
White believes federal regulators should take action that would require companies to reduce their emissions. But if McCormick’s bill became law, the state wouldn’t be able to enforce those regulations.
McCormick’s bill was introduced over fears that the current wording could cause the United States Environmental Protection Agency to revoke the state’s power to enforce federal rules. But his colleagues still offered their support. Louisiana House Natural Resources and Environment Committee Chairman Jean-Paul P Coussan (R-Lafayette) said he would work with McCormick to resolve issues with the bill that could give the government federal more power over oil and gas companies in Louisiana.
“You’re not going to find more support for oil and gas in its legislature than maybe you and me,” Coussan told McCormick during the committee hearing. “We can tighten that up so all of our oil and gas constituents can be proud of the bill. The intention is to help the industry not end up in court just for a title. “