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Federal court indefinitely delays trial involving Biden efforts to shut down chemical plant

By Stew Davidson
|
February 20, 2024

A U.S. district court has granted a federal government's request to indefinitely halt a closely watched trial despite the Biden administration's stated concerns about the health risks posed by a major petrochemical plant in Louisiana.

Judge Carl Barbier of the U.S. District of Eastern Louisiana made a late Friday ruling, abruptly canceling motion arguments initially scheduled for the upcoming week.

The judge also postponed the trial slated for mid-March, as Fox News reported.

The Department of Justice, representing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sought the delay on Feb. 9, following months of contention regarding the plant's hazards.

Industry Response to EPA's Legal Action

Denka Performance Elastomer (DPE), the company at the heart of the lawsuit, criticized the EPA for its approach towards the lawsuit.

The firm highlighted the strain the litigation strategy places on the nation's sole neoprene-producing facility and its workforce.

Jason Hutt, counsel for DPE, remarked on the irony of the EPA's delayed trial request, contradicting the agency's claims of urgency in this matter.

Hutt condemned the lawsuit as a political maneuver and signaled DPE's readiness to dispute the EPA's allegations, emphasizing the outdated and exaggerated basis of the government's science on chloroprene risks.

"DPE is prepared to litigate this case and address the unfounded fears fomented by EPA, including a clear showing that the science underlying EPA's allegation is outdated, contorted and based upon an overly conservative risk assessment," Hutt said.

He added, "Since purchasing the facility in 2015, DPE has invested more than $35 million in chloroprene emissions reductions."

Hutt stated that chloroprene emissions had reached unprecedented low levels due to DPE's ongoing dual monitoring systems.

He further emphasized that DPE is committed to maintaining its operations at the facility, which is a significant source of employment for numerous Louisiana locals and plays a vital role in bolstering the economic health of both the local and state economies.

Economic Implications

The company insists on continuing its operations, underscoring the economic and employment benefits it brings to Louisiana.

Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Michael Regan reaffirmed the administration's commitment to environmental justice, critiquing DPE for not reducing emissions swiftly or substantially enough.

Legal and Political Controversies Surrounding the Case

The controversy extends beyond environmental concerns, touching on accusations of political motivations and the legality of the Biden administration's actions.

DPE has argued that the government's demands could lead to devastating outcomes for the company, including job losses and economic disruption.

Furthermore, discoveries made by DPE suggest an attempt by EPA officials to fabricate evidence to strengthen their case, an issue now under investigation by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.