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Louisiana industry reports cutting toxic chemical releases by 5.6%



LOUISIANA – Louisiana industrial plants reported reducing the amount of toxic chemicals they released into the land, air or water by 5.6 percent in 2019 compared to 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced this week. Emissions totaled 129.3 million pounds, down from 136.9 million pounds a year earlier.

However, the state’s industries actually saw their total production of wastes increase by 7 percent, to 3.3 billion pounds, according to EPA’s annual Toxics Release Inventory National Analysis. The huge difference represents wastes that were not released into the environment but were instead eliminated through recycling, using the materials to create energy for manufacturing or treating the materials to make them non-toxic.

Louisiana still ranks second in the U.S., behind Texas, in total releases of what EPA classifies as “core chemicals,” which don’t include mining wastes. The chemicals released on-site by Louisiana plants represent 4.4 percent of the national total.

The top five Louisiana companies releasing toxic chemicals in 2019 were:

  • Monsanto, Luling – 18.2 million pounds.
  • Cornerstone Chemicals – Waggaman – 13.3 million pounds.
  • CF Industries, Donaldsonville – 11.2 million pounds.
  • Rubicon LLC, Geismar – 9.2 million pounds.
  • Angus Chemicals, Sterlington – 8.6 million pounds.

Those companies have ranked among the state’s top five since 2015, with Monsanto and Cornerstone leading the list each year. All five reported a reduction in 2019.

Across the United States, the EPA reported that chemical releases dropped in 2019 by 9 percent, a dip more significant than in Louisiana. EPA officials said the numbers, which go through six months of analyses and reviews before they’re released, do not reflect any effects that the COVID-19 pandemic might have on 2020 chemical releases.

EPA officials said new efforts by industry to reduce or eliminate chemical wastes at their plants over the past five years helped lower the emissions totals for 2019.

“Today’s announcement underscores my commitment to helping communities and companies get the environmental information they need to prevent pollution and protect public health,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who was appointed by President Trump. “The progress made under the TRI program in 2019 is proof that a cleaner environment and economic growth go hand in hand.”

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Michael Regan, North Carolina’s environment secretary, for EPA’s top job after he takes office Jan. 20.

“One of the main drivers in lowering emissions is efficiency,” said Gregory Bowser, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association. “LCA member companies are always striving to improve their environmental footprint and to create necessary products in effective, efficient and environmentally friendly ways.

“Production from chemical manufacturers in Louisiana is up, and emissions are down. That is something the industry is very proud of and wants to see continue into the future.”

Louisiana was not alone in the six-state EPA Region 6 in reducing emissions, regional administrator Ken McQueen said. In air emissions alone, there was an overall drop of 25.9 million pounds, or 6 percent, among the six states: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Reductions were seen among chemical manufacturing, electric utilities and petroleum product manufacturing sectors.

The numbers for 2020 are expected to be even lower because of a decreased demand for industrial products during the pandemic, decreased production and reduced reporting that may have resulted from pandemic-related rule changes by either EPA or states.