By Andy Zellinger, Research Analyst
May is Louisiana Air Quality Awareness Month; the theme has been focused on how citizens can reduce their carbon footprint by simple pollution cutting practices such as carpooling or riding your bike to work. While I can thoroughly agree that these practices will bring our community a little closer to safe ozone levels in the atmosphere – the truth is industry needs to amend their practices to make any real difference to Louisiana’s Air Quality.
ExxonMobil Refinery and Chemical Plant in Baton Rouge has been keeping regulatory agencies busy since this past Tuesday May 21st. Tuesday marked their first of 6 reports to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center detailing unauthorized releases of harmful pollutants. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade has responded to this series of chemical releases by deploying our Accident Response Team to the standard heights neighborhood in Baton Rouge. The information they will deliver to the residents is proof that the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality does not take Air Quality Awareness Month seriously. LDEQ granted a temporary variance to ExxonMobil for 24 additional tons of Sulfur Dioxide per day. Sulfur Dioxide is a respiratory irritant and causes asthma attacks at quantities below detection levels. The details from the press release regarding this variance indicates that if LDEQ personnel detect harmful levels of SO2 they will “don respiratory protection and leave the area immediately.” Where will the resident of Baton Rouge go if these harmful levels are detected? It seems like awareness is not bringing us any closer to cleaner healthier air.
The list of pollutants released including links to the National Response Center Reports can be found below: