Biden admin aims to curb fallout of Louisiana civil rights clash

By Sean Reilly | 05/15/2024 01:30 PM EDT

The push comes after the state won a preliminary injunction blocking EPA from probing the effects of permitting decisions on Black communities.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan stands near the Marathon Petroleum Refinery

EPA Administrator Michael Regan stands near the Marathon Petroleum refinery in Reserve, Louisiana, on Nov. 16, 2021. Regan was in "Cancer Alley" on his first "Journey to Justice" tour. Gerald Herbert/AP

The Biden administration is battling to salvage civil rights regulations targeting unintended “disparate impacts” in assessing racial discrimination complaints in a standoff rooted in Louisiana but carrying nationwide ramifications.

After previously winning a preliminary injunction that blocked EPA from probing the effects of Clean Air Act permitting decisions on Black communities in Louisiana, lawyers for the state now want U.S. District Judge James Cain Jr. to throw out the underlying regulations.

Not only are the legal defects in those regulations “irremediable,” they wrote in a filing last month, but the disruption to EPA will be “confined to closing down a modest number of investigations that are unlawful” under Cain’s previous order.


But in a Tuesday rebuttal, Justice Department attorneys accused Louisiana of “gratuitously” seeking to gut rules that have been on the books for more than a half-century. They also objected to the state’s bid to broaden the injunction to shield “all entities — public and private alike — anywhere in Louisiana.”