Biden admin tackles cancer-causing air pollution

By Sean Reilly | 04/09/2024 09:00 AM EDT

The EPA rule targets petrochemical plants clustered in areas like Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.”

EPA Administrator Michael Regan stands near the Marathon Petroleum Refinery

EPA Administrator Michael Regan standing near the Marathon Petroleum Refinery in Reserve, Louisiana, on Nov. 16, 2021, in the area known as Cancer Alley. The agency on Tuesday finalized rules targeting emissions from petrochemical plants. Gerald Herbert/AP

The Biden administration is reining in releases of cancer-causing compounds and other hazardous pollutants in a crackdown that targets petrochemical plants clustered in areas like Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.”

Under a final package of regulations unveiled Tuesday morning over stiff industry opposition, almost 220 plants that make synthetic organic chemicals and other products will face more stringent curbs on emissions of ethylene oxide, a potent carcinogen, and other air toxics. The rule is expected to ultimately cut those releases by more than 6,000 tons annually.

The plants will also have to implement fence-line monitoring to track airborne concentrations around their operations.


The package “delivers on EPA’s commitment to protecting public health for all, especially communities historically overburdened by pollution,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan told reporters on a call Monday afternoon previewing the new rules. The rule also seeks to account for a 2016 finding that ethylene oxide was much more dangerous than previously thought.

Though Regan framed the package in the context of President Joe Biden’s commitment to environmental justice, the agency was years behind Clean Air Act timetables for updating the regulations and moved ahead with the final rule under the terms of a settlement to a 2020 lawsuit.

The rule’s release follows almost exactly a year after EPA unveiled the draft version while Regan was in Cancer Alley, a heavily industrialized stretch of Louisiana along the Mississippi River that owes its nickname to the prevalence of petrochemical plants and other types of heavy industry.

Regan plans a ceremonial signing later Tuesday morning that will be webcast live from EPA headquarters