Rebekah Staub, Permian-Gulf Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana — Today, Earthworks sent a letter to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) demanding the agency respond to pollution complaints of liquefied methane gas (LNG) and petrochemical facilities in Southwest Louisiana submitted to the agency last year.
Earthworks submitted visual evidence of harmful pollution to the agency on August 15 on behalf of residents, requesting an investigation of the emissions. The pollution events were documented using an industry-standard optical gas imaging camera designed to make visible air pollution that is otherwise invisible to the naked eye. There has been no response since LDEQ Southwest Regional Office Manager Chrissie Gubancsik initially replied on Aug. 16 to say they are “working with our various stakeholders to formulate a response.” Furthermore, there is no record of the complaint in the department’s records, a violation of department protocols.
“Zero follow up communication from a regulatory agency is not acceptable,” said Tim Doty, certified thermographer who conducted the investigation. “There is visual proof of significant pollution being continuously released in the Lake Charles area without regard to human health, climate change, site operations, and permit requirements. Communities need to know how LDEQ is addressing these concerning pollution events.”
The U.S. became the world’s largest exporter of LNG in 2022 and many more projects almost exclusively along the Louisiana coast are being considered by the Biden Administration, despite pledging to prioritize climate change and environmental justice in its decision making and promising to further reduce emissions. A recent report found that two large Louisiana LNG export facilities, Calcasieu Pass LNG and Cameron LNG — both of which were cited in the complaint — are flaring constantly and under-reporting their emissions.
“LDEQ has made it abundantly clear time and time again that it doesn’t care about the people of Louisiana by continuously siding with industry,” said Roishetta Ozane, founder/director of The Vessel Project of Louisiana. “These facilities are killing us and should pay the price for murder.”
LNG facilities and petrochemical infrastructure are sited in low-income communities, communities of color, and on Indigenous lands due to decades of economic disenfranchisement and systemic racism. These same communities are also the hardest hit by climate change, which is caused by the emissions from fossil fuel production, transportation and use. The lack of regulatory action by LDEQ is now another burden on these communities.
“The lack of response to these complaints demonstrates that LDEQ is unable and unwilling to protect us. With over a dozen more gas export terminals proposed in South Louisiana, we cannot afford a slow and limp response to such deadly emissions,” said James Hiatt, Lake Charles resident and former refinery worker. “LDEQ should function as protection for the Louisiana people and the environment. When industry does not comply with the law, they should face significant consequences. Do your job!”
Researchers at Earthworks regularly document the dangerous levels of methane and air toxins released onto communities by oil and gas operations from the Permian Basin to the Gulf Coast. The massive networks of subsequent infrastructure needed to transport, process, and export the fracked gas are allowed to routinely emit large volumes of methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times worse at warming the climate than carbon dioxide.