Bill requiring industrial plants to install public air monitoring systems advances


A proposal to require industrial air monitoring to protect Louisiana residents from chemical air pollutants cleared an early obstacle in the state Legislature last week, reports Louisiana Illuminator.

Senate Bill 35, sponsored by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, advanced from the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality in a 4-1 vote. The lone opposing vote came from Sen. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales.

The measure would require certain industrial facilities to install air quality monitoring systems that measure and record pollutants and warn the public of hazardous releases. The systems would include real-time data collection and be able to disseminate that information to the public when chemical accidents and leaks pose a threat to public health.

The bill would apply to facilities defined as major sources under the federal Clean Air Act or the Louisiana Air Control Law. The facilities would have to cover the cost of installing the systems.

Many industrial plants already have such systems in place, but they are not required to share data with the public and don’t always immediately notify nearby communities when a leak occurs.

The committee’s bipartisan support for the bill came as a surprise to proponents who have been trying for years to get lawmakers to adopt it. The vote tally drew applause from many residents of the Mississippi River corridor often referred to as Cancer Alley—most of them Black—who gathered after the meeting to thank Fields and take photos.

Fields says he has carried the bill for four years without any luck moving it through the legislative process.

“I’m just hopeful we can keep this momentum going,” he said in a post-meeting interview. “We’ve got big hurdles ahead. Industry is a big monster to reckon with, so to speak. And all this cost is on them, not on the state, and that’s the way it should be.”

Speaking in favor of the bill, retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré told the committee how dozens of Iberville Parish residents were hospitalized with symptoms of chlorine poisoning from an industrial chemical leak just two weeks after Fields presented the same bill last year.

That incident occurred April 18, 2022, at the Dow Hydrocarbons complex.

Read the full story from Louisiana Illuminator.