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Federal judge in Louisiana blocks EPA’s disparate impact requirements

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(The Center Square) — The Environmental Protection Agency can’t treat companies differently in Black communities than in white communities, a federal judge ruled this week.

U.S. District Court Judge James Cain on Tuesday granted the state’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the EPA and Department of Justice from imposing what’s known as disparate impact requirements under the Civil Rights Act.

The rules would require Louisiana to ensure industries in low-income minority areas like the “Cancer Alley” corridor along the Mississippi River reduce pollution to levels lower than in predominantly white areas.

Gov. Jeff Landry sued the EPA during his tenure as attorney general, arguing the rules are unconstitutional due to the focus on race and are a violation of the Clean Air Act.

Cain agreed, blocking the EPA from enforcing the disparate impact rules, as well as any other rules under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act that are not both ratified by the president and linked to specific requirements in EPA regulations.

“The public interest here is that governmental agencies abide by its laws, and treat all of its citizens equally, without considering race,” Cain wrote. “To be sure, if a decision maker has to consider race, to decide, it has indeed participated in racism.”

“Pollution does not discriminate,” the order read.

Attorney General Liz Murrill responded to the ruling in a statement on Wednesday.

“The EPA could not explain any legal basis for its attempts to force Louisiana to violate the federal constitution,” Murrill said. “When the EPA refused to explain its reasoning for threatening millions in federal funding in Louisiana and other states, we sued to require the EPA explain itself to a federal judge. That judge agreed the EPA is wrong.”

Tuesday’s ruling comes about eight months after the EPA announced the end of two civil rights investigations into how the state issues permits for petrochemical plants near Black communities.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said at the time that EPA regulations for those plants effectively addressed its concerns.

While Cain’s ruling applies only to Louisiana, he noted legal issues created by the EPA are impacting other states, as well.

“It is abundantly clear, that Defendants’ actions iterated herein have created great cause for concern, not only for the State of Louisiana, but also for our sister states who have also found themselves at the whim of the EPA and its overreaching mandates,” Cain wrote. “The State has met its burden as to irreparable harm.”

Robert Taylor, with Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish, a group that helped initiate the EPA’s investigation, expressed disappointment with Cain’s decision when contacted by The Center Square.

“We just find it hard to accept our governor would be part of this. We certainly don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We here as the victims in all of this, we’ll really have to reassess.”

“The people are not benefiting here,” Taylor said. “This is not working for the good of the community.”

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