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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LT&C

LSU Report Highlights the Impact of Environmental Justice on Louisiana's Business Landscape

In a recent report from the LSU Center for Energy Studies, researchers suggest that Louisiana could experience major economic and industrial changes that would change the landscape of business in the Pelican State. The LSU Center for Energy Studies (LSU-CES) was established by the state legislature in 1982 with a stated mission of “conducting, encouraging, and facilitating research and analysis to address energy-related problems or issues affecting Louisiana’s economy, environment, and citizenry” and a goal centered on providing a “balanced, objective, and timely treatment of issues with potentially important consequences for Louisiana.” 


The concept of environmental justice has come into national spotlight recently as President Biden's 2021 Executive Order (EO) 14008, "Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad," marked a significant step towards addressing climate change. Among its components, the Justice40 aims to direct 40 percent of the benefits from certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities. This directive has broad implications for businesses and industries, particularly in Louisiana, where historical issues of environmental justice persist.


Environmental Justice: A Crucial Consideration

The authors of the report point out how roots of environmental justice (EJ) trace back to the 1980s when sociologist Robert Bullard observed a disproportionate placement of garbage dumps in African American neighborhoods in Houston. Since then, EJ has evolved into a movement emphasizing fair treatment and meaningful involvement of residents in decision-making processes. Numerous studies have highlighted environmental injustices, such as disproportionate toxic waste disposal, higher concentrations of harmful elements in poor neighborhoods, and slower regulatory responses in communities with higher percentages of poverty.


The Evolution of Environmental Justice in Policy

President Clinton's Executive Order 12898 in 1994 was the first federal order concerned with EJ, directing agencies to incorporate it into decision-making processes. Fast forward to 2021, and President Biden's Justice40 Initiative takes a broader approach by requiring that 40 percent of the benefits from specific federal spending go to disadvantaged communities. This shift emphasizes the need for businesses and researchers seeking federal funding to consider the Justice40 component in their applications.


Climate Justice and Its Implications

Climate justice, an offshoot of environmental justice, asserts that poor and minority populations should not bear a disproportionate share of the costs of climate change. As global decarbonization efforts unfold, the principles of climate justice and Justice40 aim to mitigate negative economic and localized environmental impacts on disadvantaged communities.


Louisiana's Complex Landscape

The authors of the report suggest that Louisiana, with its history of racial inequality and a significant African American population, faces unique challenges. The state has the sixth-highest share of its population living within a disadvantaged community, coupled with the fifth-highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Therefore, it is no surprise that the state has a history of contributing to the ever-developing landscape of environmental justice. Even today the state is home to many legal battles regarding EJ. In a recent legal development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a case, United States v. Denka Performance Elastomer, LLC, urging a federal court in New Orleans to issue a preliminary injunction against Denka. Denka, a Japanese chemical company, owns a neoprene plant located in Laplace, Louisiana. The EPA's motion specifically calls for the court to mandate Denka to implement pollution controls aimed at reducing chloroprene emissions. 


Decarbonization and Louisiana's Future

Researchers point out how Louisiana's susceptibility to sea-level rise and storms adds another layer to the complex scenario. While concerns exist about the impact of decarbonization on the oil and gas industry, the state is already attracting investments in reducing industrial emissions and renewable energy. Federal involvement, often subject to Justice40 conditions, necessitates a delicate balance to ensure that environmental damages do not disproportionately burden disadvantaged communities.


In navigating the evolving landscape of environmental and climate justice, businesses in Louisiana must be attuned to the requirements set forth by Justice40. By understanding the historical context, ongoing cases, and the broader implications for the state, businesses can position themselves to contribute positively to both environmental sustainability and social equity, ensuring a more just and resilient future for Louisiana.

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