Discriminatory Outcomes of Industrial Air Permitting in Louisiana, United States
Kimberly A. Terrell, Gianna St. Julien, Discriminatory outcomes of industrial air permitting in Louisiana, United States, Environmental Challenges, Volume 10, 2023, 100672, ISSN 2667-0100, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envc.2022.100672. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2667010
13 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2022 Last revised: 21 Feb 2023
Date Written: November 14, 2022
Overwhelming evidence indicates that communities of Color in the United States are disproportionately harmed by pollution. Yet, state environmental regulators, who permit industrial polluters under the U.S. Clean Air Act, do not universally recognize these disparities. In Louisiana, regulators have denied the existence of pollution disparities and have suggested that infrastructure explains why heavy industry is concentrated in certain neighborhoods. We used a multi-part approach to determine if there is a racial disparity in Louisiana's industrial emissions and, if so, whether infrastructure or state permitting drives this disparity. First, we evaluated race (% people of Color) among census tracts with industrial facilities relative to reported emissions of criteria pollutants from 2019-2021 using a quartile analysis and a linear model that accounted for spatial clustering of facilities. Second, we tested whether census tracts with infrastructure variables have higher-than-average populations of Color using one sample T-tests. Infrastructure variables included petrochemical pipelines, railways, ports, lower Mississippi River access, and a high proportion of the workforce in manufacturing. We found that over half (378 of 671) of Louisiana's industrial facilities were spatially clustered along a 184-mile, winding stretch of the lower Mississippi River known as “Cancer Alley.” Overall, communities of Color had 7-fold to 21-fold higher emissions, depending on the pollutant, than predominantly White communities. Among industry subsectors, Chemical Manufacturing was the largest single contributor to emissions in communities of Color. Census tracts with industrial infrastructure were, on average, racially similar to Louisiana overall (absolute difference, <7% people of Color). Collectively, our findings reveal a stark racial disparity in industrial emissions that is driven by state permitting, particularly of chemical manufacturers, rather than by infrastructure or labor supply. Immediate action is needed to address the discriminatory outcomes of industrial permitting in Louisiana, and future research should focus on the role of state permitting in environmental injustice more broadly.
Keywords: Environmental Justice, Cancer Alley, Environmental Policy, Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, Emissions
JEL Classification: K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation