A legislative effort to let chemical plants and other industrial companies keep certain environmental violations secret ended Wednesday, after the bill’s author pulled the legislation.
Supporters of the bill say it would let companies self-report problems, encouraging them to address minor violations, such as “mislabeling a 50-gallon drum, paperwork submitted incorrectly, and such small things,” explained Representative Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette).
This wasn’t the first time the controversial bill came up this session. The measure, which had the support of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry, narrowly failed on the House floor last week.
Opponents criticized the legislation, saying it would have taken the regulatory power from the Department of Environmental Quality and given it to the potential violators. But Representative Bishop says the move would have emboldened facilities to handle problems DEQ might miss.
"Do you think DEQ catches every infraction? Do they have enough people to go and monitor all of it? No, they don’t,” said Bishop.
One of the bills vocal opponents, Representative Patrick Connick (R-Marrero) says, if passed, companies would have been able to keep certain violations confidential from DEQ and the public, while offering facility owners immunity from any potential fines or lawsuits, "which means that even if someone gets caught gaming the system, cheating and polluting, there’s no penalty.”
The bill would have applied to 1,600 industrial facilities in Louisiana, major economic drivers in the state.
“We want chemical companies," explained Representative Connick, "we need chemical companies. But we do not need secrecy over their operations, especially when they have the ability to harm so many of us in Louisiana.”
Representative Bishop pulled the bill late Wednesday afternoon, opting instead to continue working with stakeholders going forward.