NOLA.com / The Times Picayune
The Baton Rouge Metro Council came down on the side of the manufacturing and petrochemical industries Wednesday, voting unanimously to object to new stricter air quality standards that are being proposed by the federal government.
The council supported a resolution, proposed by council member Buddy Amoroso, to express their opposition to the proposed new emissions standards being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Council members said the standards would raise utility prices — especially harmful for the poorest in the community — and drive industry away from Louisiana and the U.S.
“It’s not like they would leave from Louisiana to go to Texas,” Amoroso said. “They’ll leave from Louisiana to go to Brazil or Central America, where they don’t have these types of standards.”
Environmental advocates who testified at Wednesday’s meeting, though, said council members would send the “wrong message” if they oppose the air quality standards.
“There is a cost to pollution, because a permit is simply a permit to pollute,” said Kathy Wascom, board member of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. “We have health costs associated with this.”
Representatives of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, on the other hand, urged the council to approve the resolution.
They noted the Baton Rouge area has only just come into compliance with the current ozone emission standards of 75 parts per billion. The regulations being considered now could set the standards as low as 60 parts per billion.
The council’s resolution also encourages officials to develop more flexible ways for industry to meet standards, such as a more flexible process for buying “emissions credits.”
All council members voted in favor of the resolution aside from council member C. Denise Marcelle, who was absent.
In other business at Wednesday’s council meeting, council members:
– Unanimously approved a raise for lawyer Murphy Foster, who has been working on behalf of the city-parish in lawsuits and other matters related to the firing of former Parish Attorney Mary Roper. The council voted to increase Foster’s contract from $17,500 to $50,000.
– Heard a brief report from Tommy Milazzo, a representative with AT&T, who told the council he’s aware of some grant opportunities that would help the city fund body cameras for its police officers.
– Unanimously approved the library system’s purchase of a $1.15 million property at 3434 North Boulevard for outreach services, archival storage, and other uses. Library Director Spencer Watts also said the library will share the data center at the building with the city-parish’s Information Services department.
– Did not receive a petition from Service Employees International Union members, asking for raises in the upcoming budget. Employee raises are likely to be a heated subject in the budget discussions over the next few weeks, but Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe objected to receiving the petition on Wednesday. Though he said he supported raises, he said submitting the petition at that meeting, as a late addition to the agenda, was not the proper procedure.