Environmental group accuses DEQ of ignoring environmental complaints in SWLA

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 7:12 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is under fire right now for allegedly ignoring pollution complaints from Southwest Louisiana.

An environmental group said DEQ has not responded to complaints filed last August.

The group Earthworks hired a consultant to use optical gas imaging to evaluate local industries, looking for possible leaks or escaping gas. Certified thermographer Tim Doty said it’s useful technology the industries themselves use.

“It doesn’t tell you specifically what chemical compounds we’re looking at, but it does let the user know you’re detecting a chemical compound within a certain bandwidth of the camera. It could be methane, it could be benzene, it could be 1, 3 butadiene. It could be a lot of different chemicals,” he said.

Doty said he sent the images and his concerns to Louisiana DEQ last August.

“I’m not a layman, I know what I’m doing. I’m an expert in my field, and I found some stuff that I felt needed to be further investigated by the state regulatory environmental agency in the state of Louisiana,” he said.

Except for an email acknowledging receipt, Doty says he never heard back from DEQ.

“I mean it’s completely unacceptable. I mean, I contacted them in August. At a bare minimum it’s horrible customer service,” said Doty.

Doty searched DEQ’s document data base known as EDMS (Electronic Document Management System) and found no indication his findings or concerns were entered. “There’s absolutely nothing in the data base that indicates that they imported any of that information in there,” said Doty.

Earthworks has submitted a letter to DEQ discussing emissions from various industries including what Doty calls poorly combusting flares.

A spokesman for DEQ said they are examining the submission from Earthworks and have no further comment at this time.

We also received a response from the Lake Area Industry Alliance saying thermal photos do not indicate anything harmful is escaping into the environment.

The LAIA full response, from Executive Director Jim Rock, follows:

“Images from thermal imaging can illustrate heat coming from a heat source such as a vent stack to remove heat from a process and should not be confused as visual evidence of harmful air pollution.

“Flares from LNG export facilities are a control device, permitted by the DEQ, to burn natural gas when necessary and are only used when needed. The gas burned in these flares is no different than the gas to household stoves, ovens, or hot water heaters.

“The existing and future LNG export facilities are necessary to provide clean sources of energy to nations that are not as fortunate as the U.S. and do not have access to the abundant resources we enjoy. These nations have to rely on coal and other energy sources in the absence of imported natural gas, especially in the cold winter months.”