The Environmental Protection Agency recently – and abruptly – dropped its civil rights investigation of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and Department of Health. The probe centered on whether state regulators discriminated against Black residents when allowing petrochemical plants to operate – and pollute – near neighborhoods and schools. New reporting from WWNO’s Halle Parker shows that negotiations broke down over whether or not LDEQ was required to consider “disparate impact,” an outcome where pollution and other negative side effects of a new facility disproportionately affect people of a certain race. Attorney General Jeff Landry, whose office sued the EPA over its investigation, also challenged disparate impact. 

The reason for the investigation’s untimely end remains unclear. [Tulane Environmental Law Clinic’s Lisa] Jordan and other advocates involved in the case have speculated that the litigation from Landry’s office increased pressure on the Biden administration to close the case in an attempt to quash a lawsuit that has the potential to evolve into a broader challenge to a key element of the Civil Rights Act if it moves forward. The Department of Justice wrote in its notice to the court that the EPA had terminated the complaints at the center of Landry’s lawsuit, raising the question of whether it should proceed. A response filed by the attorney general’s office made clear that the state planned to continue the lawsuit — which challenges any federal review of disparate impact as a result of environmental permits — regardless of the civil rights investigation’s untimely end.

Basketball arena funding shows misplaced priorities 
For decades, Louisiana has routinely ranked at the bottom of the “good” lists and the top of “bad” on measures of poverty, crime, health and other indicators of well-being. Unfortunately, lawmakers missed critical opportunities to invest in people during the recently concluded legislative session, despite having record amounts of revenue at their disposal. As Poet Wolfe, LSU student and contributing writer for the Guardian explains, legislators showed their misplaced priorities by giving $101 million to a foundation that supports LSU athletics to renovate the school’s basketball arena. 

“Such a sluicing of funds into a structure that serves primarily as a basketball court demonstrates that the leaders of our state grant a higher priority to chasing balls up and down a wooden court than to the improvement of its citizens,” [former LSU faculty senate president Kevin] Cope said. … Robert Mann – an LSU professor, author, and political historian who frequently criticizes Louisiana’s government – said that school officials and advocates have spent years pleading for a new library. Despite those pleas, lawmakers allotted only a few million in project planning for a new library. … “If that disgraceful episode doesn’t convince people that our state’s priorities are out of whack, I don’t know what will,” Mann said.

Solving the child care shortage in Jefferson Parish
A shortage of educators is making it hard for families to access child care programs, causing many mothers to stay out of the workforce to care for their children. In many areas, a language barrier exacerbates the number of families that cannot access these crucial programs. But a new effort in Jefferson Parish is offering mothers free care and on-the-job training for child care in Spanish.’s Kimberley Singletary reports on the immediate and future benefits: 

For Delmy Martinez Mela, a 25-year-old mother of three from El Salvador, the flexible schedule has meant she now has more time with her children and career hopes for the future. “I was working as a mall supervisor, but it was all in the afternoons,” she said. “Now, I can do this program in the mornings and while they’re in school and be home with them when they’re off.” Mela said her plan is to get certified and possibly open an in-home day care. “I love kids, I love babies,” she said. “I’m really picky about who takes care of my kids, so I get it. For now, I’m excited and things are going great.”

Louisiana needs leaders with character, conscience 
While Louisiana didn’t delve into America’s culture wars as soon as other states, the recently finished legislative session should leave no doubt that these divisive, hateful issues are here. The Pelican State has a full plate of problems – poverty, education, economic development and coastal protection, just for starters – and limited resources to address them. As Melissa Flournoy explains in a letter to The Advocate, Louisiana needs to elect people of character and conscience to solve the real problems we face. 

We need to elect candidates who appreciate the diversity of our state and our communities and value all our citizens. We need to elect more women and people of color. We need to elect a governor and other statewide elected officials who want to solve problems, not foster division and drive us apart. We need to find a way forward to invest in a government that works, and respects families, faith and the future without enforcing personal religious beliefs. Louisiana has a transformational moment to vote for competent and respected leaders who want to make government work for everyone, not just a few or for big businesses. 

Number of the Day
435,000 – Number of homes that Gulf wind power from an area off the coast of Lake Charles could potentially serve. A winning bid for the area was announced on Tuesday. (Source: White House via the Associated Press)