DEQ should protect Louisianans over chemical plants

DEQ should protect Louisianans over chemical plants

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DEQ should protect Louisianans over chemical plants
The state agency charged with keeping Louisianans safe from toxic emissions has had its budget and staffing levels reduced dramatically over the past decade. Gordon Russell of the Times-Picayune | The Advocate, in collaboration with ProPublica reports that lax oversight by the Department of Environmental Quality has often allowed chemical plants to emit dangerous pollutants such as mercury and chloroprene at some of the highest levels in the country, threatening the health and welfare of the families that live and work in the plants’ shadows

The fines the DEQ metes out to offenders have also waned over time. As of this week, the agency has tallied just $1.6 million in fees and settlements. That’s the smallest amount in the last two decades, and it’s less than half the average over that time, DEQ records show. … Paul Templet, who was secretary of the DEQ during (Gov. Buddy) Roemer’s brief tenure, looks back on his time at the department three decades ago with pride and a measure of regret at the backsliding he has seen in the intervening decades. He believes Louisiana’s regulators are still too cozy with the industries they’re supposed to be monitoring.


Praise for Louisiana’s Hep C solution
Hepatitis C is a potentially deadly – but curable – disease. But the cheapest full course of treatment costs around $24,000 in most states, leaving it financially out of reach for many infected with the virus. That’s why Louisiana’s health secretary, Dr. Rebekah Gee, is receiving national praise for her innovative solution: a pricing model where Louisiana pays a subscription fee to access all of the Hep C drugs the state needs, bringing the total cost down to about $6,000 per patient. The program is aimed at wiping out the disease among Louisiana’s Medicaid-recipient and prison populations. The Advocate’s staff explains the details

Gee’s health department struck a “Netflix-style” deal with Asegua Therapeutics, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Gilead, whereby the state pays about $58 million a year for unlimited access to Hep C drugs. Medicaid patients and people in the state’s prison system get the drug free through the arrangement. … Louisiana hopes to treat 10,000 people by the end of 2020 and at least 30,000 by 2024.


Kiss these education trends goodbye
As the year comes to a close, NEAtoday reminisces on the outdated and ineffective education trends that made headlines in 2019. One misguided notion, in particular, has made its way into Louisiana education policy discussions: the idea that money doesn’t matter to student outcomes. Tim Walker of NEAtoday explains why we need to leave this idea behind in the new year: 

In 2018, Northwest University economics professor Kirabo Jackson told Chalkbeat that the debate whether increased funding actually improves student outcomes is “essentially settled.” In other words, of course it does. Bruce Baker of Rutgers University agrees. Reviewing the existing evidence in 2019, Baker acknowledged that money had to be spent wisely to produce better results, “but, on balance, in direct tests of the relationship between financial resources and student outcomes, money matters.”


Work requirements rooted in racism
Most SNAP recipients who can work, do work within a year of being on the program. But even with a strong desire to work, many still face difficulty finding and keeping stable employment, due to homelessness, an education that failed to prepare them for the workforce, and an absence of good jobs where they live. But the new SNAP rules set by President Donald Trump’s administration ignore that reality, taking food from the plates of people struggling to get by and calling it a hand up. CLASP’s Parker Gilkesson explains how the administration’s rule not only harms those it says it helps, but also reinforces racist stereotypes about public assistance:  

Proposals and policies like this one that mandate work in public benefits programs are rooted in the harmful perception that people experiencing poverty do not want to work. These mindsets stem from a long history of racially motivated narratives that illustrate people of color as the face of poverty. These narratives have been employed to undermine support from white Americans for public assistance programs. The reality is that most SNAP recipients who can work, do work.


Number of the Day
3.4 μg/m2– the amount of chloroprene, a likely carcinogen, measured near the Denka plant in Laplace. This is 17 times the EPA’s “safe” threshold for the airborne chemical. (Source: ProPublica)