If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



EPA delays trial against neoprene manufacturer

Court agrees to reschedule the trial until after the agency finalizes emission limits for chloroprene, a precursor for neoprene

by Krystal Vasquez
February 22, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 6


Multiple wet suits hanging on a clothing rack.
Credit: Shutterstock
Neoprene can be used to make wet suits.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is delaying a trial against the neoprene maker Denka Performance Elastomer. The agency filed a complaint against the company a year ago under Section 303 of the Clean Air Act to force it to cut emissions of chloroprene, a likely carcinogen, at its facility in LaPlace, Louisiana.

The EPA asked the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to postpone the trial, which was to start March 11, until after the agency finalizes a rule that is expected to tighten emission limits for chloroprene. It argued that rescheduling will save court resources by allowing the court to focus on the rule’s actual requirements rather than what has been proposed.The delay was granted by Judge Carl Barbier on Feb. 16.

The Denka facility produces neoprene, a synthetic rubber that is used to make products such as wet suits, medical gloves, and laptop sleeves. One of neoprene’s precursors, chloroprene, is released into the air during the manufacturing process.

According to the EPA, air monitoring performed near Denka’s plant has shown that chloroprene levels are as high as 14 times the recommended level of 0.2 µg/m3, which poses “an imminent and substantial endangerment” to nearby communities.

But Jason Hutt, an attorney representing Denka, says in an email that delaying the trial “belies the ‘emergency’ that the government claims” and indicates that “the agency’s pursuit of this legal case has been a misuse of agency—and taxpayer—resources solely for political gain.”

The EPA requested that the trial date be reset to “the earliest possible two-week period on the Court’s schedule that provides the parties with sufficient time to prepare for trial after the Final Rule is published.” The agency expects the rule to be finalized on March 29 and to be available to the public soon after.

Hutt says Denka is prepared to litigate the case “and address the unfounded fears fomented by EPA, including a clear showing that the science underlying EPA’s allegation is outdated, contorted, and based upon an overly conservative risk assessment.”

The EPA says it has no further information to provide about the pending litigation.


This story was updated on Feb. 29, 2024, to correct the name of the attorney representing Denka Performance Elastomer. It is Jason Hutt, not Paul Nathanson.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.