Advocate file photo -- A welcome sign greets drivers on La. 30 eastbound arriving in St. Gabriel.

An environmental group has asked a judge to review a recent decision by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality granting an air permit modification to a St. Gabriel industrial facility, arguing that the agency failed to meet its obligations under the state constitution to protect the public and the environment.

In a petition, filed in the 19th Judicial District this week, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network says the state agency's decision creates "unacceptable risks" to people living near the plant.  

The group argues in the suit that the state agency's decision was made through unlawful procedures, was arbitrary and capricious and "characterized by abuse of discretion," and is not "supported and sustainable by a preponderance of evidence."  

Department spokesman Greg Langley said Thursday the agency would not comment on any legal action. 

The petition was filed just a week after the environmental group announced that it is compiling a communitywide health assessment in St. Gabriel at the request of residents. 

"The work we have been doing with the community and their concerns is always a big motive for us to try to figure out how we can help them," Marylee Orr, executive director of the environmental group, said in an email. "Then, of course ... we thought things should have been handled differently."

The company at the center of the conflict is Adsorbent Solutions, which in July 2015 asked the state department for a modification to its air permit as part of a proposed expansion of its St. Gabriel facility.

The department granted the request on April 19, the day before the St. Gabriel City Council unanimously denied a zoning and variance request Adsorbent also needed for the proposed expansion.

The council denied the zoning request after an outpouring from neighboring residents opposed to the expansion. They said foul odors and emissions from Adsorbent's facility had severely affected their health. Adsorbent's checkered past with the Department of Environmental Quality also factored into the decision by city leaders to reject the company's rezoning request. 

The environmental group's petition says Adsorbent processes the contaminated carbon that industries use to collect pollutants they don't want discharged into the atmosphere. Adsorbent uses a thermal oxidizer to destroy the harmful contaminants and then sells the "recharged" carbon back to industries to reuse.    

The group's petition says the state department gave Adsorbent permission to increase the amount of toxic air pollutants the facility releases annually from 2.90 tons to 7.22 tons per year, despite Adsorbent's history of violations with the state agency. 

In April 2015, state regulators threatened to fine Adsorbent for allegedly ignoring compliance mandates dating as far back as 2013.

Among other problems, the department said Adsorbent had improperly disposed of its facility's solid waste and/or reactivated carbon into the surrounding community and nearby waterways.

"Adsorbent Solutions has a history of violating its Clean Air Act permits for years," the petition states. "Of particular concern is its repeated failure to burn the industrial hazardous pollutants it is supposed to clean at the minimum temperature required by its permit and failing to use the required pollution control devices."

The suit further says the state department did not explain why approving Adsorbent's air permit request was justified, given the increased health risk the facility's expansion would have had on the surrounding community. 

"LDEQ did not determine that adverse environmental impacts have been minimized or avoided as much as possible consistently with public welfare," the petition states.

"LDEQ did not provide any basis of decision, analysis, or reasons for approval of the permit and did not respond to any of the comments or objections it had received" at the March 7 public hearing the state agency held in regards to Adsorbent's request.  

The environmental group also asserts that the state department gave no consideration to the fact that Adsorbent Solutions' proposed expansion would now be in direct violation of St. Gabriel's zoning ordinances given the City Council's April 20 vote.

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.