LAPLACE, La. (WGNO) – The federal government announces new rules in the works to protect the air and communities around chemical plants.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency made the announcement Thursday during a visit to St. John the Baptist Parish.

About 50 chemical plants, many located in the river parishes, will be affected by this new rule that EPA Administrator Michael Regan calls a game changer.

“We have a lot of pollution here,” Dr. Beverly Wright, the executive director for the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice,” said. “We have been poisoned, and we are sick.”

Community advocates in St. John the Baptist Parish have pleading their case for years, and now the federal government is stepping in.

Last month, the EPA and the Department of Justice filed a legal action to address an endangerment to public health in the river parishes, but that’s not all.

“That’s why I’m proud to announce today that EPA is building on our commitment and proposing a regulation that would reduce more than 6,000 tons of highly toxic chemicals each and every year,” Regan said.

The regulation will drastically cut back the emissions of more than 80 highly toxic chemicals, including chloroprene and ethaline oxide, which can cause cancer.

The rule will also require the plants to monitor the pollution at their fence lines.

“Today, we demonstrate, with this administrate who demonstrated in his actions, that we can make the necessary changes to save lives to make communities safer,” Louisiana Rep. Troy Carter said.

Community members say they’re finally getting the attention they desperately need.

“It’s overwhelming because it’s beautiful, and there’s really so many words that I could use to describe it, but they hit the ground running,” Geraldine Watkins, who lives in St. John the Baptist Parish, said. “They came to see about us. No one else has done that.”

Regan says his agency is pushing to have the rule finalized by next spring.