Native American Tribe faces the BP Oil Spill

•June 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Native American Tribe faces the BP Oil Spill

Bayou Stories: The Lost Bayou Ramblers in concert at the Venice Marina

•June 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Winners of this year’s Big Easy Award, the Lost Bayou Ramblers weave the message of coastal restoration throughout their energetic Cajun music.  National Wildlife Federation will be gathering stories from attendees about their way of life, the impacts of the oil spill, and what needs to happen to recover and to move coastal Louisiana toward a sustainable future.  We will help to send this message to the world via social media and our website.

NWF is organizing this concert for the people of Venice and coastal Louisiana in thanks for the assistance they have provided us and for their hard work.  With oil still gushing from the floor of the Gulf, we are taking the time to celebrate the traditions that make Louisianans so resilient – a little humor in the face of disaster, a little fun where we can make it, and an enduring spirit that says we can survive this together.

Buy a piece of oil spill, help seafood workers

•June 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

By Naomi King

HOUMA — A Terrebonne oysterman and politician has banded with other local businessmen to help unemployed seafood workers.

Related Links:

* Terrebonne oysterman forms seafood-worker relief corporation

Kevin Voisin, vice president of Motivatit Seafood and a Terrebonne Parish councilman, launched the Horizon Relief Corp. this week to collect donations for out-of-work laborers, such as deckhands, shrimp-factory workers, dock workers and oyster shuckers.

Any size donation is welcome, but those who give $1,000 or more will get a Bottle of Hope filled with oil-contaminated Gulf of Mexico water collected by cleanup workers.

“It’s a work of art,” Voisin said of the “limited-edition” glass bottles. “There’s a tragic beauty in the oil.”

The weeks-long oil leak off the coast of Venice at the site of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion has closed a wide swatch of coastal waters to commercial fishermen, putting them and the men and women who process their catch out of work.

Some fishermen are finding work through BP’s Vessels of Opportunity program, which pays crews and boat owners to deploy boom and do other cleanup work off the coast. But that program has been criticized for hiring too few local fishermen.

Voisin said conventional assistance programs fail to meet the workers’ needs.

The aid that BP has promised to replace lost wages takes weeks to arrive, and some workers’ are denied money because they lack the “incessant paperwork” needed, he said.

Factory and boat owners are more likely to have the required documents, he said, so the corporation he is starting will not target management-level positions.

The corporation aims to help workers who need it the most. Recipients will be recommended by employers.

The goal is to raise $1 million in two weeks and give it away within the third week, he said. There will be no application process, said Voisin, the corporation’s director.

The idea for Horizon Relief started in Voisin’s family-owned oyster plant in Houma, which has been directly affected by the oil leak. The plant, normally busy this time of year, has no product to process.

“I sat in the plant in silence and thought about the 200 or more families that relied on this place to put groceries on the table,” Voisin said. “These aren’t employees. They’re lifelong friends and family. I couldn’t just sit and wait anymore.”

Horizon Relief’s board of directors is made up of Mike Voisin, Kevin’s father and president of Motivatit Seafood, Stephen Hassell, project coordinator at Hassell Wealth Management, and Joe Klaus, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Handy International, a New England-based seafood company.

Hassell said he got involved because it is a way to help those who need it most. This effort eliminates the bureaucracy that often slows the aid process to a crawl, he said.

It’s also set up so Horizon Relief will seek out workers, instead of forcing them to sign up for help, he said.

It is “a great opportunity to help a group of people who, through no fault of their own, are at a great disadvantage,” Hassell said. “By

reaching out to people with strong connections in the seafood industry we feel we can have a greater impact.”

To donate and learn more about Horizon Relief, visit http://www.horizonrelief.org.

Staff Writer Naomi King

can be reached at 857-2209 or

naomi.king@houmatoday.com.

BP Ad Airing Only On Cable And National TV, Not Gulf Markets

•June 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Sam Stein Sam Stein – Wed Jun 9, 2:13 pm ET

The much discussed and criticized ad campaign launched by BP as a way to refurbish its image in the wake of the oil spill seems designed to appeal more to opinion makers in the nation’s capital than the communities affected in the Gulf.

The spot, which has an estimated $50 million behind it, has thus far been only placed on network and cable news networks according to Evan Tracey, the founder and chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group. None of the spots purchased by the company have been in local markets in states like Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi or Florida. The ad-purchase strategy is a telling one for the oil giant to make. While the national networks still draw audiences from regions and states throughout the country (including the Gulf), the vast majority of cable news viewers reside inside the Washington D.C.-New York City corridor. For BP to spend money advertising on this venue suggests that its penance is meant to be conveyed to lawmakers and national consumers as much as to those closest to the crisis.

“They are still getting the Gulf by doing it nationally,” said Tracey. “But the majority of the ads are on the news and public affairs shows and on the cable side. I suspect that this is an effort — because there is so much bad news for BP — to get the unfiltered message out there to customers.”

“They could have gone and bought in the local markets down there,” Tracey added. “But they are still getting them by buying national. But they are also getting the rest of the country that way. And they are still selling a commodity product.”

So far, Tracey said, only $2 million of the $50 million pledged for the spot has been spent. BP has taken some heat for the price tag, with critics questioning the rationale for spending that much money when funds will be needed to rebuild the Gulf coast and repair the economic damage created by the spill. In the spot, CEO Tony Hayward acknowledged the gravity of the crisis and promises the company’s resources in stemming it. He also, tellingly, makes a direct appeal to Gulf coast residents themselves.

“To those affected and your families,” he said. “I’m deeply sorry. The Gulf is home to thousands of BP employees and we all feel the impact. To all the volunteers and to the strong support of the government: Thank you.”

Icy crystals foil attempt to cap oil leak Tar balls reported washing ashore on Alabama island

•May 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO – A novel but risky attempt to use a 100-ton steel-and-concrete box to cover a deepwater oil well gushing toxic crude into the Gulf of Mexico was aborted Saturday after ice crystals encased it, an ominous development as thick blobs of tar began washing up on Alabama’s white sand beaches.

The setback left the mission to cap the ruptured well in doubt. It had taken about two weeks to build the box and three days to cart it 50 miles out then slowly lower it to the well a mile below the surface, but the frozen depths were too much for it to handle.

Still, BP officials overseeing the cleanup efforts were not giving up just yet on hopes that a containment box — either the one brought there or a larger one being built — could cover the well and be used to capture the oil and funnel it to a tanker at the surface to be carted away. Officials said it would be at least Monday before a decision was made on what next step to take. “I wouldn’t say it’s failed yet,” BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said. “What I would say is what we attempted to do … didn’t work.”

There was a renewed sense of urgency as small bits of tar began washing up on Dauphin Island, three miles off the Alabama mainland at the mouth of Mobile Bay and much farther east than the thin, rainbow sheens that had so far arrived sporadically in the Louisiana marshes.

“It almost looks like bark, but when you pick it up it definitely has a liquid consistency and it’s definitely oil,” said Kimberly Creel, 41, who was hanging out and swimming with hundreds of other beachgoers. “… I can only imagine what might be coming this way that might be larger.”

About a half dozen tar balls had been collected by Saturday afternoon at Dauphin Island, Coast Guard chief warrant officer Adam Wine said in Mobile. Authorities planned to test the substance but strongly suspected it came from the oil spill.

A long line of materials that resembled a string of pompoms were positioned on a stretch of the shore. Crews walked along the beach in rubber boots, carrying trash bags to clear debris from the sand.

Brenda Prosser, of Mobile, said she wept when she saw the workers.

“I just started crying. I couldn’t quit crying. I’m shaking now,” Prosser said. “To know that our beach may be black or brown, or that we can’t get in the water, it’s so sad.”

Prosser, 46, said she was afraid to let her 9-year-old son, Grant, get in the water, and she worried that the spill would rob her of precious moments with her own child.

“I’ve been coming here since I was my son’s age, as far back as I can remember in my life,” Prosser said.

In the three weeks since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers, about 210,000 gallons of crude a day has been flowing into the Gulf. Until Saturday none of the thick sludge — those iconic images of past spills — had reached Gulf shores.

It was a troubling turn of events, especially since the efforts to use the containment box had not yet succeeded.

The icy buildup on the containment box made it too buoyant and clogged it up, BP’s Suttles said. Workers who had carefully lowered the massive box over the leak nearly a mile below the surface had to lift it and move it some 600 feet to the side. If it had worked, authorities had said it would reduce the flow by about 85 percent, buying a bit more time as a three-month effort to drill a relief well goes on simultaneously.

Company and Coast Guard officials had cautioned that icelike hydrates, a slushy mixture of gas and water, would be one of the biggest challenges to the containment box plan, and their warnings proved accurate. The crystals clogged the opening in the top of the peaked box like sand in a funnel, only upside-down. Options under consideration included raising the box high enough that warmer water would prevent the slush from forming, or using heated water or methanol to prevent the crystals from forming.

Even as officials pondered their next move, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said she must to continue to manage expectations of what the containment box can do.

“This dome is no silver bullet to stop the leak,” she said.

Offshore well leaking 42,000 gallons of oil a day in Gulf

•April 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

If you hadn’t already heard about this story, please read below.  This is finally starting to get a lot of press.

From the Independent:

Officials are working round the clock to stop leaks from an offshore oil well drilled by a rig that exploded and sank last week. The New York Times reports the well is currently leaking oil at a rate of 42,000 gallons a day. Cleanup efforts, led by the Coast Guard, have been hampered by stormy weather in the Gulf. The team is working three plans simultaneously and acknowledge their efforts could take as little as two days or as long as months. From the NYT:

Officials determined through weather patterns that the sheen of oil and water, now covering 600 square miles, would remain at least 30 miles from shore for the next three days. But states along the Gulf Coast have been warned to be on alert. “We have been in contact with all the coastal states,” Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry, the commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District, said at a news conference on Sunday. Emphasizing that the sheen was not estimated to hit shore anytime soon, Admiral Landry said contingency plans were being put in place. “Everyone is forward-leaning and preparing for coastal impact,” she said.

Here’s the NYT link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/us/26rig.html?scp=1&sq=gulf%20coast&st=cse

Don’t allow the destruction of wetlands between New Orleans and the Gulf

•February 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

From Healthy Gulf.org

Last week, several of you came out to a hearing in New Orleans to show your support in stopping the construction of an industrial park that would destroy 57 acres of wetlands along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO).  Now, the City of New Orleans is coming close in deciding whether or not to permit this wetland destruction, and we need you to speak out for our wetlands!

Local communities, along with state and federal partners, have worked too hard to get the MRGO closed to allow this unnecessary destruction.  Wetlands situated between communities and the Gulf must be restored to their former glory, not paved over for an ill-conceived industrial park that would just be in harm’s way.

Please take a moment to send a message to the City of New Orleans and tell them to not allow the destruction of wetlands in an area so vital to the storm protection of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish.

http://action.healthygulf.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2205

For a healthy Gulf,

Matt Rota
Water Resources Program Director

Drilling for oil on Rainey wildlife refuge in Vermilion Parish?

•January 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

From the Independent:

Not since director Robert Flaherty, in his 1948 film Louisiana Story, depicted the coming of the oil and gas industry to the Louisiana swamp as an event of elemental beauty and Cajun prosperity has the oil rig looked so good to environmentalists. But the blinking Christmas tree lights of offshore rigs might just be the ticket to fill the depleted coffers of America’s most prominent green organization, the National Audubon Society, and repair the damaged wetlands of one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the country, the Paul J. Rainey Sanctuary in Vermilion Parish.

The 26,000-acre Rainey refuge sits on the western edge of Vermilion Bay. Acquired by Audubon in 1924, Rainey was the site of oil and gas production including canal dredging until the last lease expired in 1999, according to the Times-Picayune. In 2000, Audubon bid good riddance to energy exploration on Rainey’s soil. However, exploration canals took their toll on the property. Saltwalter infiltration into the marshes that make up Rainey contributed to coastal land loss, and then Hurricane Rita heavily damaged the sanctuary. Audubon had to take a good long look at the costs of coastal restoration.

“It’s getting to the point where there is so much damage, and it just costs so much money to contain the damage,” G. Paul Kemp, director of Audubon’s Gulf Coast Initiative, told the T-P. “We know we’re fighting a losing battle.”

And so Audubon is now considering tapping the energy resources beneath Rainey in order to pay for restoration costs. This is the same National Audubon Society that has vehemently opposed drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, off the coast of Florida and California and in various wilderness locations across the nation.

Adversity makes strange bedfellows indeed. Read the entire story, from the Times-Picayune, here.

Louisiana DEQ’s Letter Ignores State Priorities and Concerns

•January 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

From LEAN:

The Louisiana Environmental Action Network expressed disappointment at a recent letter sent by the state Department of Environmental Quality to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The LDEQ letter is an oppositional response to the EPA’s finding of endangerment for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, expressing opposition to the federal action.(1)

“EPA’s action reflects their statutory duty and the state of the science on impacts from global warming,” said LEAN Executive Director Mary Lee Orr. “Among those impacts, Louisiana is already being impacted by sea-level rise, and faces the threats of stronger hurricanes and other weather extremes – all of which have been discussed in scientific reports for over a decade.”(2)

Orr stated that contrary to LDEQ’s assertion that the public has not been involved in this process, EPA made its decision after a public comment period that received a large number of submissions.(3) In addition, action on greenhouse gases has been expected since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that they could be considered pollutants under U.S. law.

Orr noted that LDEQ took a different position in the brief it filed defending its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from the Big Cajun I power plant. At that time, DEQ stated that since regulation of greenhouse gases was being addressed by EPA, it would follow the federal agency’s lead “as the only workable approach to an issue with nationwide implications.”(4)

Former LDEQ Secretary Dr. Paul Templet, an environmental scientist retired from LSU, commented that “Asking EPA to retract their intent to regulate greenhouse gases using the Clean Air Act is irresponsible and represents a delaying tactic. Louisiana DEQ would sacrifice the long term viability of our state to short term economic gains for industry. I find it ironic that (former Secretary) Leggett uses the Air Toxics Law passed in my term at DEQ to establish Louisiana’s environmental credentials.  If I had heeded the arguments presented in his letter we would not have passed the law, and Louisiana’s air would be dirtier to this day.”

Templet also noted that Louisiana’s loss of coastal wetlands is due in part to sea-level rise caused by global warming, which is a result of greenhouse gas accumulation from societal emissions.

LEAN expressed further disappointment that LDEQ’s letter not only fails to mention that global warming is a problem for Louisiana, but suggests that the state’s only concerns are potential economic impacts of regulation on the petrochemical industry and the agency’s own anxiety about as-yet undeveloped rules that it would have to implement.(5) “If LDEQ’s statements on this issue become the official position of Louisiana,” said Orr, “then all other concerns, such as our disappearing coast, are obviously considered not worthy of mention when we speak to the nation.”

(1) U.S. EPA, “Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Finding for Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act,” December 7, 2009, http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html
(2) For one example, see “Confronting Climate Change in the Gulf Coast”, http://www.ucsusa.org/gulf/ gcchallengereport.html .
(3) U.S. EPA, “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Regulation of Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act,” July 11, 2008 http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/anpr.html
(4) 19th Judicial Court, DOCKET NO. 564241 IN THE MATTER OF: LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AIR PERMITTING DECISIONS: PERMIT NO. 2260-00007-V0; PERMIT NO. PSD-LA-660(M-1); AND PERMIT NO. 2260-00007-1V1 TO LOUISIANA GENERATING, LLC, BIG CAJUN I POWER PLANT, p. 12.
(5) LDEQ’s letter can be seen at http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/

Corps’ operation of MR-GOdoomed homes in St. Bernard, Lower 9th Ward

•November 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

From the Times-Picayune

In a groundbreaking decision, a federal judge ruled late Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers’ mismanagement of maintenance at the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet was directly responsible for flood damage in St. Bernard Parish and the Lower 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina.

“The failure of the Corps to recognize the destruction that the MRGO had caused and the potential hazard that it created is clearly negligent on the part of the Corps,” said U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. in his ruling. “Furthermore, the Corps not only knew, but admitted by 1988, that the MRGO threatened human life … and yet it did not act in time to prevent the catastrophic disaster that ensued with the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina.”

“The Corps’ lassitude and failure to fulfill its duties resulted in a catastrophic loss of human life and property in unprecedented proportions,” Duval wrote. “The Corps’ negligence resulted in the wasting of millions of dollars in flood protection measures and billions of dollars in Congressional outlays to help this region recover from such a catastrophe. Certainly, Congress would never have meant to protect this kind of nonfeasance on the part of the very agency that is tasked with the protection of life and property.”

Duval’s 156-page decision could result in the federal government paying $700,000 in damages to three people and a business in those areas, but also sets the stage for judgments worth billions of dollars against the government for damages suffered by as many as 100,000 other residents, businesses and local governments in those areas who filed claims with the corps after Katrina.

Duval ruled, however, that WDSU-TV anchor Norman Robinson and his wife were not entitled to damages because the corps’ dredging of the MR-GO did not affect the levee system that protects eastern New Orleans from hurricane storm surge. That probably means eastern New Orleans residents would not be able to collect on claims they’ve filed against the corps, said attorneys representing plaintiffs in the case.

“The people of this city have been vindicated,” said attorney Joseph Bruno, a leader of the large team of lawyers who represented the plaintiffs. “They didn’t do anything wrong and it’s time they be compensated.”