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Gov. Edwards, AG Landry in uneasy alliance to find coastal settlement as football field of land disappears every hour

Posted on: June 1st, 2016 by restoreit

Clean Water Land & Coast is dedicated to keeping you up to date in the fight to save our coast. Here is an article from The Advocate about the ongoing struggle between Gov. Edwards and Attorney General Landry on Louisiana coastal restoration efforts and settlements in Southern LA and its Parishes. Read the story below.

The Advocate. Click here for story.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry are engaged in an uneasy alliance to try to achieve a major and long-lasting goal: a settlement with oil and gas companies to help restore Louisiana’s eroding coast.

Billions of dollars are at stake — as well as the coastline.

Landry and the governor’s executive counsel, Matthew Block, have held private meetings with coastal parish officials and, at Landry’s request, asked them to not take legal action for 60 days while the attorney general and Edwards try to establish a unified front between themselves and among the parishes. The voluntary 60-day cooling period ends on June 13.

Three parishes — Cameron, Jefferson and Plaquemines — have filed lawsuits accusing oil and gas companies of destroying coastal marsh and wetlands through their drilling activities. Other parishes also are weighing whether to file their own lawsuits, legal sources said. Additional lawsuits could be the stick that brings oil and gas companies to the negotiating table.

Whether the governor and attorney general can forge a working relationship to produce a negotiated resolution on the coastal lawsuits remains an open question. Landry has been aggressively challenging Edwards’ authority on other issues during his first few months as attorney general, including asking the Legislature for his own budget authority, over the governor’s objection.

Some insiders believe that Landry wants a greater say over his spending to have the leeway to hire his own attorneys in the coastal lawsuits.

Political insiders believe that Landry, a Republican, is carving out a distinct role to position himself to run against Edwards, a Democrat, in the 2019 governor’s race, something he has denied. Some of the trial lawyers believe that Landry, who has been close to oil and gas industry officials, is doing their bidding.

A spokeswoman for Landry said he did not have time for an interview.

Block, a trial lawyer from Thibodaux who is now the governor’s executive counsel, said his office and Landry’s are working together harmoniously,

“I don’t believe anyone who attended the meetings would say there was big tension between the attorney general and the governor on this case,” Block said.

Nonetheless, each side has moved to gain the upper hand in the lawsuits, in a sign of the mistrust between them.

Landry convened individual meetings with coastal parish leaders April 12 and 13 at his office in the State Capitol, but he did include Block in each gathering. Landry’s spokeswoman, Ruth Wisher, did not respond to requests for a list of the parishes that attended.

“The intent is to try to bring all of this together and reach some sort of global resolution,” Chris Roberts, an at-large councilman in Jefferson Parish, said in an interview. Roberts missed the meeting because of traffic congestion but was briefed afterward on what happened.

In March, Landry filed a lawsuit to intervene in the lawsuits already filed against the oil and gas industry by Cameron, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.

Edwards countered three weeks later by having his secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, the state agency empowered to enforce coastal regulations, also intervene in the lawsuits to ensure he was not left out.

Edwards made the next move by meeting on May 13 with two dozen oil and gas industry lobbyists and attorneys, where he pitched the idea of a settlement.

According to several people present, Edwards told them that restoring the coast would cost about $100 billion over the next 50 years and that oil industry documents showed companies caused at least 30 percent of the damage. The governor also said he does not plan to heed a demand by industry officials by seeking money from the federal government for the construction of the levees that have curtailed sediment-rich flooding from the Mississippi River, flooding that fed the wetlands.

The goal of any settlement discussions, Edwards administration officials believe, is to devise a process that would determine how much damage individual companies caused and to craft a formula to determine how much each one would pay and exactly how that money would be allocated to rebuild wetlands that have disappeared.

Two senior aides to the attorney general attended that meeting in a further sign of cooperation between Landry and Edwards. Also attending was Taylor Townsend, a Natchitoches-based trial attorney and former state House member who is now the governor’s outside counsel on the coastal lawsuits.

The governor has gotten a chilly response, at least publicly, to his effort to generate settlement talks.

“It is evident that the state is seeking to move us into an area of discussion that is impossible,” Don Briggs, the long-time president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, and Chris Johns, the president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, which represents the major oil companies, wrote in a letter to Edwards afterward.

Briggs followed that up with an opinion piece Thursday that further stated his antipathy to any settlement discussions.

“Simply put, these lawsuits targeting the state’s number one source of private sector jobs and revenue are based on the misguided premise that some producers violated the terms of their state-issued coastal use permits many years ago, and those activities caused coastal erosion,” he wrote. “In spite of all the rhetoric from a handful of trial lawyers and radical environmental activists making these claims, these lawsuits are completely unnecessary.”

Understanding exactly what will happen next is difficult to divine.

“It seems that there is a chess game going on,” said Mark Davis, the director of the Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy at Tulane. “That suggests to me that something might be afoot. It might provide much-needed dollars for coastal restoration.”

Amid the legal and political sparring, a football field of land disappears every hour, researchers say, adding up to 20 to 25 square miles per year.

The effort to try to resolve the coastal lawsuits through negotiation marks a sharp turnabout from the approach under Gov. Bobby Jindal. He got the Legislature to approve a measure that would kill a similar but different lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East. A state court overturned the law, but a federal court dismissed the lawsuit, although the agency has appealed that ruling.

Nonetheless, the effort to hold the oil and gas companies liable remains very much alive because of the lawsuits filed by the three parishes.

Don Carmouche, a Baton Rouge-based trial attorney, brought the lawsuits in Cameron, Plaquemines and Jefferson along with Phil Cossich, a major trial attorney based in Belle Chasse. Both men attended the meetings with the attorney general and Block that involved those three parishes.

“All of the entities involved — the governor and the attorney general — believe that it’s time to restore the coast,” Carmouche said in an interview. “It’s washing away. Everyone says the major oil companies have some responsibility. They continue to deny their responsibility. Now is the time to do it.”

Not all coastal leaders, however, agree with this view.

Gordon Dove, the president of Terrebonne Parish, said he left the meeting with Landry and Block unmoved in his view that the federal government through its construction of the Mississippi River levees — not the oil companies — is to blame for the coastal loss. He doesn’t see Terrebonne joining with the others to file a lawsuit and noted that the industry is a major employer in his parish.

“They’re going after the oil industry because it has a deep pocket,” Dove said, but he added, “Maybe something can come together where the oil companies will donate money for coastal erosion.”

Benny Rousselle, a Plaquemines Parish council member, came to a different conclusion than Dove after meeting with Landry and Block on April 12.

Two days later, Rousselle pushed the council to reverse a previous decision and to move forward with its lawsuit against the oil and gas companies. The council approved this on a 6-1 vote.

“If discussions are going to be happening related to our parish, we should have a voice at the table,” Rousselle said in an interview, adding that the Carmouche and Cossich law firms have a deeper knowledge of the case than anyone working for the attorney general or the governor.

Carmouche said the firms are not working on a contingency fee basis. A judge would determine how much they receive after determining the amount his clients would get, he said.

St. Bernard Parish is prepared to file its own suit, with its council having voted to hire the Carmouche and Cossich law firms.

Guy McInnis, the parish president, said he and other parish officials are waiting to see where things stand once the cooling off period ends next month.

“We cannot let the state or other parishes have a settlement in their favor and have St. Bernard on the sidelines and not enjoying the benefits of the settlement,” McInnis said.

Jeff Adelson, of The New Orleans Advocate, contributed to this article. Follow Tyler Bridges on Twitter, @TegBridges. For more coverage of government and politics, follow our Politics Blog athttp://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.

Posted in coastal restoration, LA Coastal Parish News, Legislative Updates | Comments Off on Gov. Edwards, AG Landry in uneasy alliance to find coastal settlement as football field of land disappears every hour

Odd couple Gov. John Bel Edwards, Attorney General Jeff Landry team up to achieve critical coastal restoration

Posted on: May 31st, 2016 by restoreit

Odd couple Gov. John Bel Edwards, Attorney General Jeff Landry team up to achieve critical coastal restoration

In an effort to keep Louisiana’s fight for coastal restoration progress in the southern parishes of the state on the top of everyone’s mind, we have provided another story from The Advocate for you. Read more below about the ongoing works of Gov. Edwards and AG Landry in helping to clean our coast and reach a settlement.

The Advocate. Click here for story.

 

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry are engaged in an uneasy alliance to try to achieve a major and long-lasting goal: a settlement with oil and gas companies to help restore Louisiana’s eroding coast.

Billions of dollars are at stake — as well as the coastline.

Landry and the governor’s executive counsel, Matthew Block, have held private meetings with coastal parish officials and, at Landry’s request, asked them to not take legal action for 60 days while the attorney general and Edwards try to establish a unified front between themselves and among the parishes. The voluntary 60-day cooling period ends on June 13.

Three parishes — Cameron, Jefferson and Plaquemines — have filed lawsuits accusing oil and gas companies of destroying coastal marsh and wetlands through their drilling activities. Other parishes also are weighing whether to file their own lawsuits, legal sources said. Additional lawsuits could be the stick that brings oil and gas companies to the negotiating table.

Whether the governor and attorney general can forge a working relationship to produce a negotiated resolution on the coastal lawsuits remains an open question. Landry has been aggressively challenging Edwards’ authority on other issues during his first few months as attorney general, including asking the Legislature for his own budget authority, over the governor’s objection.

Some insiders believe that Landry wants a greater say over his spending to have the leeway to hire his own attorneys in the coastal lawsuits.

Political insiders believe that Landry, a Republican, is carving out a distinct role to position himself to run against Edwards, a Democrat, in the 2019 governor’s race, something he has denied. Some of the trial lawyers believe that Landry, who has been close to oil and gas industry officials, is doing their bidding.

A spokeswoman for Landry said he did not have time for an interview.

Block, a trial lawyer from Thibodaux who is now the governor’s executive counsel, said his office and Landry’s are working together harmoniously,

“I don’t believe anyone who attended the meetings would say there was big tension between the attorney general and the governor on this case,” Block said.

Nonetheless, each side has moved to gain the upper hand in the lawsuits, in a sign of the mistrust between them.

Landry convened individual meetings with coastal parish leaders April 12 and 13 at his office in the State Capitol, but he did include Block in each gathering. Landry’s spokeswoman, Ruth Wisher, did not respond to requests for a list of the parishes that attended.

“The intent is to try to bring all of this together and reach some sort of global resolution,” Chris Roberts, an at-large councilman in Jefferson Parish, said in an interview. Roberts missed the meeting because of traffic congestion but was briefed afterward on what happened.

In March, Landry filed a lawsuit to intervene in the lawsuits already filed against the oil and gas industry by Cameron, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.

Edwards countered three weeks later by having his secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, the state agency empowered to enforce coastal regulations, also intervene in the lawsuits to ensure he was not left out.

Edwards made the next move by meeting on May 13 with two dozen oil and gas industry lobbyists and attorneys, where he pitched the idea of a settlement.

According to several people present, Edwards told them that restoring the coast would cost about $100 billion over the next 50 years and that oil industry documents showed companies caused at least 30 percent of the damage. The governor also said he does not plan to heed a demand by industry officials by seeking money from the federal government for the construction of the levees that have curtailed sediment-rich flooding from the Mississippi River, flooding that fed the wetlands.

The goal of any settlement discussions, Edwards administration officials believe, is to devise a process that would determine how much damage individual companies caused and to craft a formula to determine how much each one would pay and exactly how that money would be allocated to rebuild wetlands that have disappeared.

Two senior aides to the attorney general attended that meeting in a further sign of cooperation between Landry and Edwards. Also attending was Taylor Townsend, a Natchitoches-based trial attorney and former state House member who is now the governor’s outside counsel on the coastal lawsuits.

The governor has gotten a chilly response, at least publicly, to his effort to generate settlement talks.

“It is evident that the state is seeking to move us into an area of discussion that is impossible,” Don Briggs, the long-time president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, and Chris Johns, the president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, which represents the major oil companies, wrote in a letter to Edwards afterward.

Briggs followed that up with an opinion piece Thursday that further stated his antipathy to any settlement discussions.

“Simply put, these lawsuits targeting the state’s number one source of private sector jobs and revenue are based on the misguided premise that some producers violated the terms of their state-issued coastal use permits many years ago, and those activities caused coastal erosion,” he wrote. “In spite of all the rhetoric from a handful of trial lawyers and radical environmental activists making these claims, these lawsuits are completely unnecessary.”

Understanding exactly what will happen next is difficult to divine.

“It seems that there is a chess game going on,” said Mark Davis, the director of the Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy at Tulane. “That suggests to me that something might be afoot. It might provide much-needed dollars for coastal restoration.”

Amid the legal and political sparring, a football field of land disappears every hour, researchers say, adding up to 20 to 25 square miles per year.

The effort to try to resolve the coastal lawsuits through negotiation marks a sharp turnabout from the approach under Gov. Bobby Jindal. He got the Legislature to approve a measure that would kill a similar but different lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East. A state court overturned the law, but a federal court dismissed the lawsuit, although the agency has appealed that ruling.

Nonetheless, the effort to hold the oil and gas companies liable remains very much alive because of the lawsuits filed by the three parishes.

Don Carmouche, a Baton Rouge-based trial attorney, brought the lawsuits in Cameron, Plaquemines and Jefferson along with Phil Cossich, a major trial attorney based in Belle Chasse. Both men attended the meetings with the attorney general and Block that involved those three parishes.

“All of the entities involved — the governor and the attorney general — believe that it’s time to restore the coast,” Carmouche said in an interview. “It’s washing away. Everyone says the major oil companies have some responsibility. They continue to deny their responsibility. Now is the time to do it.”

Not all coastal leaders, however, agree with this view.

Gordon Dove, the president of Terrebonne Parish, said he left the meeting with Landry and Block unmoved in his view that the federal government through its construction of the Mississippi River levees — not the oil companies — is to blame for the coastal loss. He doesn’t see Terrebonne joining with the others to file a lawsuit and noted that the industry is a major employer in his parish.

“They’re going after the oil industry because it has a deep pocket,” Dove said, but he added, “Maybe something can come together where the oil companies will donate money for coastal erosion.”

Benny Rousselle, a Plaquemines Parish council member, came to a different conclusion than Dove after meeting with Landry and Block on April 12.

Two days later, Rousselle pushed the council to reverse a previous decision and to move forward with its lawsuit against the oil and gas companies. The council approved this on a 6-1 vote.

“If discussions are going to be happening related to our parish, we should have a voice at the table,” Rousselle said in an interview, adding that the Carmouche and Cossich law firms have a deeper knowledge of the case than anyone working for the attorney general or the governor.

Carmouche said the firms are not working on a contingency fee basis. A judge would determine how much they receive after determining the amount his clients would get, he said.

St. Bernard Parish is prepared to file its own suit, with its council having voted to hire the Carmouche and Cossich law firms.

Guy McInnis, the parish president, said he and other parish officials are waiting to see where things stand once the cooling off period ends next month.

“We cannot let the state or other parishes have a settlement in their favor and have St. Bernard on the sidelines and not enjoying the benefits of the settlement,” McInnis said.

Jeff Adelson, of The New Orleans Advocate, contributed to this article. Follow Tyler Bridges on Twitter, @TegBridges. For more coverage of government and politics, follow our Politics Blog athttp://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.

Posted in coastal restoration, LA Coastal Parish News | Comments Off on Odd couple Gov. John Bel Edwards, Attorney General Jeff Landry team up to achieve critical coastal restoration

Saving Louisiana

Posted on: December 11th, 2014 by restoreit

Saving Louisiana

President, National Audubon Society

Huffington Post.  Click here for story

Louisiana is disappearing. Every year, land mass equal to the size of Manhattan is lost–simply washed out to sea off the continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana’s crisis is out of sight and out of mind. When Katrina roared into New Orleans with no natural wetlands barrier to slow that killer storm, America cared for a hot minute.

But after that catastrophe and even after the BP oil disaster, there’s just no sense of urgency about the disappearance of America’s Gulf Coast.

That’s stunning when you take a giant step back: The Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana is the seventh-largest system of its kind in the world and one of only two in the Western Hemisphere. And the truly remarkable opportunity in front of us is that we have a chance to make amends, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to restore this magical, productive ecosystem of coastal wetlands.

It’s not just Louisiana’s people, economy, culture and wildlife that are at risk. The Mississippi River Delta is connected to a vast network of waterways throughout the heartland of America, contributing tens of billions of dollars to our national economy every year and supporting millions of jobs.

Nearly half of America’s bird species use the Gulf Coast at some point in their migration. And those birds are the indicators of the health of places. The imperiled Piping Plover flies across the entire country to the Gulf Coast from nesting grounds on the Canadian border, the Great Lakes and New England. A large number of those Piping Plovers depend on the Gulf Coast wetlands and the Mississippi River Delta for their winter survival.

Louisiana has developed a bipartisan coastal master plan that identifies 109 different projects that should be completed over the next half century to help preserve and expand existing wetlands.

We need to be far more careful about the slicing and dicing of coastal wetlands with canals and industrial infrastructure. We need to set up a structure of state and federal agencies with the authority to end the bureaucratic turf wars that have left some restoration efforts in limbo for years. Louisiana politicians and citizens need to keep the state’s ambitious master plan on track.

Federal and state authorities need to make sure the money from all sources–public and private–intended for coastal protection and restoration goes to protecting our wetlands, not to building civic centers and highways or to plug other holes in the state’s budget.

A recent study by Audubon underscores the urgency for preserving the coastal wetlands for birds. Nearly half of the birds in North America could lose over 50 percent of the areas where they live before the end of this century, according to 30 years of data collected and analyzed by Audubon. In addition to the Piping Plover, threatened species include Louisiana’s state bird, the Brown Pelican, and the Roseate Spoonbill, a showy pink wading bird with an oversized spoon-shaped bill.

The coastal plains of Louisiana and neighboring Texas are going to be critical “strongholds”–places that in the future will provide the right habitat for birds that are forced out of other ranges because the weather becomes too wet or too dry, too hot or too cold. These “strongholds” will give vulnerable birds a fighting chance to hold on in the face of climate change.

This is not Louisiana’s problem; this is America’s Great Delta. To see how you can take action, visit here.

David Yarnold is President and CEO of the National Audubon Society.

 

Tags: coastal erosion, legacy lawsuit, Louisiana, wetlands
Posted in Jefferson & Plaquemines Parish, LA Coastal Parish News | Comments Off on Saving Louisiana

Environmental Groups Offer Suggestions on Spending BP Money to Rebuild Coast

Posted on: December 10th, 2014 by restoreit

Environmental groups offer suggestions on spending BP money to rebuild coast

Amy Wold

The Advocate

December 10, 2014

With some money from the Deepwater Horizon disaster already flowing to the states for coastal restoration work, a coalition of environmental groups on Tuesday released its list of 19 priority projects that could be done in the next five years.

“Our vision is to restore a healthy Gulf of Mexico ecosystem,” said Doug Meffert, vice president and executive director of the National Audubon Society for Louisiana and a member of the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, which released the report.

Other coalition members include representatives from the Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontch-artrain Basin Foundation.

The projects could be paid for by money from civil penalties and other fines from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, mostly levied on oil giant BP. How the money will be spent will be determined by various entities, including the states themselves, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.

David Muth, gulf program director at the National Wildlife Federation, said the money will fuel “one of the largest ecosystem restoration efforts in history.” However, the funds available are limited and it’s necessary that the money be spent in the most effective way possible, he said.

The 19 projects included in the coalition’s report are ones the groups believe can be done on a short time frame and have a large cumulative impact. Each project was taken from the state’s master plan to restore Louisiana’s dwindling coastline, and several of the recommended projects have already been submitted by the state for oil spill funding.

“We see this as our baseline because it was based on solid science,” Natalie Peyronnin, director of science policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, of the Environmental Defense Fund, said about the state’s master plan.

Instead of looking at the projects for their individual benefits, the coalition looked at how different projects could work together for a greater benefit and which projects could be done quickly.

“There was a need to see what we really need to get on the ground in the next five years,” she said.

Muth agreed, saying, “There are things that can be done that can begin to make a difference very soon.”

Although not all projects would have to get off the ground at the exact same time to have a cumulative impact, the sooner the projects are completed, the sooner the benefits are realized, Peyronnin said.

“We believe a restoration of a healthy Gulf of Mexico ecosystem starts with restoring a healthy delta ecosystem,” she said.

That delta doesn’t just include the land around the mouth of the Mississippi River, but the report considers all the land connected to the river from Mississippi to Texas.

The 19 projects include four sediment diversions along the Mississippi River including one near Myrtle Grove that has gotten the most attention since it’s the first large sediment diversion the state is considering.

The plan also lists five projects that would help divert fresh water into wetlands to help push back saltwater intrusion and bring new sediment into the marsh.

There are four barrier island restoration recommendations, three recommendations for marsh creation areas, a ridge restoration along Bayou La Loutre as well as a shoreline protection project on the west side of the state near Vermilion Bay.

The plan also recommends an oyster reef restoration in the Biloxi Marsh to help protect wetlands from wave-generated erosion and to provide habitat for oysters and other species.

Questions have been raised about some of these projects, such as whether there’s enough sediment in the river to rebuild land and what effect diversions will have on fisheries. But members of the coalition said those are questions that are being investigated.

Muth said aggressive research is being conducted to help figure out the answers to the questions that loom about these large-scale projects.

“We already have a massive land-loss crisis here in Louisiana,” Muth said. “We need to move forward, and we need to move forward quickly.”

 

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.

 

Posted in LA Coastal Parish News | Comments Off on Environmental Groups Offer Suggestions on Spending BP Money to Rebuild Coast

New Storm Surge Map Predicts Worst-Case Scenarios for South La.

Posted on: November 12th, 2014 by restoreit

New storm surge map predicts worst-case scenarios for south La.

Amy Wold The Advocate A new storm surge prediction map estimates that a large, very slow moving hurricane could push more than 9 feet of water onto LSU’s campus. n fact, all of southern Louisiana as far north as Pointe Coupee Parish could face such a storm surge if the conditions are just right,according to a new worst case scenario map released Thursday by the National Hurricane Center Office for Coastal Management. But before people in Baton Rouge start hiring contractors to elevate their homes, it’s important to know that the chance of that level of flooding happening in Baton Rouge is low. For areas south of interstates 10 and 12, the chance of significant flooding increases, but that depends on the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the elevation of the land. Although alarming at first glance, the map doesn’t reflect the effects of a single storm across the coast of Louisiana. Instead, it shows the worst-case scenario for any particular area along the coast, said Barry Keim, state climatologist. “That map can never happen (in total),” agreed Ken Graham, meteorologist in charge with the National Weather Service in Slidell. The scenario in which storm surge could make its way into Baton Rouge would involve storm surge running through Lake Pontchartrain, into Lake Maurepas, up Bayou Manchac and then into low-lying areas of the parish. Although Lake Pontchartrain is miles from Baton Rouge, it’s not that far away in terms of elevation. “All of that area is pretty low-lying,” Keim said. It may seem far-fetched that a Category 3 storm could push that much water that far inland, but just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it couldn’t, Keim said. “It is conceivable that something like that could happen,” he said. Graham added that, out of thousands of scenarios run by the map’s creators, there may have been only a handful that showed storm surge getting as far inland as LSU. “The risk isn’t zero. There is some risk,” Graham said. The newly released map also shows worst case storm surge scenarios for different categories of storms. The calculations within the map also goes beyond just wind speed. The map based its finding on thousands of hypothetical storms. In some parts of the country, as many as 60,000 varying storm conditions were used to come up with a map. The variations took into consideration forward speed, direction, size of storm and wind speeds. “This is the worst case scenario of a number of different storm events,” Keim said. For example, under a Category 3, there is extensive flooding up through the Atchafalaya River basin that could bring storm surge into parts of Iberville, West Baton Rouge and even Pointe Coupee parishes. That type of storm would be a very large, very slow moving hurricane, Graham said. “It’s your Isaac on steroids,” Graham said. “Most hurricanes aren’t going to do that.” The new storm surge map is intended to provide a much clearer picture for coastal residents in Louisiana and around the country to understand the potential flooding risk. While having the new maps to show potential risk is exciting, it’s what will be done during a storm that could really save lives, Graham said. When a storm watch is issued — 48 hours before landfall — meteorologists will run the computer model with numerous variations of the storm’s path, size, direction, wide speed and other characteristics. About an hour after the storm watch is issued, the National Weather Service will be able to put out a worst case scenario map for the particular storm’s surge. So many variables will be put into that computer map that there will be only a 10 percent chance that the water levels portrayed will be exceeded, Graham said. While it will look similar to the other worst case scenario maps, this one will be specific to the current storm, he said. In addition, water levels will be portrayed as actual water above ground, unlike previous storm surge maps that used sea level elevations, which at times were hard to translate into actual flooding. “It’s a huge step forward,” Graham said. This storm-based mapping was available to forecasters this year, but it hasn’t been needed because Louisiana hasn’t been threatened by a storm. One drawback to the maps is that it’s difficult to predict what will happen in areas surrounded by levees. Currently, there is no reliable way to estimate flooding potential within the levee systems like those that surround New Orleans or parts of Lafourche Parish, if those levees are overtopped, Graham said. NOAA is currently working on how to color code those areas because there is still flooding risk within those levees. “We don’t want to cause a false sense of security,” Graham said.

Posted in LA Coastal Parish News, News | Comments Off on New Storm Surge Map Predicts Worst-Case Scenarios for South La.

Yes, BP Did Damage the Gulf

Posted on: October 26th, 2014 by restoreit

Yes, BP Did Damage the Gulf

 

n an opinion article published Tuesday, the oil giant BP would have us believe that the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster wasn’t all that bad for the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, company spokesman Geoff Morrell admits the event was a tragedy, and that, sadly, both people and wildlife perished. But he hastens to point out that the disaster’s impact was not as dire as predicted, and that recovery is already happening or perhaps complete.

But those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. We know that marine ecosystems affected by oil spills much smaller than the BP oil disaster, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill, take decades to recover. And with only four and half years behind us since the Deepwater Horizon exploded, we see a steady drumbeat of peer-reviewed articles documenting evidence of harm. The full effects of 210 million gallons of oil on the Gulf cannot be easily dismissed, especially when the injury studies BP conveniently cites are not yet available to the public. A deep dive into the real evidence of the BP oil disaster reveals several holes in Morrell’s story.

1. 210 million gallons of oil did not just disappear

BP thinks the massive amount of oil from a disaster like Exxon Valdez is comparable to the oil released from natural seeps in the Gulf seafloor. The hard truth, as deep-sea researcher Dr. Samantha Joye points out, is that the Gulf seafloor releases about 0.04 million gallons of oil and gas a day through tiny cracks all over the Gulf of Mexico. BP, on the other hand, released 2.5 million gallons of oil every day for 87 days, in a concentrated area of the Gulf. Dr. Joye’s research shows that microbes were not equipped to digest a significant portion of the gas released into the Gulf.

2. Oil travels far in the ocean.

BP must have missed this critical study by researchers at the University of South Florida, who predicted and later confirmed that BP oil, swept up by underwater currents, was found across the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Tampa, Florida. According to scientists, the oil that landed on the West Florida shelf, which extends miles into the Gulf, is likely to stay there a long time.

3. Impacts to wildlife go beyond the surface.

It is short-sighted to say that the impacts are short-lived and localized. Several studies have documented injury to the animals and habitats of the deep sea, and in all of these studies the authors point out that change is slow at the bottom of the Gulf. Because species like deep-water corals grow very slowly, it could take decades for them to fully recover from the damage caused by BP. Additionally, numerous species of birds, fish and even seaweed affected by the BP disaster travel in and out of the Gulf of Mexico, causing the spill’s footprint to extend well beyond the Gulf into other parts of North America and the Atlantic Ocean.

4. A big disaster merits a big response effort.

BP is quick to remind us of their “unprecedented response” to the oil disaster. Let’s not forget, however, that the time and money spent cleaning up the oil was not an indication of BP’s generosity, but rather a testament of the unprecedented damage that BP’s oil inflicted on the Gulf.

Figuring out how and where BP damaged the Gulf is a tough task, and BP is far from being off the hook. The company still owes billions of dollars in fines and natural resource damages for the oil discharged and resulting harm to the Gulf, and it is too convenient and much too early for the company to declare the Gulf fully recovered. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that we need to monitor and research impacts for the long term, not just a few years, before we draw conclusions about what has or has not recovered.

Since this disaster began, my organization, Ocean Conservancy, has been tracking oil spill impacts, none of which has been “conjured up.” We would like to invite Geoff Morrell to sit down with us to discuss the scientific evidence of impacts from the BP oil disaster, as it seems he may be unaware of some important research. We look forward to the Gulf’s full restoration and hope BP will accept accountability for the spill—and will acknowledge the complete scientific evidence of the impact, not a few carefully selected data points.

Kara Lankford is interim director of the Gulf Restoration Program at Ocean Conservancy.

Posted in LA Coastal Parish News | Comments Off on Yes, BP Did Damage the Gulf

Ruling Against BP Could Mean $18 Billion in Fines

Posted on: September 4th, 2014 by restoreit
Tags: BP oil spill, coastal restoration
Posted in LA Coastal Parish News, News | Comments Off on Ruling Against BP Could Mean $18 Billion in Fines

On the News With Thom Hartmann: When Big Oil Pays for Its Disasters, the Environment May Recover, and More

Posted on: September 2nd, 2014 by restoreit

On the News With Thom Hartmann: When Big Oil Pays for Its Disasters, the Environment May Recover, and More

To hear the interview or read the transcript click here 

www.truthout.com

September 2, 2014

In today’s On the News segment: When Big Oil is forced to pay for its disasters, the environment has a much better chance to recover; the recent earthquake in Southern California cost over a billion dollars in damages and left more than 100 people injured; Nixon’s War on Drugs demonized marijuana, but science keeps finding new benefits of that miracle plant; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of….science & green news…..

You need to know this. When Big Oil is forced to pay for their disasters, the environment has a much better chance to recover. Twenty-seven square miles of wetlands along the Texas coastline have been preserved using funds from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation recently purchased the 17,000 acre Powderhorn Ranch using about $38 million dollars from BP’s fines and other conservation group funding. That purchase will protect the salt marshes, oak forests, and pristine wetlands of Texas’s coastline, and it will provide a buffer for storm surge and sea level rise that pose a threat to that state. The Wildlife Foundation had been trying to purchase the land for over three decades, but was unable to raise the funding until BP was forced to pay. This is exactly why it’s so important to prevent corporations from privatizing gains and socializing losses. So many of the natural disasters caused by the fossil fuel industry have been left to taxpayers to clean up, and it was only the massive scale of the BP spill that prompted large fines and settlements. When we divert tax dollars to clean up a corporation’s mess, we make that funding unavailable for other important functions. By forcing Big Oil to pay for their disasters, we are able to clean and protect our environment without depriving our government of the tax dollars needed to operate. And, we raise the cost of business for the fossil fuel industry, and force them to do more to prevent another disaster. Texas’s newest wildlife preserve is proof that fining oil companies can be a success, but we shouldn’t wait until the next disaster to make Big Oil pay up. Let’s make them pay in advance for the destruction they cause by instituting a tax on carbon. To find out more, check out our new video “Carbon” at GreenWorldRising.org.

The recent earthquake in Southern California caused over a billion dollars in damages and left more than 100 people injured. However, a federal nuclear inspector says that the next earthquake could cause a much more serious problem. Michael Peck was the lead on-site inspector for the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County, and he says that plant may not be safe from the jolt of a nearby earthquake. According to Mr. Peck’s report, the Shoreline fault discovered in 2008 poses a serious risk to the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says everything is fine. That fault line is only 650 yards from the plant’s reactors, and another fault lines lies just three miles away. Mr. Peck’s report says that the structure of Diablo Canyon was never changed after the discovery of the more-distant fault line, let alone the Shoreline fault on which the plant nearly sits. The 2011 Fukushima disaster showed exactly what an earthquake and tsunami can do to a nuclear plant, and it’s unimaginable that we’re not doing more to prevent a similar event here at home.

Nixon’s War on Drugs demonized marijuana, but science keeps finding new benefits of that miracle plant. A recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine says that states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a 25 percent drop in prescription overdose deaths. In fact, the longer that a state keeps this policy, the lower the rate of overdose. According to the researchers, after one year of legalized medical marijuana, these deaths dropped by 20 percent. However, after five years, prescription overdoses declined by 34 percent. The majority of these overdose deaths – about 60 percent – occur in patients who are prescribed opioids for pain. Because marijuana provides effective pain relief without the danger of overdose, many patients are making the switch. Other recent studies have shown that marijuana is also effective at treating nausea, providing relief to cancer patients, and more. It’s no wonder that Big Pharma has made every effort to keep this natural remedy illegal.

There are so many trains carrying oil in North Dakota that farmers are having trouble getting their crops to market. There is a huge problem backlog of trains carrying soybeans, wheat, sugar beets, and other crops, but trains full of oil from the Bakken shale region are being allowed to sail through. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Senator Heidi Heitkamp explained that this backlog is not just a regional problem. She said, “The inability of farmers to get these grains to market is not only a problem for agriculture, but for companies that produce cereals, breads, and other goods.” A recent study from North Dakota State University says that farmers stand to lose more than $160 million dollars because of the railway congestion. The cost to food producers who use these crops may be even higher. Oil doesn’t expire, and we sure as heck can’t eat it. There is absolutely no reason why oil trains should be prioritized over important food crops. We better fix this problem, and do it fast, before the fruit of our nation’s bread basket rots while Big Oil rakes in more profits.

And finally… Humans take almost twice as long as other primates to reach maturity. For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out exactly why we take so much longer to grow up, and they may have finally answered the question. According to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, humans grow more slowly because so much energy is being consumed by our brains. In fact, 44 percent of all our energy during infancy and 87 percent during childhood is used only on mental development. Because our brains use so much fuel, there is less glucose left over to support physical growth. The next step in this research, measuring exactly how much energy that other primates use for brain function, will be difficult. However, scientists believe that this theory is well supported by their research. This study brings a whole new meaning to the term “brain food,” and shows just how important it is to make sure kids have adequate nutrition.

And that’s the way it is for the week of September 1, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

Tags: Big Oil, BP damage, coastal restoration
Posted in Jefferson & Plaquemines Parish, LA Coastal Parish News, Political News | Comments Off on On the News With Thom Hartmann: When Big Oil Pays for Its Disasters, the Environment May Recover, and More

Opposition Mounts to Raceland Mitigation Project

Posted on: August 29th, 2014 by restoreit

Opposition mounts to Raceland mitigation project

Click here for story

More local officials have spoken out against a proposal that could cause dozens of Raceland landowners to lose their property as a result of efforts to compensate for levees and drainage work to protect areas surrounding New Orleans from hurricanes.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say the project is tentative and years away if it moves forward.

North Lafourche Levee District Director Dwayne Bourgeois expressed doubt the corps would move forward on mitigation work in the area. On Wednesday, the levee district board passed a resolution opposing the project.

Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the corps developed the West Bank and Vicinity 100-year Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System.

The corps has targeted land in Raceland as part of three projects to offset the environmental damage caused by building and upgrading levees and floodwalls on the West Bank. Federal laws require the agency to replace any damaged wetlands with land elsewhere.

Sugar-cane fields and swampland will be reflooded and turned into wetlands as part of the so-called mitigation work, officials said. An estimated 60 property owners could be affected.

Should the corps move forward on the Raceland project area, they would need to perform additional environmental analysis and hold another public forum, project manager Tutashinda Salaam said.

“We’re a long way off from there, if we even move in that direction. We have a lot of analysis we have to do if we move forward. We heard all of the comments from the public. We’ve answered many congressional inquiries on this project. Obviously our tentative plan is still tentative,” Salaam said.

On Thursday night at a congressional election forum in Thibodaux, 11 candidates unanimously opposed the project. Republican House candidate Garrett Graves characterized the project as “one of the stupidest decisions to come out of a stupid agency in a long time.”

“Why in the world would you go there and take sugar-cane property? Why take this when you could restore wetlands that have been lost, go out to the coast and restore the wetlands,” Graves said.

Staff Writer Jacob Batte can be reached at 448-7635 orjacob.batte@dailycomet.com. Follow him on Twitter @ja_batte.

Tags: Louisiana, restore coast
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Highlights from Our Expert Panel On How to Pay for Coastal Restoration

Posted on: August 25th, 2014 by restoreit

The Lens
Steve Myers
August 21, 2014

How to Pay for Coastal Restoration

Click here for a link to the videos

About 130 people attended our Coastal Conservation Conversation event Wednesday night to hear experts discuss the challenges of funding the state’s 50-year, $50 billion coastal rebuilding plan.

On the panel:

Mark Davis, Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy
John Driscoll, Corporate Planning Resources
Kyle Graham, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
Douglas J. Meffert, Audubon Louisiana/National Audubon Society
Steve Murchie, Gulf Restoration Network
Courtney Taylor, Environmental Defense Fund
Fox 8 News’ John Snell moderated.

We’ll post the full video later; in the meantime here are some highlights.

GRAHAM: OIL AND GAS WILL PAY FOR THE COAST, SOMEHOW

“I think it’s very difficult to see a future” without some kind of settlement with the oil and gas industry, Graham said.

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