Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

Friday, August 29, 2014 - 3:14pm

This articles is excerpted from Gulf Currents, GRN's quarterly newsletter. To read the rest of the Summer 2014 edition of Gulf Currents, click here.


Weeki Wachee Headspring. Photo credit: Cathy
Harrelson.

In spite of strong organizing by citizens and environmental groups and unanimous support in the State Senate, the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act failed to pass during Florida’s 2014 legislative session. Although the bill would have provided water protection that Florida desperately needs today, House Speaker Will Wetherford punted to next year’s incoming Speaker, Steve Crisafulli. In a Tampa Bay Times column, Estus Whitfield, an environmental advisor to four Florida governors, summed things up pretty well: “Just be glad the Legislature doesn’t control your local fire department or you might be told that your burning house can’t be saved because the next shift really wants to fight the fire.”

Despite...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 7:02pm

October 2012 Meselhe et al at the Water Institute and ARCADIS--in regards to necessary environmental analysis for the RAM terminal proposal:

"debris and dust generated during the loading process would be captured in the outfall channel and transported into the marsh areas potentially causing environmental issues. The investigation of water quality was not part of the scope of this analysis, but should be investigated to assess such environmental impact."

August 2013 Ben Bloch, Times Picayune 

Before the meeting, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser contended, “We have never had coal runoff get in the river from a hurricane. We have had a little get off their facilities, but not into the river, and they have always cleaned it up well..."

August 2014 Yesterday, after tips from several community members and consulting river scientists, we traveled to the Lake Hermitage marsh restoration to see if the dredge material CPRA is building wetlands with contains the coal and petroleum coke that United Bulk and Kinder Morgan -IMT dump in the river. 

These facilities have been spilling coal and petroleum coke in the river regularly, probably as long as they have been operating.  Here's an example of the United Bulk facility on a sunny summer day:

There are so many problems with coal and petroleum coke coming off this facility, even the operators don't know them all. 

So what happens when you use the river sediment these companies dump in to build wetlands?  What we found will not shock you. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 2:02pm

New Orleans is well into the unofficial season of local flooding, and we think local flooding should get you more than just wet socks. Post the best shot of flooding in your neighborhood with the hashtag #FloodLessChallenge or email them to us directly, and you could win a hand-painted rain barrel!

The Grand Prize!

New Orleans is one of the rainiest cities in the country, with over 5 feet falling per year, but we can learn to live with the water. GRN’s Flood Less New Orleans campaign is advocating on behalf of planning, practices and technologies that can help our city to live better with water and flood less. Join the Flood Less Summer Challenge to help raise awareness about how we can stay drier using green technologies, supporting strong leadership and practicing flood prevention at home!

Gulf Restoration Network will share our 10...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 10:17am

I suppose it's easy to forget the importance of the law. Here at GRN, we are dedicated to uniting and empowering people to protect our natural resources, usually by asking companies and governments to follow and to enforce the laws that ensure we have clean water and healthy wetlands. 

Wetlands are our shelter and the source of much of our food in Louisiana; they also perform many ecosystem functions we could not live without (not to mention carbon sequestration against climate change). And they are naturally beautiful, as Lauren Sullivan's pictures reveal. 

That is why it's so disappointing when our elected officials play "PR firm," and mouth the talking points of corporations without considering the consequences to their people. Letting companies cut and run from our coast is how Louisiana got into this crisis in the first place.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 5:34pm
Kemper Power Plant with Recycled Meridian Wastewater Reservoir at right

At the MDEQ Environmental Permit Board’s August 2014 meeting,  we presented GRN’s comments which asked the Board to require fecal coliform bacteria monitoring for any discharges from the reservoir at the Kemper IGCC power plant. This reservoir holds Meridian’s treated municipal waste water at the end of a 41-mile pipeline. Kemper buys this water to make steam for generating electricity. MDEQ permit engineers maintained that no reasonable potential existed for pollution from human waste in emergency discharges from the reservoir into Chickasawhay Creek, 6 miles upstream of Okatibbee Lake, a popular state lake.

The Permit Board over-ruled the engineers, amended their permit, and will make Mississippi Power answer the bacteria question by requiring them to monitor for fecal coliform bacteria in emergency discharges. The reservoir has already discharged twice during normal plant construction, not during emergencies. The Power Company was cited by MDEQ for violations for these discharges. The permit...

Friday, August 22, 2014 - 4:28pm
Canvassers on turf
Canvass team on their way out to turf. Credit: Amanda Clesi

The past four months as a member of Gulf Restoration Network’s Summer Outreach Team was nothing short of an adventurous roller coaster ride. There was sweat, blood, and tears shed in my fight to restore the Gulf Coast.   The sweat, of course, was a product of the sweltering southern heat that only momentarily let up for afternoon showers.  Fortunately blood only appeared a time or two when the New Orleans sidewalks interrupted the hasty pace that most canvassers try to keep, ultimately leading to a fall and brush burns.  And the tears, oh the tears, they came to visit during my moments of emotional passion to ensure that the Gulf remains the home to communities of all species, shapes, and sizes.

Being an activist and Outreach Team leader is a very fulfilling job.  I had the opportunity to build public support to continue holding BP accountable and ensure that Clean Water Act Fine dollars are properly allocated to real coastal restoration.  Having a one-on-one conversation at a person’s doorstep, believe it or not, is a highly effective way of spreading knowledge and empowering people to get involved.  This allows us as individuals to band together and have our voices heard. 

Friday, August 22, 2014 - 1:27pm
Click here to take action

We’re at a make or break moment for the Gulf’s restoration in the wake of the BP disaster. The RESTORE Council, which is tasked with overseeing how potentially billions of dollars in Clean Water Act fines from the BP disaster will be spent, has released guidelines for choosing restoration projects. Instead of ensuring public participation and transparency in project selection, these guidelines open the door for backroom deals and pork barrel politics.

Tell the Chair of the RESTORE Council to ensure that the public has a say in Gulf restoration!

Gulf coast residents know all too well what happens when out-of-touch politicians and bureaucrats are allowed to make backroom deals about how restoration dollars are spent. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not just restore the Gulf to what it was before BP’s oil fouled our waters, but to make it more resilient and sustainable for future...

Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 3:33pm
RESTORE Council
RESTORE Council Meeting in August 2013.

Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) released project submission guidelines for funding projects and proposals under the Council’s Comprehensive Plan. The Council, which was created under the RESTORE Act, is tasked with overseeing how potentially billions of dollars in Clean Water Act fines from the BP Disaster will be spent.

“For years, members of the Gulf Future Coalition have been pushing for public engagement and transparency in how the fines from the BP disaster are spent. We’re discouraged and quite frankly shocked to see an utter disregard for the demands of community members in these proposed project submission release guidelines,” said Jayeesha Dutta, Coordinator of the Gulf Future Coalition. “The people of the Gulf coast whose way of life and livelihoods have been most affected by the BP disaster must have a seat at the decision making table.”

In a...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 11:46am
A black sponge laying amongst coral in the McGrail Bank region  of the Gulf of Mexico.
A black sponge laying amongst coral in the McGrail Bank region of the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: NURC/UNCW and NOAA/FGBNMS.

This articles is excerpted from Gulf Currents, GRN's quarterly newsletter. To read the rest of the Summer 2014 edition of Gulf Currents, click here.


Beneath the Gulf’s sparkling waters, there lays a largely unseen world made up of hundreds of spectacular, unique ecosystems that are hotbeds of biodiversity. Recently a report by the Marine Conservation Institute, entitled “Gulf Gems: Treasured Places in Troubled Waters,” highlighted ten of the most spectacular of these ecological gems. The featured ecosystems include: 

  • Pulley Ridge, the deepest known photosynthetic coral reef off the continental U.S.—found 200 feet below the ocean surface — which is vibrantly colored and inhabited by more than 60 species of fish; 
  • Madison Swanson, Steamboat Lumps and The Edges off the Gulf coast of Florida, consisting of limestone cliffs and rocky outcrops that support arrow and hermit crabs, basket stars, sea fans and Oculina coral;
  • Viosca Knolls, a conglomeration
  • ...
Monday, August 18, 2014 - 3:58pm
unbackfilled oil canal, a scar on the landscape

Louisiana needs to address the problem of abandoned oilfield sites.  Individuals and organizations can submit formal comments to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to apply the law on abandonment of oilfield sites.

Oilfield sites have scarred Louisiana for generations, becoming worse in spite of DNR efforts. 

Although Louisiana law and regulations require companies to “plug-and-abandon” non-producing sites, regulations have included large loopholes. Coupled with weak enforcement, this has led to thousands of useless open canals. 

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor recently released a report condemning DNR’s oversight of these sites. This report has sparked a 'rulemaking'--DNR recognizes that it needs to close the loopholes that allow oil and gas companies to shirk their duties to the public trust. 

The Green Army has drafted extensive comments on the shortcomings of the existing rules and...

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