Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 3:20pm

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


Oil leaking from a submerged pipeline in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. April 11th, 2014. Photo: Jonathan Henderson, GRN. Flight provided by Southwings.org

Gulf Restoration Network is continuing our work to watchdog the impacts of the energy industry on the Gulf’s coastal environment.  In 2014 (as of June), GRN’s monitoring work had been featured on NPR, PBS Newshour, the Washington Post, Salon.com, Bloomberg News, Al Jazeera, the Los Angeles Times, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Baton Rouge Advocate, the National Journal and numerous other media outlets. 

By June, GRN had also filed over 15 reports in 2014 with the National Response Center (NRC) for new leaks and spills discovered on monitoring trips. In fact, the US Coast Guard recently...

Friday, September 5, 2014 - 3:30pm

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that BP’s actions leading to the 2010 drilling disaster were grossly negligent, which means that we’re one step closer to seeing billions of dollars in BP fines for the restoration of the Gulf. This is a huge victory for GRN, our allies and supporters like you, who have worked for over four years to ensure that BP be held accountable for their actions. But even as a judge finds them “reckless,” BP is trying to wiggle their way out.

Take action today to tell BP to pay for their damage to the coast.

Following the decision, BP immediately announced its plan to appeal. And its professional spin doctors are already on the job. This week, at the Society for Environmental Journalists conference, BP’s Geoff Morrell suggested that BP was being blamed for damages “conjured up by opportunistic advocacy groups.” 

We who live on...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 2:47pm
Biloxi 4 Year Memorial of BP Disaster
Marking the 4 year memorial of the BP disaster in Biloxi, MS.

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.


As we observe four years since the BP drilling disaster in the Gulf, and the twenty-fifth year since the Exxon Valdez disaster, BP has taken a more adversarial stance. Instead of focusing on making things right, BP has followed the example of the tobacco companies, challenging the scientific evidence when it is unfavorable to the company, and cherry-picking the data when it suits them.

BP isn’t just challenging existing science – it was also recently revealed that the company refused to pay for government-led studies of its impacts for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process. NRDA is supposed to gather the evidence resulting in the responsible party restoring the environment, and compensating for loss of public use of the environment. That’s going...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 8:44pm
Oilfield waste disposal wellsite and open pit have  polluted adjacent land
Unlined oilfield waste disposal pit in Laurel, Ms.

An oilfield waste injection well has been operating for 18 years with minimal oversight in a suburban neighborhood in Laurel, Mississippi.  Since 1996 this disposal well  has allowed salt water, produced during drilling operations, combined with oil and drilling fluids to be injected into the earth 4020 feet down a “dry hole” oil well from 1992 that was drilled to 11,500 feet and partially plugged with cement. Injecting waste down it has proved to be a harmful mistake by state regulators and the operating companies.

Tay and Deidra  Baucum own an adjacent wooded piece of land downhill from the well site on Wansley Road on the northeast edge of Laurel. It would have made a good place for houses. However, they have discovered that seepage from the disposal well site has migrated underground and onto their land. Salt water and other fluids have moved downslope from unlined waste pits at...

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. 

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