Julie Dermansky's blog

Environmental Concerns — and Anger — Grow in Month After Thousand-Year Flood Strikes Louisiana

Contents from a flooded home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, awaiting removal on Sept 9.

In the aftermath of the 1000-year flood that hit southern Louisiana in August, environmental and public health concerns are mounting as the waters recede.

Residents want to know why many areas that never flooded before were left in ruin this time, raising questions about the role water management played in potentially exacerbating the flood. The smell of mold lingers on streets where the contents from flooded homes and businesses are stacked in piles along the curbside, as well as in neighborhoods next to landfills where storm debris is taken.

Texas Ranch Owner Battles TransCanada to Restore Her Pipeline-Scarred Land

Eleanor Fairchild, an 82-year-old grandmother who owns a 425-acre ranch outside of Winnsboro, Texas, has advice for anyone who is asked to sign a contract by a company that wants to build a pipeline to transport tar sands oil on their land: “Don’t sign it.”

During a recent visit to her ranch, I saw the damage to her land caused by the installation of TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Pipeline, which is the original southern route of the Keystone XL pipeline before the project was broken into segments. 

I first met Fairchild in October 2012, a few days after she was arrested, along with environmentalist actress Daryl Hannah. The two had stood in the way of land-moving vehicles on Fairchild’s land where TransCanada had started clearing trees and readying a right-of-way to install its pipeline. At that time, Fairchild was refusing to make a deal with TransCanada, but the company moved forward with clearing her land anyway. 

Flood-Ravaged Gulf Coast Residents Ask President Obama To Cancel Federal Offshore Drilling Lease Auction

During President Obama’s visit to a flood-ravaged area near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this week, a group of environmental activists delivered a petition to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) protesting the planned leasing of more of the Gulf of Mexico for oll and gas drilling.

They gathered 184,000 electronic signatures over just six days calling for the President and BOEM to cancel its lease auction — scheduled to take place today, August 24. 

Four members of the group told police on the scene they planned to stay until either they got a response from President Obama or they were arrested.

Louisiana's Drowning: Follow our Photographer's Journey Capturing Hope and Loss in Historic Flood

The largest flooding event in Louisiana’s history — and the worst natural disaster to hit the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012 — is not over.

As I write, new areas in the southern part of the state are taking on water from rising creeks and bayous. 

Last Friday, the greater Baton Rouge area received more than 30 inches of rain in less than 48 hours. Many rivers crested at record-breaking heights, and the run-off from those rivers is now flooding areas further to the south. 

On Monday, three days after the rain event began, I flew with the Louisiana National Guard in a Black Hawk helicopter to survey the flood damage. From the air, I was able to take in the vast reach of the disaster.

Eight Years After a Mercaptan Spill, Residents of Eight Mile, Alabama, Call For Evacuation

Eight years after a mercaptan spill at a Mobile Gas facility in Eight Mile, Alabama, residents still affected by the spill are fighting back. “For years we have been told there is not a problem anymore, though the smell of gas never really goes away,” Eight Mile resident Geraldine Harper told DeSmog, “and I’m sure breathing that stuff is making my health worse.”

Harper was one of more than 200 people who attended a public meeting hosted by the We Matter Eight Mile Community Association at the Highpoint Baptist Church in Eight Mile on July 21, 2016. Environmental scientist and community advocate Wilma Subra confirmed what many feared—their air is getting worse, not better.

Mercaptan (tert-butyl mercaptan) is an odorant that is added to natural gas (methane) to give it the telltale smell now associated with the otherwise odorless and colorless gas. Just a tiny amount of mercaptan is perceptible by the human nose. Mobile Gas is owned by Sempra Energy, which is also the parent corporation that owns Southern California Gas Co. (the company responsible for the massive natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, California), and is required to add mercaptan to its gas supply, as are all the other gas companies across the country. 

Louisiana Parish Hit by Third Oil Spill in Ten Days As Pressure Grows To Hold Oil and Gas Industry Accountable for Coastal Damage

Yesterday, an estimated 4,200 gallons of crude oil was discharged from a well owned by the Texas Petroleum Investment Company into the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard and other state agencies are now responding to the third oil spill in two weeks. 

Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish coast was also hit with two oil spills last week. An estimated 4,200 gallons of crude oil attributed to oil and gas extraction company Hilcorp spilled in the marsh near Lake Grande Ecaille, part of Barataria Bay, on July 25. Three days later, 850 gallons were discharged by a Texas Petroleum Management flowline into marshland in the Southwest Pass.


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