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Tue, 2014-10-14 21:30Julie Dermansky
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Did Louisiana Attorney General Caldwell Miss the CDC Memo That Incineration Kills Ebola?

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell got a temporary restraining order to stop the incinerated remains of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan’s belongings from being disposed of in Louisiana. Caldwell’s headline grabbing move was mocked by Mother Jones writer Tim Murphy who bestowed Louisiana with the “Prize for Ebola Fearmongering.” 

“There are too many unknowns at this point, and it is absurd to transport potentially hazardous Ebola waste across state lines. We just can't afford to take any risks when it comes to this deadly virus,” Caldwell told the New Orleans Times Picayune

Science be damned when it comes to public health in Louisiana. It would seem so if you pay attention to the statement issued by the Centers for Disease Control: “We certainly know how to inactivate and destroy the Ebola virus. It's readily destroyed by incineration, destroyed by chemical means,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC director stated during a press conference

Yet Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell got a temporary restraining order to stop the incinerated remains of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan’s belongings from being disposed of in Louisiana. Caldwell’s headline grabbing move was mocked by Mother Jones writer Tim Murphy who bestowed on Louisiana the “Prize for Ebola Fearmongering.”   

Caldwell's move is in contradiction to Louisiana's standard practice of accepting toxic industrial waste from other states.

The Lake Charles hazardous waste facility — where the incinerated remains were destined for disposal — is no stranger to out of state toxic material. Ten hazardous materials the waste facility previously accepted from out of state include arsenic, asbestos, cadmium, dioxin, mercury, hydrogen fluoride, bromine, lead, barium and manganese, according to a report obtained by The New Orleans Times  Picayune from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory Program.

Wed, 2014-08-20 13:00Julie Dermansky
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General Honoré, Enviro Groups Call for Strengthening EPA’s Proposed Refinery Pollution Standards

Valero refinery near home (c) Julie Dermansky

Millions of people living near refineries will be directly affected by a long awaited updates to regulations the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed for oil refineries. Their new proposed rule includes a reduction of flaring, monitoring benzene emissions, and upgrading emission controls during the crude oil refining process.

“We need 21st century monitoring devices for fenceline communities,” former General Russel Honoré, founder of the Green Army, a coalition of environmental groups and concerned citizens fighting against pollution, told DeSmogBlog. “The new rules the EPA has put forth still don't require that. Industry's objective is to reduce liability, because they want to avoid liability. They don't want good monitoring,” he says.



Retired General Russel Honoré speaking at a Green Army event ©2014 Julie Dermansky



ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana  ©2014 Julie Dermansky

Thu, 2014-05-08 14:38Julie Dermansky
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Bayou Corne Residents Still Evacuated Nearly Two Years After Salt Mine Collapse Caused Sinkhole

A sign on a Bayou Corne resident's lawn near the sinkhole

It’s been almost two years since a salt mine collapsed in Bayou Corne, 77 miles from New Orleans, causing a sinkhole to open up and natural gas to spread under nearby homes.

Since Aug. 3, 2013, a swath of Assumption Parish has remained under a state of mandatory evacuation.  

The area, known as a sportsman's paradise for its waterways rich in fish and alligators, has become a danger zone threatened by rising gas pressure. Only a few of its 350 residents remain after the collapse of the salt mine owned by Occidental Chemical Corp. and operated by Texas Brine Co. LLC.

“The situation in Bayou Corne remains dangerous,” John Boudreaux, the director of emergency preparedness for Assumption Parish, told DeSmogBlog.

It is his job to keep those who still live there safe.

“125 feet below us — where the aquifer is — there is a layer of gas that has to be removed. Until they can get it removed, the risk continues,” he said.

Tue, 2014-05-06 05:28Julie Dermansky
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Louisiana Residents Gear Up For Fracking Fight Just Outside New Orleans

Fracking protest sign

In mid-April, word started spreading like wildfire among Louisiana residents: Helis Oil & Gas LLC wants to drill a well in search of oil and gas on a 960-acre tract of land about 30 miles from New Orleans, in the Mandeville area.

Helis plans to use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract oil and gas from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (PDF), which holds an estimated 7 billion barrels of oil beneath the Southern Hills aquifer, which extends from St.Tammany to beyond Baton Rouge and well into Mississippi.

On April 16, residents packed a meeting, expressing fear and outrage about the proposed drilling. Right away, they learned two things: firstly, that they’re up against Louisiana's strong laws protecting the oil and gas industry. And secondly, that there’s no time to waste.

On May 13, the Department of Natural Resources’ office of conservation, which regulates oil and gas drilling in Louisiana, will hold a hearing to consider issuing a unit permit — the first step in the permitting process.

Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, asked to delay the permitting process, but was denied.

“There is no legal provision to take the scheduled hearing off the docket,” Patrick Courreges, communications director for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, told DeSmogBlog.

As for what could prevent the permit from being issued, the short answer, according to Courreges, is geology, not the public's concerns about fracking.

Tue, 2014-04-22 11:50Julie Dermansky
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In Celebration of Earth Day: Photos Capture the Beauty of Southeastern Louisiana's Wetlands

Louisiana's wetlands are threatened by coastal erosion, climate change and the oil and gas industry.

The Green Army, a group representing environmental and social justice organizations led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore is trying to stop bills they believe stand in the way of preserving Louisiana's disappearing coast, including bills that would kill the lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East that would require 97 oil and gas companies to pay for their share of the damage the industry has done to the coast.

Governor Bobby Jindal has pushed to derail the lawsuit by backing legislation that is undermining the levee board. So far the Green Army has not been able to sway the legislators from dismantling the lawsuit that many believe could save the coast.

Many of the bills set to derail the lawsuit have already passed in the Senate but Michael Orr, operations coordinator of Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) points out they haven't been heard in the House yet.  “There is still a chance to kill them” he told DeSmogBlog.  “I feel the battle is RE-enfranchising the public to believe that things can change, that we can win and that they can make a difference. And honestly I do feel like we can win this. And we surely cannot afford to lose. ” Orr says. 

Here is a slideshow celebrating the richness of the coastal wetland environment.

Mon, 2014-03-10 16:23Julie Dermansky
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Green Army Prepares to Battle Louisiana Legislators To Protect Water From Oil Industry Threats

The Green Army, a group representing environmental and social justice organizations led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, met on the steps of the state capitol for a rally preceding the start of Louisiana's legislative session which begins today. Their demonstration, called a “Water Festival,” was a cry to protect Louisiana's water.

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