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Environmentalists Join Forces in New Orleans To Foster A Growing Alliance to Combat Climate Change and Fossil Fuels

It is time we wake up the world to stop abusing and destroying a gift of life – before it is too late,” Chief Arvol Looking Horse from South Dakota said to a group of environmentalists from across the country who joined him at a water ceremony on the shore of the Mississippi River in New Orleans on World Water Day. 
 
The ceremony took place on the fourth day of programming hosted by the environmental advocacy group Indigena, on climate change and communities fighting against it.
 
“Creative alliances are formed when you are invited to come together,” Janet MacGillivray, Esq., with Indigena, told DeSmog. “That’s what we did with the four days of gatherings at the New Orleans Healing Center.”

Keeper of the Mountains Foundation president Paul Corbit Brown, and Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, were among the invited speakers who stressed the need for groups to come together.
 
They joined Louisiana environmental groups and activists who participated in panel discussions in the days before a protest by hundreds of Gulf Coast residents and environmentalists from across the country against the federal lease sale of 44.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to the oil and gas industry. 

Obama Barely Touches on Climate Change In New Orleans Speech Marking the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

President Obama briefly mentioned climate change during his remarks in New Orlean’s Lower 9th Ward during his visit to New Orleans to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Standing in the city’s Lower 9th Ward, Obama spoke instead of the inspiration he had drawn from the city’s “come back” and the resilience of its people.

Obama’s on-off relationship with climate change and the impact it is having on New Orleans is mirrored by his administration’s decisions that contradict the president’s concern.

Elmwood, Louisiana Derailment Stokes Fears About Oil Train Blast Zone

Train derailment Elmwood, Louisiana

Nearly a dozen Union Pacific railway cars were blown off an elevated trestle in Elmwood, Louisiana, on Monday during a strong wind storm.

No injuries were reported in the incident near the Huey P. Long Bridge. The cars did not contain any hazardous materials, although such materials are transported on the route.

Obama Opened Floodgates for Offshore Fracking in Recent Gulf of Mexico Lease

In little-noticed news arising out of a recent Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas lease held by the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the floodgates have opened for Gulf offshore hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

With 21.6 million acres auctioned off by the Obama Administration and 433,822 acres receiving bids, some press accounts have declared BP America — of 2010 Gulf of Mexico offshore oil spill infamy — a big winner of the auction. If true, fracking and the oil and gas services companies who perform it like Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger came in a close second.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Lease Map August 2014
Map Credit: U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

On the day of the sale held at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, an Associated Press article explained that many of the purchased blocks sit in the Lower Tertiary basin, coined the “final frontier of oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico” by industry analysts.

“The Lower Tertiary is an ancient layer of the earth's crust made of dense rock,” explained APTo access the mineral resources trapped within it, hydraulic fracturing activity is projected to grow in the western Gulf of Mexico by more than 10 percent this year, according to Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc., which operates about a third of the world's offshore fracking rigs.”

Not Just the Atlantic: Obama Leasing Millions of Gulf Acres for Offshore Drilling

Deploying the age-old “Friday news dump,” President Barack Obama's Interior Department gave the green light on Friday, July 18 to companies to deploy seismic air guns to examine the scope of Atlantic Coast offshore oil-and-gas reserves.

It is the first time in over 30 years that the oil and gas industry is permitted to do geophysical data collection along the Atlantic coast. Though decried by environmentalists, another offshore oil and gas announcement made the same week has flown under the radar: over 21 million acres of Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas reserves will be up for lease on August 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Superdome. 

On July 17, the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)  announced the lease in the name of President Obama's “all of the above” energy policy

“As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, BOEM…today announced that the bureau will offer more than 21 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development in a lease sale that will include all available unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area,” proclaimed a July 17 BOEM press release.

The release says this equates to upwards of 116-200 million barrels of oil and 538-938 billion cubic feet of natural gas and falls under the banner of the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreement

That Agreement was signed into law on December 26, 2013. It served as a precursor to the recently-passed Mexican oil and gas industry privatization reforms, which have opened the floodgates to international oil and gas companies to come into Mexico for onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration and production.  

A Forgotten Community in New Orleans: Life on a Superfund Site

Shannon Rainey

Shannon Rainey lives in a house that was built on top of a Superfund site in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

I bought my house when I was 25, and thirty years later, I still can't get out,” she told DeSmogBlog.

Rainey’s home in Gordon Plaza is part of a subdivision developed by the city in 1981 on top of the Agriculture Street landfill. No one disclosed to the buyers that their new homes were built on top of a dump that was closed in 1965.

Rainey has a view of two other city-owned properties also built on the landfill: the shuttered Morton Elementary School and Press Park, an abandoned housing project developed by the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO).

 “If it were white folks back here, this would be all gone,” Rainey says bluntly.

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.

Mardi Gras: Krewe du Vieux Raises Awareness of Environmental Threats to New Orleans

“Where the Vile Things Are,” the Krewe du Vieux's 2014 Mardi Gras parade electrified the streets of New Orleans on Saturday night, February 16, bursting with raucous irreverent satire. Floats addressing environmental and social issues rolled, as participants dressed in mutant fish and insect costumes danced in between them.

DeSmogBlog spoke with noted author and king of the parade John Barry before the first float rolled.

“This is a parade with the true spirit of Mardi Gras–satire,” he said. ” I don't know anything that's an easier target than the idea that the most anti-tax governor in the country wants us to pay for stuff that the law says the most profitable industry in the history of the world should pay for. How easy is that?”  

Barry is a hero to those fighting to restore the Gulf Coast, co-author of a lawsuit that insists oil and gas companies pay their fair share for the damage they have done. The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, is pressing forward with the suit, despite Jindal's failure to reappoint Barry to the board.



John Barry, King of the Krewe du Vieux parade ©2014 Julie Dermansky

Hurricane Irene, Climate Change, and the Need to Consider Worst Case Scenarios

In May of 2005, a few months before Hurricane Katrina, I wrote an article that nobody noticed. It was entitled “Thinking Big About Hurricanes: It’s Time to Get Serious About Saving New Orleans.” In it, I talked about how devastating a strong hurricane landfall could be to my home city:

In the event of a slow-moving Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane (with winds up to or exceeding 155 miles per hour), it’s possible that only those crow’s nests [of lakefront houses] would remain above the water level. Such a storm, plowing over the lake, could generate a 20-foot surge that would easily overwhelm the levees of New Orleans, which only protect against a hybrid Category 2 or Category 3 storm (with winds up to about 110 miles per hour and a storm surge up to 12 feet). Soon the geographical “bowl” of the Crescent City would fill up with the waters of the lake, leaving those unable to evacuate with little option but to cluster on rooftops—terrain they would have to share with hungry rats, fire ants, nutria, snakes, and perhaps alligators. The water itself would become a festering stew of sewage, gasoline, refinery chemicals, and debris.

Afterwards, the article was passed around furiously and I was hailed for having some sort of deep insight. I didn’t: The danger was staggeringly obvious and I was only channeling what many experts at the time knew.

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