Julie Dermansky

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Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Visit her website at www.jsdart.com.

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.

Fate of Keystone XL Pipeline Could Be Decided in a Texas Courtroom Before NAFTA Tribunal Considers TransCanada’s Suit

Texas landowner Michael Bishop continues to challenge TransCanada’s right to build the southern route of the Keystone XL pipeline, renamed the Gulf Coast pipeline when the project was divided into segments. Meanwhile, TransCanada is suing the United States for not being granted the presidential permit needed in order to build the Keystone XL's northern route. A win for Bishop in his suit against TransCanada Keystone Pipeline L.P. in Nacogdoches County District Court could complicate TransCanada’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) challenge.

Bishop is suing TransCanada for “fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, misrepresentation, perjury, theft, bribery, and violating plaintiff’s rights as delineated under the Constitution of the State of Texas.” His case alleges TransCanada doesn’t rightfully possess common carrier status, which enabled the company to use eminent domain. 

Exclusive Drone Video Shows Helis Oil’s Drilling Operation Set To Frack 40 Miles North of New Orleans

A drilling rig is in place and poised to drill Helis Oil & Gas Co.’s first exploratory well in St. Tammany Parrish to determine if fracking in the parish could be profitable. The company told local media today that they expect to start drilling by Wednesday or Thursday (June 29 or 30), despite the Parish’s ongoing legal challenge to prevent them. 

Helis’ drill site, across from the Lakeshore High School, 40 miles north of New Orleans, is in an area zoned for residential use. But local zoning laws didn’t stop the Department of Natural Recourses (DNR) from issuing Helis a drilling permit.

The Louisiana Supreme Court chose not to hear the parish challenge to the appeals court ruling that DNR has the right to issue a drilling permit despite local zoning ordinances. But many parish residents still want the parish to keep fighting to keep fracking out of their neighborhoods.

VIDEO: Drone Video Of Helis Oil Drill Site in St. Tammany Parish, by Phin Percy

Examining the Influence of Fossil Fuel Sponsors on Natural History Museums’ Energy Exhibitions

The art exhibition, “Mining the HMNS: An Investigation by The Natural History Museum,” in Houston, Texas, raises the question: “Is the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences a museum, or a PR front for the fossil fuel industry?”

The exhibition is a collaboration between The Natural History Museum, a mobile museum created by Not An Alternative, a Brooklyn based collective engaged in art and activism, and t.e.j.a.s. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services), a community-based activist organization in East Houston.

It is part of the group show, “Shattering the Concrete: Artists, Activists and Instigators,” at Project Row Houses, an arts organization that explores “art’s role in challenging the current political paradigm and fomenting political change,” on display through June 19.

Shell Oil Spill Cleanup Operation Ends As Voices Against New Gulf Drilling Grow Louder

Five days after Royal Dutch Shell reported an estimated 88,000 gallon crude oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico from its operations in the Glider field, the oil company and the U.S. Coast Guard agreed to halt skimming operations used in the cleanup because they were no longer finding recoverable oil. 

Both entities stated that no environmental damage has been reported, but independent monitors from Greenpeace, Vanishing Earth and Wings Of Care question whether the size and potential impact of the spill are being downplayed. 

News of Shell’s oil spill 90 miles south of Louisiana’s Timbalier Island came the day before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hosted a final week of public meetings on the Gulf Coast to give the public a chance to comment on its Five Year Plan 2017-2022 oil leasing program. Its plan calls for lease sales of 47 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas companies for offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. 

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