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.

Breaking: Denton City Council Rejects Fracking Ban: Referendum Will Be on November Ballot

The failure of the Denton city council to pass a fracking ban in Denton, Texas, after a meeting that went on for over eight hours last night, was no surprise to Cathy McMullen, Denton resident and president of Denton Drilling Awareness Group.

“The vote was theater,” McMullen told DeSmogBlog.

Councilman Kevin Roden was the only one to call for ban. His motion was not seconded. A motion to deny the ban was approved 5 to 2, followed by an unanimous vote to put the ban initiative on the next ballot.

After a landmark ruling in New York State Supreme Court that upheld a city-imposed ban on fracking in Dryden, N.Y, the battle to ban fracking in Denton is being closely watched.


Reagan Stinson, in front of her home in a subdivision at Bonnie Brae Street and Vintage Boulevard, across from an EagleRidge Energy site. Stinson told DeSmogBlog the constant activity at the site made it hard for her to sleep. ©2014 Julie Dermansky  

Denton, a college town, sits on top of the natural gas-rich Barnett Shale. Within the city limits, there are fracking sites less then 300 feet from people's homes.

Dozens of residents who spoke at the meeting told city council how fracking has destroyed the quality of life for those who live near the frack sites. The meeting was attended by over 500 people who heard first-hand testimony of health issues, noise, traffic problems and reports of diminishing property values.

McMullen's group gathered close to 2,000 signatures for an initiative to ban new fracking within Denton's city limits. With all signatures verified, the initiative was presented to the city council resulting in last night’s mandatory council vote.

Breaking: Triumph For Citizens in Florida As Hughes Oil Company Drops Fracking Project

Naples fracking by Julie Dermansky

On Friday morning, Dan A. Hughes Oil Company and the Collier Resources Company agreed to terminate their lease agreement, with the exception of the Collier Hogan 20-3H well, next to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida. 

Hughes Oil dropped its plans to drill an exploratory well adjacent to the Golden Gates Estates development.

“We are very happy that Hughes won’t drill next to our home,” Pamela Duran, who lives 1,000 feet away from the previously proposed drill site, told DeSmogBlog.

“I think the whole neighborhood feels like there is a heavy weight taken off our shoulders,” she said.


Pamela Duran in front of her house in Naples, Florida. ©2014 Julie Dermansky

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.

Breaking: TransCanada Shuts Down Southern Leg of Keystone XL Pipeline, Raising “Suspicions”

KXL install in TX copyright Julie Dermansky

TransCanada shut down the southern leg of the Keystone XL (now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project) on June 2 for “routine work,” according to Reuters.  

“Pipelines aren't normally shut down for maintenance shortly after being started up. They may have planned it but something is wrong,” an industry insider told DeSmogBlog. “A two day shutdown on a new line raises suspicions.”

The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration was unable to provide an answer to DeSmogBlog when asked to confirm if the shutdown was due to routine work today.

Questions Raised About Integrity of Keystone XL's Southern Route After Conditions Added for Northern Leg

The Keystone XL pipeline's southern route passes under Eleanor Fairchild's Texas property, so she got angry when she learned that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has added two new conditions to the 57 already required for construction of the pipeline's northern route.

“My fears were confirmed,” Fairchild told DeSmogBlog. “The regulators knew the southern route wasn’t built safely. It is like they have said to hell with us in Texas and Oklahoma.”


Eleanor Fairchild was defiant when TransCanada started installing the pipeline on her land. She kept a watchful eye during the installation and repair of the pipeline. ©2012 Julie Dermansky

Julia Trigg Crawford, another Texas landowner who fought TransCanada in the courts, shared a link to an Associated Press story that focuses on the two new conditions. “Read this ASAP to see why Texans and Oklahomans were so outraged about TransCanada's abysmal construction record on the southern leg of the Keystone XL,” she wrote.

Julia Trigg Crawford
Julia Trigg Crawford was labeled an activist by TransCanada attorney James Freemand. She considers herself a patriot for standing up for all Americans' property rights. ©2013 Julie Dermansky

The conditions require TransCanada to hire a third-party contractor chosen by PHMSA to monitor the construction and make reports to the U.S. government on whether the work is sound. Additionally, TransCanada must “develop and implement a quality management system that would apply to the construction of the entire Keystone XL project in the U.S. to ensure that this pipeline is — from the beginning — built to the highest standards by both Keystone personnel and its many contractors.”

The Tar Sands Blockade, an activist group that independently monitored the pipeline installation after failing to stop it, wrote on its blog that the new conditions suggest there are serious problems with the southern route.

“TransCanada’s internal quality management and PHMSA’s external inspection program were inadequate, if not fatally flawed. The failures implied by these new conditions beg the question: If TransCanada wasn’t adequately inspecting its own work, and PHMSA didn’t have the third-party inspection company it needed for effective oversight, was anyone actually watching TransCanada?”

The Florida Everglades: A New Frontline for Fracking?

Fracking Floride everglades

Pamela and Jamie Duran of Naples, Fla., had not spent much time worrying about fracking. Like most Floridians, they'd been repeatedly told it couldn’t happen there. Until it did.

Texas-based Dan A. Hughes Oil Company recently used a form of “enhanced extraction,” which fits the description of fracking, in Naples, the gateway to the Everglades. The drilling took place in the Sunniland Trend, an underground limestone formation with an oil reserve stretching from Fort Myers to Miami.

Pamela Duran in front of her home
Pamela Duran in front of her home, 1000 feet from a proposed drill site in Naples, Florida. ©2104 Julie Dermansky 

The Durans were aware there was oil in the area, but the realtors who sold them their house seven years ago never mentioned the possibility of new drilling. Not far from them, on Oil Well Road, is a park where Florida's very first oil derrick is on display with a historic plaque.

Photos of Superstorms and Extreme Events, Inspired by Years of Living Dangerously

The release of Showtime's “Years of Living Dangerously” series about climate change inspired me to edit a collection of my climate change related photographs. They include the aftermath of extreme storms and drought.

Although the United Nations has acknowledged the threat of climate change, as have President Obama and other leaders around the world, the fossil fuel industry forges ahead with business as usual, apparently without real concern for impending catastrophic change. 

Focusing on a wide range of issues, from the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry to the destruction of forests, these photos serve as a warning call to the growing number of imminent disasters we face. 

“Years of Living Dangerously” episode six airs tonight at 8pm on Showtime. Brendan DeMelle, DeSmogBlog's Executive Director and Managing Editor, was interviewed by host America Ferrera for the segment airing tonight called “Against the Wind.” DeMelle and Center for Media and Democracy executive director Lisa Graves talk with Ferrera about the attacks on renewable energy by the climate denial group Heartland Institute.

You can watch episode one of the series for free here:

My photo slideshow is below.
  

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.

Residents Deliver Petition to Ban Fracking to City Hall in Denton, Texas

A petition to ban hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in Denton, Texas, is being submitted to City Hall today, paving the way for Denton to become the first city in Texas to prohibit the controversial method of extracting natural gas.

Members of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, who are pushing for a ballot initiative, collected more than 1,871 signatures in support of a fracking ban within Denton city limits — three times more than were required and just 300 shy of the number of ballots cast in the last municipal election.

Once the signatures are certified, the city council will have to vote on the proposed ban. If council adopts a ban, fracking will be illegal inside Denton's city limits. If council votes against the ban, the initiative will likely be on the ballot in November, giving the public a chance to vote on the matter.

We hope the council will vote to approve the ban,” said Ed Soph, a member of the Denton Awareness Group. “But at a minimum, we hope they’ll respect their constituents and allow the Denton residents a chance to vote on the ban, not try to block it on a legal technicality.”

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.

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