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.

Critics Say Louisiana ‘Highjacked’ Climate Resettlement Plan for Isle de Jean Charles Tribe

Read time: 11 mins
Pickup truck headed to Isle de Jean Charles on a flooded Island Road on April 13, 2019.

Albert Naquin, Chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC), often loses sleep over his tribe’s fate as its historic island homeland continues to lose land at an alarming rate. His dream to relocate the tribe from Isle de Jean Charles with a federal grant has turned into a nightmare.

After helping the Louisiana Office of Community Development (OCD) win a $98 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Tribe no longer wants to be associated with the State’s project, which included $48 million earmarked to relocate the IDJC Tribe. 

Outraged, New Coalition Emerges Against Louisiana’s Expanding—and Polluting—Petrochemical Industry

Read time: 8 mins
Coalition Against Death Alley protest in front of Mosaic fertilizer plant in St. James Parish

“Take a deep breath” is common advice for helping people to relax. However, that advice has the opposite effect on some citizens who live in heavily polluted Louisiana communities along the Mississippi River. There, a new coalition is emerging from a growing awareness of — and discontent with — the potential health impacts of living alongside the expanding petrochemical industry lining the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The 80-mile stretch along the river known as Louisiana’s “Petrochemical Corridor” is often referred to as “Cancer Alley.” Simmering frustrations among its communities, which are exposed to the industry’s pollution, recently led the new coalition of environmental and civil rights activists and Louisiana residents to rebrand it “Death Alley.”

'I Wouldn’t Be Anywhere Else’: Students Around the World Strike for the Climate

Read time: 8 mins
Student Berelian Karimian organized the student climate strike in New Orleans

With contributions from Ashley Braun and Mat Hope.

On March 15 droves of students around the world walked out of school to protest politicians’ inaction on climate change, with approximately one million people participating in the strikes, according to organizers. From Sydney to Stockholm, students had planned more than 1,600 school strikes in over 100 countries, inspired by the weekly Friday climate protests of Swedish student Greta Thunberg.

And in New Orleans, Louisiana, a small but resolute group of students and supporters gathered a few blocks from Lusher Middle and High School, on St. Charles Avenue, one of the city’s most famous thoroughfares, to confront their state’s heightened urgency to stop climate change or face losing the land they are standing on.

Entergy Gas Plant Opponents Question Integrity of New Orleans City Council as It Gives Final Approval

Read time: 7 mins
Larry J. Morgan, a New Orleans resident who opposes Entergy’s gas plant, holds up an American flag after he speaks to New Orleans City Council

On February 21, the New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to uphold approval of Entergy’s proposed natural gas power plant, which faces a growing number of lawsuits, and passed a resolution to impose a $5 million fine on the company for its role in a paid-actors scandal.

Before the vote, in nearly three hours of often emotional testimony mostly against the plant, many contended that the $5 million fine was not a sufficient punishment. This was in light of the council’s commissioned investigation, which concluded the company “knew or should have known” that a subcontractor was paying actors to support its proposed power plant at council meetings.

Opponents called for the contentious project’s permitting process to start again, in the interest of fairness, and questioned the council’s integrity, given several members’ past ties to Entergy.

Entergy Poised to Get Green Light for Gas Plant Despite Role in Paying Actors in Astroturf Campaign

Read time: 7 mins
Protesters of the proposed Entergy New Orleans gas plant at a city council meeting

Updated 2/22/2019: On February 21, after over two hours of testimony mostly against Entergy’s proposed gas plant, the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously  to let the company keep its permit despite the paid actors scandal, clearing the way for the project to proceed. 

Sparks flew at a New Orleans City Council’s utility committee meeting on Valentine’s Day, compelling the committee to delay voting on a resolution that would scrap plans to rescind the permit for Entergy’s proposed $210 million natural gas power plant in exchange for a $5 million fine.

The contentious permit was awarded to Entergy, which provides power to the city, on March 18, 2018, but the city council's third-party investigation of Entergy found the allegations that the company took part in an astroturf campaign to influence the vote for its proposed New Orleans East gas plant to be true. The investigation concluded that the company was responsible for hiring paid actors, who were wearing t-shirts supporting the plant, to fill council chambers and speak in support of the project.

Louisiana and Isle de Jean Charles Tribe Seek to Resolve Differing Visions for Resettling ‘Climate Refugees’

Read time: 13 mins
Edison Dardar, member of the Tribal Council, fishing near his home on the Isle de Jean Charles

After DeSmog broke the news that the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC) was considering ending its partnership in a $48 million climate change resettlement project, talks have restarted between the Louisiana Office of Community Development (OCD) and the Tribe in an attempt to fix the rift.

On January 24, Pat Forbes, executive director of the OCD, met with IDJC Chief Albert Naquin and local officials. “The door is back open to find common ground,” Chief Naquin told me after the meeting.

At stake is the success of the first federally funded resettlement project meant as a template for coastal communities facing rising sea levels from climate change.

Isle de Jean Charles Tribe Turns Down Funds to Relocate First US 'Climate Refugees’ as Louisiana Buys Land Anyway

Read time: 14 mins
Aerial view of Isle de Jean Charles

The announcement that the State of Louisiana had purchased land for a resettlement project spearheaded by the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC) reached the Tribe’s executive secretary, Chantel Comardelle, via an emailed press release. The news hit her like a slap in the face.

Despite being involved with the project from the beginning, she received no direct notification. She assumed the State hadn’t told IDJC Tribe Chief Albert Naquin directly either and relayed the news to him. Both took offense for not being notified directly of the purchase's completion, though they were aware of, and had concerns about, the State's plan to buy the property.**

The way Comardelle received the news is indicative of why the IDJC Tribe recently told the federal government, which is funding the move of America’s so-called first “climate change refugees,” that the tribal community is turning down the $48 million federal offer and withdrawing from the State’s Isle de Jean Charles resettlement project.

Louisiana Sheriff Who Criticized Pipeline Opponents Is Ordered to Release Records on Standing Rock Visit

Read time: 5 mins
Law enforcement officers next to pipeline opponents at a Louisiana Department of Natural Resources permit hearing for the Bayou Bridge project on February 8.

On December 27, a state* appeals court ordered a Louisiana’s sheriff’s department and its sheriff to release information about its officers’ trip to North Dakota during the heated protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016. The extended, indigenous-led protests near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation drew a highly militarized response from public and private law enforcement. Out-of-state cops, including those from Louisiana’s St. Charles Parish, flooded North Dakota to support it via an interstate agreement.

The latest move reversed a decision by a district court, which denied a public records request made by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a human rights law firm which has worked on behalf of environmental groups* in Louisiana, after parish law enforcement spoke out against Dakota Access pipeline opponents and endorsed the Bayou Bridge pipeline, a similar oil pipeline in Louisiana.

Fossil Fuels and Climate Denial Still Reign in Louisiana Despite Scientists’ Dire Warnings for the State

Read time: 7 mins
Christmas lights on homes across from the Meraux Refinery in Meraux, Louisiana

Louisiana is ground zero for the devastating impacts of climate change. Even though the state is already feeling the costly impacts to life and property due to extreme weather and an eroding coastline linked to a warming planet, its government continues to ignore the primary cause — human use of fossil fuels.

The impacts to the region, such as worsening floods, heat waves, and sea level rise, will only be intensified as the globe continues warming, warn federal scientists in the latest National Climate Assessment report.

But instead of heeding scientists’ warnings, Louisiana’s government continues to welcome the prospects of new billion-dollar petrochemical plants, liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, and an oil export hub, all without a mention of their climate change impacts. 

What America Still Stands to Lose as Zinke Leaves Interior and Ex-Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt Stands by

Read time: 7 mins
Anti-Trump graffiti at Grand Staircase-Escalante

With the resignation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, environmental and public lands advocates are asking: Will the new leader be any better for the environment than the previous one? And from their perspective, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

David Bernhardt, the current Deputy Interior Secretary, a former oil industry lobbyist, is likely to become Acting Secretary when Zinke leaves at the end of the year. He shares the same types of conflicts of interest his boss does. The Western Values Project (WVP), a pro-public lands group, has documented Bernhardt’s many conflicts, illustrating how his work helps special interest groups — including some of his former clients — in advancing agendas that often undermine protections for public lands and wildlife.

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