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.

Residents of Louisiana’s Cancer Alley Join Climate Movement In Call For Environmental Justice

Read time: 7 mins

On September 8,  “Rise for Climate” events took place in 95 countries around the world, pressing leaders to take action on climate change and other environmental issues, a week before a global summit on climate change in San Francisco.

Thousands turned out at over 800 actions spearheaded by 350.org, an environmental advocacy group,

Alaina Boyett, a member of 350 New Orleans, a local affiliate of 350.org, organized two events dubbed “Rise For Cancer Alley.”  Over 100 people were in attendance, which pleased Boyett. “Today Cancer Alley residents got a chance to tell their stories to a larger audience,” she told me, which was her goal. “I wanted to amplify the voices of people who often don’t feel they are being listened to.” 

Supercharged by Pollution, Florida’s Toxic Algae Crisis Continues Unabated

Read time: 8 mins
Fish kill on South Lido Beach, Florida.

Covering stuff up doesn’t make it go away,” said Lilly Womble, an 18-year-old on vacation on Florida’s Sanibel Island. The island is world renowned for its sea shells but that day we were watching employees from the Sanibel Moorings Resort pull a sheet over a dead loggerhead sea turtle on the beach behind the hotel. One of the men covering the turtle said that people had seen it long enough, and he didn’t want it to scare kids.

I think it is better if kids see what we are doing to the planet,” Womble told me. “Maybe seeing the dead turtle will make them pay attention to the environment.” Her 9-year-old sister Ellie agreed, adding that “covering the turtle won’t stop other turtles from dying.”

Earlier that day the sisters had been on a charter fishing boat 10 miles off Sanibel Island’s coast, where they saw lots of dead fish, large and small, and another dead sea turtle floating on the Gulf of Mexico’s surface. Though they caught some fish, their father, an avid fisherman, had his daughters throw them back. He explained to them that it may be years before marine life can recover from the impacts of the ongoing explosion of toxic algae that already has killed hundreds of tons of fish and other sea life washing up on Florida’s southwest coast.

Fueled by Pollution and Unsound Policies, Toxic Algae Overtakes Florida Beaches and Waterways

Read time: 9 mins
Sunset over a canal in Cape Coral, Florida, filled with blue green algae.

Florida is in the midst of a still-unfolding water pollution catastrophe. Many formerly picture-perfect beaches and posh waterfront neighborhoods are now surreal toxic landscapes where the smell is so pungent, it can make you nauseous.

Parts of South Florida are being inundated by harmful algal blooms, which affect both public health and marine life, including red tide (caused by the alga Karenia brevis) and blue-green algae (more precisely known as cyanobacteria, or Microcystis, which are technically bacteria but commonly referred to as algae).

While both types of toxin-producing algae are normal parts of their environments, the crisis is not. Water pollution and climate change are fueling this supersized toxic algae mess.

Years After EPA Cited Health Risks From Chemical Plant, Is Enough Being Done to Protect its Louisiana Neighbors?

Read time: 10 mins
Denka Performance Elastomer plant, located in LaPlace, Louisiana.

What should be done about a chemical plant in Louisiana’s St. John the Baptist Parish that releases chloroprene — a chemical so toxic that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined nearby residents face the highest risk in the country of developing cancer from air pollution?

Still No Evacuation Plan for Vulnerable Residents at End of Louisiana’s Bayou Bridge Pipeline

Read time: 6 mins
Ethel M. Harris, a long-time resident of St. James, Louisiana

Sharon Lavigne and Geraldine Mayho took me to meet some of the most vulnerable members of their community, handicapped residents of St. James, Louisiana, who live near a terminal where the Bayou Bridge pipeline will end. “These people have no way of getting out if there is a spill or explosion,” Lavigne told me. She explained with only one road in and out of the area, if the pipeline fails or an industrial accident occurs, “we are all trapped back here.” 

Court Reaffirms Bayou Bridge Pipeline OK to Cut Through America’s Largest River Swamp

Read time: 6 mins
Julie Dermansky standing on a cypress tree stump in the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana

A day before a federal court reaffirmed Bayou Bridge LLC could keep building an oil pipeline through Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin, I stood on a cypress tree stump there, viewing the destroyed trees which pipeline opponents were trying to save. 

On both sides of the Bayou Bridge pipeline’s right-of-way, a path of shredded trees cut through the massive river swamp — the nation’s largest — home to abundant wildlife and fishing grounds for wild crawfish. 

In Louisiana's Vanishing Wetlands, a Promise of Ecotourism That Locals Say Reeks of Greenwashing

Read time: 8 mins
Metal pelican on a dock in Manchac, Louisiana

Manchac, Louisiana, is located on a narrow strip of land between two brackish lakes, surrounded by cypress trees and abundant wildlife. About 43 miles northwest of New Orleans, Manchac’s picturesque wetlands — like the rest of Louisiana’s coast — are endangered, with their latest threat, according to some, coming from a resort-style development marketed as “ecotourism” and local economic savior.

What could be wrong with building a hotel and housing development for 2,000 people in environmentally sensitive wetlands, which by their very nature, are located in a flood zone?

Under Scrutiny for Astroturfing Campaign, Entergy Takes Heat for Missed Clean Energy Goals and Power Outages

Read time: 8 mins
Site where Entergy Plans to build a natural gas power plant in New Orleans East

At a June 28 meeting, New Orleans regulators put the city’s public utility Entergy in the hot seat over increasing power outages and slow progress on clean energy goals. City councilmembers showed little patience for the embattled company, which currently is under investigation for its role in paying actors to show support for its proposed $210 million natural gas power plant, approved by the council on March 8.

Louisiana Homeowner Left to Hold Bayou Bridge Pipeline Accountable for Damaging her Home

Read time: 8 mins
Melinda Tillies on her porch, in view of Bayou Bridge pipeline construction

Melinda Tillies learned about the controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline the day its construction began next to her home a couple months ago. As workers prepared the site for the pipeline, the activity made it feel like an earthquake had struck her home, she said, waking her family as their home shook on its foundation, cracking walls and dislodging tiles.

Tillies lives in Youngsville, Louisiana, a suburb of Lafayette. She purchased her dream house just over a year ago, but now she regrets buying it. “The pipeline is way too close to my house for comfort. If I had any idea there would be a pipeline built next to my house, I wouldn't have bought it,” she told me. 

Opponents Ask Court to Stop Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction in Louisiana Community During Ongoing Legal Battle

Read time: 8 mins
Protesters with banners stop construction at a Bayou Bridge pipeline site in Maurice, Louisiana

Today, residents of St. James, Louisiana, and groups opposing the Bayou Bridge pipeline petitioned a state court to halt construction on the oil pipeline along its final 18 miles. This segment falls in an area known as the coastal zone and requires a special state permit.

The court previously ruled against the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for issuing a permit that did not follow state guidelines and consider if the project had adequate environmental and emergency response plans for the town of St. James in case of a pipeline failure.

Opponents thought the court’s order would bring a stop to construction but that hasn’t been the case. As a result, today’s petition asks for a pause in construction until all the permit’s conditions are met.

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