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.

Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction Mess Poses Major Risk to Atchafalaya Basin

Read time: 6 mins

It is a crime against nature,” Jody Meche, president of the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West, said while scanning the Bayou Bridge pipeline right-of-way on the west side of the Atchafalaya Basin, the country’s largest river swamp in a designated National Heritage Area. 

His voice trembled with rage as he told me that he was speaking for all the animals living in the basin that can’t speak for themselves.

“The Bayou Bridge pipeline has left a dam across the Atchafalaya Basin affecting the fisheries, the birds, the otters, minks, raccoons, and nutria,” Meche said.

Already Burning for a Month, Fracked Gas Blowout in Louisiana Could Last Two More Months

Read time: 7 mins
Gas well blowout burning in Louisiana on October 1

For the fifth week since the blowout began, a large flare is still burning**update below** at the site of GEP Haynesville, LLC’s blown out fracked gas wells in northwestern Louisiana. The blowout occurred on August 30, shortly after the company began a frack job, igniting two adjacent wells. A state official estimated that efforts to contain the blowout could take another two months, or more.

Greta’s UN Climate Summit Speech Successfully Predicted More Business as Usual From World Leaders

Read time: 7 mins
Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Action Summit

On Monday, the United Nations Climate Action Summit opened with a glossy video projected around the room. It hawked a hopeful message that climate catastrophe can be averted. With the lights turned down and music turned up, for a few minutes the summit felt like an IMAX movie experience. 

Unfortunately, the video is symbolic of the summit itself — all talk, little action,” Jesse Bragg, media director at Corporate Accountability, said via email.

A scathing speech by Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg and the passing presence of President Trump upstaged presentations from world leaders, who in some cases did announce pledges to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 but overall failed to offer visionary solutions for the rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

New York City Climate Strike in Photos

Read time: 3 mins
Climate Strike in New York City

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.  

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, inspired millions of students worldwide to take part in climate strikes on Friday, September 20 to demand politicians take urgent steps to stop climate change. An estimated 250,000 strikers marched in New York City from Foley Square to Battery Park. 

The global climate strikes took place before the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City. The opening session of the summit is on September 21, with the fitting kickoff: Young People at the Frontlines. Greta Thunberg will be addressing the assembly on September 23.

Many of New York City’s student strikers expressed fear about their future when I asked them about their motivation for joining the strike.

Fracked Gas Well Blowout in Louisiana Likely to Burn for the Next Month

Read time: 8 mins
Fracked gas well blowout in Haynesville Shale Louisiana

A fracked natural gas well in northwest Louisiana has been burning for two weeks after suffering a blowout. A state official said the fire will likely burn for the next month before the flames can be brought under control by drilling a relief well.

Following Pushback, Chinese-owned Chemical Giant Pulls Plug on Massive Plastics Project in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley

Read time: 5 mins

Chinese giant Wanhua Chemical officially withdrew its plans to build a $1.25 billion plastics manufacturing complex in St. James, Louisiana, in the heart of the already industrialized Cancer Alley. The news bought relief to opponents of the plant. 

I’m glad they won’t be coming,” Eve Butler, a lifelong resident of St. James Parish, told me in a call. “I live straight across the river from where the plant was going to be built.” Butler was part of a group of residents, local community groups, and environmental advocacy nonprofits that took part in a concentrated battle to stop the Wanhua plant from being built. 

Another Death in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley Brings Environmental Activists Together to Honor One of Their Own

Read time: 7 mins
Casket with Geraldine Mayho’s body being laid to rest in St. James, Louisiana.

On August 7, after Geraldine Mayho’s funeral, her body was laid to rest in the St. James Catholic Cemetery in southern Louisiana, across the street from a cluster of oil storage tanks. The tanks are like those that surround the Burton Lane neighborhood in St. James where she had lived, and are emblematic of the type of polluting industry she spent her last years rallying against.

New Concerns Raised by Opponents Delay Wanhua’s $1.25 Billion Plastic Complex in Louisiana

Read time: 7 mins
Pastor Harry Joseph speaking at a St. James Parish Council meeting on July 24.

Look at what is coming into the Parish, instead of saying ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’—it is time to say ‘No,’” Pastor Harry Joseph told the St. James Parish Council on July 24. He implored councilmembers to consider freshly unveiled public health and economic concerns before they reaffirmed a permit allowing yet another petrochemical plant in a southern Louisiana community fed up with its already rapid industrialization.

Joseph, pastor of Mount Triumph Baptist Church in St. James, is one of the plaintiffs appealing the parish council’s permit granted May 20 to Wanhua Chemical, which is planning to build a $1.25 billion plastics factory on the banks of the Mississippi River. During the appeal, new information about the project caused the council to halt a vote on repealing the permit. Instead, it sent the matter back for reconsideration to the parish planning commission, which had previously granted the project permission.

Latest Gulf Storm Brings Tough Choices for Residents of Disappearing Isle de Jean Charles

Read time: 9 mins
Resident returns home amid floodwaters on Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana

While most of Louisiana was spared Barry’s wrath last week, Isle de Jean Charles, a quickly eroding strip of land among coastal wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico, was not. A storm surge swept over the island, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans, early in the morning on July 13 before Barry was upgraded from a tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane.

On July 15, I met with Albert Naquin, Chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC) and Wenceslaus Billiot Jr., the Tribe’s deputy chief, to travel to the island and assess the damages. That afternoon, we made our way through the receding waters that still covered Island Road, the only route connecting the island to the mainland. Days after the storm, some parts of the road on the island were still submerged in three feet of water.

Louisiana Braces for a Storm While Weighing New Fossil Fuel Projects

Read time: 7 mins

Yesterday, I stopped writing another story for DeSmog to get ready for what could likely become this year’s first hurricane in the U.S. 

I live in Mandeville, Louisiana, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain across from New Orleans. My home is above sea level, unlike much of New Orleans, so I’m at a much lower risk for flooding impacts than residents of a city nearly synonymous with flooding.

However, like most residents in south coastal Louisiana, I’m bracing myself for a sustained barrage from the sky, as bands of rain and wind from Tropical Storm Barry arrived in parts of the state this morning. The entire Louisiana coast could be hit with the season’s first hurricane by Saturday.

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