Julie Dermansky

Primary tabs

Julie Dermansky's picture

Personal Information

Twitter URL
http://www.twitter.com/jsdart
Profile Info
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.

COVID-19 Fears Intensified for New Mexico Family Living in Fracking Industry’s Shadow

Read time: 10 mins
Penny Aucoin, Carl George, and their daughter Skyler in front of their home in New Mexico’s Permian Basin.

Penny Aucoin and her husband Carl Dee George have worried about living near oil and gas producing sites in New Mexico's Permian Basin since the sites began springing up near their home six years ago. They have wondered what effect the industrial pollution might have on them and their son and daughter — even more so now with the COVID-19 pandemic — but with no money to pick up and relocate, they have remained in their home.  

Louisiana’s Cancer Alley Community At Increased Risk of COVID-19

Read time: 6 mins

Our people aren’t prepared for a pandemic,” Robert Taylor, executive director of the Concerned Citizens of St. John The Baptist Parish, told me a couple of days before the governor of Louisiana issued a stay-at-home order due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the state.

“Many of us have cancer and weakened immune systems from the chemical onslaught we endure everyday. This could be a death sentence for many of us,” Taylor said.

A Faltering Fracking Industry, on the Verge of a Bailout, Mixes Patriotism and Oil in the Permian

Read time: 6 mins
Oil industry worker hat with American flag in Permian Basin

Signs equating patriotism with the oil and gas industry are abundant in the Permian Basin, one of the United States’ most prolific oil and natural gas plays. 

There, the messages on billboards, trucks, and the sides of rest stops suggest that supporting the industry that’s one of the largest contributors to the climate crisis is a matter of American pride.  

Momentum Builds to Monitor Cancer Alley Air Pollution in Real Time After Exxon Refinery Fire in Louisiana

Read time: 8 mins
Entrance to ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery on February 19, 2020, a week after a fire at the facility.

A large fire at ExxonMobil's Baton Rouge oil refinery late on February 11 lit up the sky for miles and continued until dawn. The night of the fire, ExxonMobil representatives claimed that air monitoring inside the plant and in surrounding neighborhoods did not detect the release of harmful concentrations of chemicals, a claim echoed by first responders and state regulators. What unfolded, however, reinforced a growing community movement to require real-time independent air pollution monitoring at industrial facilities.

Advocates Call on EPA to Expand Air Pollution Monitoring of Refineries After 10 Found Emitting High Benzene Levels

Read time: 7 mins
View of Chalmette Refining from a ferry

Available for the first time, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air monitoring data from over 100 U.S. oil refineries shows that 10 facilities have exceeded federal limits for cancer-causing benzene along their borders. The data, which raise health concerns about the communities adjoining these refineries, were released in a February 6 report by the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group of former EPA enforcement attorneys, public interest lawyers, and community organizers.

Lt. General Russel Honoré, founder of Louisiana’s Green Army, a grassroots anti-pollution coalition, hailed the report as a great tool for communities that live near refineries to press for the monitoring of additional toxic chemicals. 

The Hunt for Fugitive Emissions in the Permian’s Oilfields

Read time: 10 mins
Sharon Wilson in the Permian with her optical gas imaging camera

Meaningful regulation of the fracking industry is a non sequitur to Sharon Wilson, organizer for Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. She supports her employer’s efforts to encourage tougher industry regulations, but believes that humankind needs to keep oil and gas in the ground if there is any chance of meeting the benchmarks set by the Paris Climate Accord to limit global warming. 

After spending a couple days with Wilson as she monitored for methane leaks at oil and gas industry sites in the Permian oilfields of West Texas, it is easy to understand why she believes that talk of meaningful regulation of the industry lacks meaning itself.  

Activists Find Evidence of Formosa Plant in Texas Still Releasing Plastic Pollution Despite $50 Million Settlement

Read time: 8 mins
Diane Wilson kayaking along the banks of Cox Creek near Formosa's Point Comfort, Texas plastics plant

On the afternoon of January 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas. After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region’s waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.   

The Plastics Giant and the Making of an Environmental Justice Warrior

Read time: 23 mins
Sharon Lavigne holds a sign that says 'Stop Formosa'

This report was produced as part of ivoh’s Restorative Narrative Fellowship.

On the evening of January 6, Louisiana state regulators issued 15 key permits to the Taiwanese petrochemical corporation Formosa for its $9.4 billion plastics manufacturing complex proposed for the historically black area of St. James Parish. Word spread today about the approvals, which pave the way for the project’s construction, opposed by local and national environmental advocates.

Sharon Lavigne, a demure, 67-year-old recently retired special-ed teacher born and raised in St. James Parish, cried when she heard the news. Her community along the Mississippi River is already saddled with petrochemical plants and oil storage tanks, which release known carcinogens into the air that she fears are making her and her family sick.

I spoke to Lavigne, who has tirelessly fought the project since the fall of 2018, just after news broke of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s (LDEQ) decisions for Formosa.

From the BP Spill to a Disappearing Island: A Decade of Covering Climate and the Environment in Louisiana

Read time: 7 mins
Cemetery next to the Marathon Refinery, in Reserve, Louisiana, in the heart of Cancer Alley

What happens in Louisiana doesn’t stay in Louisiana. The state's role in the oil and gas industry impacts both global markets and global climate change. It’s also on the front line of climate change impacts due to sea level rise and is vulnerable to storm systems intensified by global warming. Here is a selection of photos from a decade of my coverage of environmental issues in Louisiana.

The decade started with the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The impacts from the BP oil spill are still taking a toll on the environment, and a number of people exposed to the oil and the dispersant used to break up the oil continue to fight the company for compensation due to their health claims.

2019 in Photos: Impacts from Environmental Rollbacks and the Growing Climate Activism

Read time: 7 mins
Christmas tree on tombstone in cemetery near coal power plant

Here is a selection of photos I shot for DeSmog in 2019, another year when arguably not enough collective action was taken to protect the planet from global warming. 

Throughout 2019 the Trump administration continued to roll back environmental standards. Meanwhile, advocacy groups and activists ramped up the battle for clean air and water and a livable climate. 

Pages