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.

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.

Permit Hearing for Taiwanese Plastic Plant in Louisiana Turns into a Referendum on Environmental Racism

Read time: 9 mins
St. James Parish resident Rita Copper holds a photo of a friend who died of cancer

You don’t give a shit about brown and black people,” Louisiana activist Cherri Foytlin told government officials during a heated public permit hearing for a proposed plastics plant in St. James Parish. The parish is a predominately African-American community on the banks of the Mississippi River and has undergone rapid industrialization in recent years.

This is a dog-and-pony show and everybody in this room knows it,” she asserted, after the hearing officer cut off the sound system while Foytlin was giving her public comments. The officer, O.C. Smith, attorney for the Louisiana Office of Coastal Management, did this declaring that the hearing was no longer on the record.

Bayou Bridge Charged $450 for Trespassing and Building Oil Pipeline Without Permission on Louisiana Parcel

Read time: 7 mins
Dean Wilson of the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper on the plaintiffs’ land in the basin

After three landowners filed a legal challenge against Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC’s right to build a pipeline on their land — which it did without their permission — the case concluded this week with a very small fine for the company.

On December 6, Louisiana State Judge Keith Comeaux fined the pipeline company $450 for trespassing during construction before properly obtaining permission. The judge also granted the company the permission it sought to expropriate the land it had already built on.

In Southwest Texas, the Fracking Industry Encroaches on Small Towns, Remote Wilderness, and Clear Skies

Read time: 10 mins
Church in Fort Davis, Texas, at the base of the Davis Mountains.

Sue and James Franklin run a rock and mineral shop in Balmorhea, Texas, a small picturesque town known for hosting the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. Their shop is about 15 miles from their home in Verhalen, a place they describe as too tiny to be called a town — only about 10 people live there. The couple never imagined the area, on the southwest edge of the Permian Basin, would become an industrial wasteland, but they say that transformation has begun the last two years. 

Texas’ latest oil boom, driven by the fracking industry and crude oil exports, has brought skyrocketing air, noise, and light pollution to small southwest Texas towns and the surrounding lands which are known for majestic mountain views  and brilliant starry night skies. With the oil industry come bright lights illuminating an otherwise almost perfectly dark sky. The Franklins’ home on a narrow rural road is now surrounded by fracking sites. On a clear day they can see 20 of these sites from their 10-acre plot of land.

Making Visible the Globe-warming Gases of the Permian Fracking Boom

Read time: 10 mins
Sharon Wilson with her FLIR camera at a fracking site and a methane flare in the background

There is an LED sign at a Chase Bank in downtown Midland, Texas, the heart of the Permian Basin, which quantifies the current oil boom. It alternates between current rig count, the price of oil, and the price of gasoline. On October 30, the day I arrived, the sign informed me there were 1,068 drilling rigs across the United States, of which 489 — nearly half — are in the Permian Basin.

Though the flashing sign is meant to celebrate the fracking boom, Sharon Wilson, Texas coordinator of Earthworks, sees it as a warning sign of the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Man Whose Mexico Beach House Was One of Last Standing After Hurricane Michael Calls out Climate Denier Politicians

Read time: 9 mins
Hurricane damaged sign that below says 'there is always hope'

In Mexico Beach, Florida, Russell King’s house is the only beachfront property that survived Hurricane Michael with little damage. But the fact it survived the latest record-breaking hurricane doesn’t give King peace of mind. Can it withstand the next storm that comes its way?

Climate scientists predict that storms will continue to intensify, and King takes this to heart, worrying the next one could take down his house. I met King on October 14, four days after Hurricane Michael made landfall and wiped out a large portion of Mexico Beach, a small town on Florida’s panhandle. The storm swept into the area with winds of up to 155 miles per hour (mph), just two shy of reaching a Category 5 storm designation

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