Levees Not War
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Archive for the ‘Natural Resources’ Category

John Kerry: Climate Change Is ‘World’s Most Fearsome’ Weapon of Mass Destruction

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

climate-change_Image Credit-kwest:Shutterstock

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“When 97 percent of scientists agree on anything, we need to listen, and we need to respond. . . . And the results of our human activity are clear. If you ranked all the years in recorded history by average temperature, . . . you’d see that all 10 of the hottest years on record have actually happened since Google went online in 1998.” —Secretary of State John Kerry in Jakarta, Indonesia, Feb. 16, 2014

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But Will He Oppose Keystone XL Pipeline?

In a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry called climate change “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” and urged international action to combat greenhouse gas emissions.

The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie. It’s warning us; it’s compelling us to act. . . . When I think about the array of . . . global threats . . . terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction—all challenges that know no borders—the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them. . . . 

We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and . . . extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact. . . . This is not opinion. This is about facts. This is about science. The science is unequivocal. . . . 

Notwithstanding the stark choices that we face . . . there is still time. . . . But the window is closing. . . . The United States is prepared to take the lead in bringing other nations to the table.

us-state-kxl-co2-scenarios-When he was a United States senator (1985–2013) and the Democratic candidate for president in 2004, Kerry was a strong advocate for environmental protection and action against climate change. However, as Think Progress points out, his fine-sounding speech “is utterly at odds with State’s logic-twisting Keystone-friendly Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.” Joe Romm of Think Progress writes:

A must-read new analysis by Oil Change International finds that “all of the scenarios used by the State Department” in their Final Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline “result in emissions that put us on a path to 6 degrees C (11°F) of global warming according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).” Talk about mass destruction! 

A report about Kerry’s speech on the BBC’s Global News podcast (2/16/14) includes comments by  environmental correspondent Matt McGrath suggesting that, with President Obama under intense political pressure to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and with a decision possibly to be announced this year (after the 2014 midterm elections?), “this is Kerry laying down [for the eyes of the world] the Obama administration’s green credentials, their determination to get a [climate change] deal in the future.” Kerry’s speech, he said, was not only for an international audience but also for American listeners.

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Back to 2009: How “Hopenhagen” Became “Brokenhagen”

Countdown-Copenhagen1In related news see BBC environmental correspondent Matt McGrath’s report, “Emissions Impossible: Did Spies Sink Key Climate Deal?,” on how the NSA helped U.S. officials monitor the communications of other nations’ negotiators at the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, “according to documents released to a Danish newspaper by [Edward] Snowden.”

“All the spying in the world wouldn’t have secured an agreement in Copenhagen,” said a Danish source of McGrath’s. “We all knew the Gordian knot was that China wouldn’t accept an agreement that omitted the Kyoto Protocol and the US wouldn’t accept one that included it. This was impossible to cut through and everyone knew this beforehand.” 

And so it was that “Hopenhagen” rapidly became “Brokenhagen.”

•  See LNW’s “Copenhagen Climate Accord Better Than Nothing (Sound Familiar?)” (12/19/09), which includes links to many climate-related articles and web sites.

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Photo credit: kwest / Shutterstock

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Honoré Speaks for La. Flood Protection Authority Lawsuit Against Big Oil

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

 

FixTheCoastYouBroke“Put our coast back like you found it”

Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, the keynote speaker for this coming weekend’s Rising Tide conference in New Orleans, has added a further distinction to his already impressive curriculum vitae: He adds his voice to a full-page advertisement published in the Times-Picayune, paid for by Levees.org and the Natural Resources Defense Council, in support of the historic lawsuit filed July 24 in civil district court in Orleans Parish by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East against some 100 oil and energy companies active in Louisiana.

In the ad, Honoré, a native of Pointe Coupee Parish, says:

I wish we could count on our government officials to hold the oil companies resposible. But after more than 100 years of oil operations in our state, our governors and legislators have failed to hold the oil companies accountable. As citizens, the only recourse, you and I have left is the courts. The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East has filed suit against 97 oil companies. The law suit is just asking them to do what our mothers told us growing up: “If you make a mess, you clean it up.”

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“I don’t do politics,” Honoré said in an interview Monday quoted by InsuranceJournal.com. “But I do believe in environmental justice.”

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East has been under intense pressure from Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal to drop the lawsuit, even though the Authority was authorized to proceed with the suit by Louisiana attorney general Buddy Caldwell. Jindal, who has received some $1 million in donations from oil and energy interests, called the lawsuit “nothing but a windfall for a handful of trial lawyers.”

An August 31 feature in The New York Times focused on the lawsuit and the political force being pressed upon SLFPA-E, including its vice president, John M. Barry, historian and author of Rising Tide, a bestselling book on the great Mississippi River flood of 1927.

Levees.org founder Sandy Rosenthal said that Lt. Gen. Honoré was not compensated in any way for the ad or for his support of the lawsuit.

Read All About It: For more about the lawsuit, see our post “Louisiana Flood Protection Agency Sues Big Oil to Repair Wetlands” (7/25/13) and read the New York Times article “Facing Fire Over Challenge to Louisiana’s Oil Industry” (8/31/13).

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The photograph below was taken by our friend Jeffrey of Library Chronicles. Thanks to Jeff for the tip.

 

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Louisiana Flood Protection Agency Sues Big Oil to Repair Wetlands

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

louisiana-coast
Historic case is compared to 1990s litigation against Big Tobacco

About 100 oil and gas companies must pay to repair the Louisiana wetlands damaged by a century of oil exploration and extraction, according to a lawsuit filed July 24 in civil district court in Orleans Parish by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East. The Authority (SLFPA-E) was established by the Louisiana legislature in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina to ensure the integrity of the state’s flood risk management systems.

John M. Barry, vice president of SLFPA-E (and the widely respected author of the award-winning Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America [1998]), said:

“With this lawsuit, the Authority is carrying out its mandate to help protect southern Louisiana by strengthening our first line of defense against catastrophic flooding. That first defensive perimeter is of course the buffer of land and marsh that cuts down hurricane storm surge before it reaches the levees. . . . The industry recognizes that it is responsible for a significant part of the problem. We want energy companies to fix the part of the problem they caused—and which they promised to address. We want them to do what they said they’d do.”

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The suit has been denounced by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who said in a statement that the Authority has “overstepped its authority.” The governor asserted, “We’re not going to allow a single levee board that has been hijacked by a group of trial lawyers to determine flood protection, coastal restoration and economic repercussions for the entire state of Louisiana.”

The state’s attorney general, Buddy Caldwell, however, has authorized SLFPA-E to proceed in filing its suit.

An attorney for the Authority, Gladstone N. Jones III, has successfully brought suit against Big Oil firms in the past. He told Clancy Dubos of Gambit that the suit has the potential to be bigger than the ongoing BP litigation, and, according to The New York Times, Jones said the plaintiffs are seeking damages equal to “many billions of dollars. Many, many billions of dollars.” Dubos writes, “The case ultimately could seek environmental recovery for all oil and gas activity along Louisiana’s coast. If that happens, this case will be to Big Oil what the Tobacco Litigation was to that industry: a game-changer.” (See Further Reading below.)

The lawsuit asserts that the Authority is obligated by law to restore Louisiana’s coastal land areas, and charges that oil, gas, and pipeline companies that have cut at least 10,000 miles of oil and gas canals and pipelines have damaged the state’s environmental buffer zones that formerly protected the state from storm surge and flooding. As experienced in recent hurricanes, Southeastern Louisiana has been rendered vulnerable to frequent and often catastrophic flooding.

Every year Louisiana loses 25 square miles of land—50 acres every day.

1980–2007

Click the map or here to go to a Lens article about the lawsuit and a slide show of the proliferation of 230,000 oil and gas wells in Louisiana between 1901 and 2007.

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Wetlands protect human settlements from hurricane storm surges, which can rise as high as 25 feet. Every 2.5 to 4 miles of wetlands reduce hurricane storm surges by about a foot; measured another way, each mile of marsh reduces storm surges by 3 to 9 inches. Metro New Orleans, home to about 1.5 million, is now protected by a buffer no more than about 20 miles of wetlands.

The suit summarizes the environmental significance of coastal wetlands and the consequences of oil exploration (quoting from Gambit and from SLFPA-E’s press release):

•  “Coastal lands are the natural protective buffer without which the levees that protect the cities and towns of southern Louisiana are left exposed to unabated destructive forces. This protective buffer took 6,000 years to form. Yet . . . it has been brought to the brink of destruction over the course of a single human lifetime. Hundreds of thousands of acres of the coastal lands that once offered protection to south Louisiana are now gone as a result of oil and gas industry activities. . . .

•  “For nearly a century, the oil and gas industry has continuously and relentlessly traversed, dredged, drilled and extracted in coastal Louisiana. It reaps enormous financial gain by exploiting the resources found there, sharing some of that bounty with the many residents whom it employs. Yet it also ravages Louisiana’s coastal landscape. An extensive network of oil and gas access and pipeline canals slashes the coastline at every angle, functioning as a mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction. This canal network injects corrosive saltwater into interior coastal lands, killing vegetation and carrying away mountains of soil. What remains of these coastal lands is so seriously diseased that if nothing is done, it will slip into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of this century, if not sooner. . . .

•  “Oil and gas activities continue to transform what was once a stable ecosystem of naturally occurring bayous, small canals, and ditches into an extensive—and expanding—network of large and deep canals that continues to widen due to Defendants’ ongoing failure to maintain this network or restore the ecosystem to its natural state. That canal network continues to introduce increasingly larger volumes of damaging saltwater, at increasingly greater velocity, ever deeper into Louisiana’s coastal landscape and interior wetlands. The increasing intrusion of saltwater stresses the vegetation that holds wetlands together, weakening—and ultimately killing—that vegetation. Thus weakened, the remaining soil is washed away even by minor storms. The canal network thus comprises a highly effective system of coastal landscape degradation. The product of this network is an ecosystem so seriously diseased that its complete demise is inevitable if no action is taken.” [LNW’s emphasis]

Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune reports, “A study conducted by the late University of New Orleans geologist Shea Penland in 1996 for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Gas Research Institute concluded that about 36 percent of the wetland loss in southeastern Louisiana between 1932 and 1990 was the result of the direct and indirect effects of actions taken by the oil and gas industry.” By a conservative estimate, since 1932 Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of coastal lands, equivalent to the state of Delaware, and if the present rate continues, some 700 more square miles of coastal Louisiana are expected to be lost in coming decades.

 

Barataria Bay

 

John Barry told The Lens’s environmental writer Bob Marshall, “No one denies—not even the oil industry—that the canals they dredged helped cause this problem. . . . Now, people will say there are other causes, and we’re not denying that. The levees on the river, obviously, are a major cause. But the federal government built those levees, and they’ve been spending billions of dollars on better flood protection and coastal restoration projects in this area. What we’re saying to the oil companies is, ‘It’s time for you to step up now for the damage you did.’ ”

The Flood Protection Authority’s lawsuit is grounded in long-established legal principles and in state and federal law, such as the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, and the state Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.

Barry explained to the Times-Picayune that the suit is founded upon three principal legal arguments:

  • Most of the damaging oil, gas and pipeline activities were conducted under federal and state permits that “explicitly require the operators to maintain and restore the canals they dredged,” Barry said. He said the oil and gas industry dredged more than 10,000 miles of canals through the state’s wetlands, which provided pathways for salt water from the Gulf of Mexico to kill fresh and brackish water marshes.
  • The federal Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 prohibits actions that impair the effectiveness of flood protection levees. “Clearly, increasing storm surge makes a levee less effective,” Barry said.
  • A tenet of civil law called “servitude of drainage” prohibits someone taking actions on property that they own or control that sends more water onto someone else’s property. Again, Barry said, the oil and gas projects clearly focus increased storm surge onto the levee system.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East is being represented in its litigation by the law firms Jones, Swanson, Huddell, and Garrison, LLC, of New Orleans; Fishman Haygood Phelps Walmsley Willis & Swanson, LLP, of New Orleans; and Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC, of Lake Charles, La.

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Further Reading

Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East press release

Mark Schleifstein (Times-Picayune), “Historic lawsuit seeks billions in damages from oil, gas, pipeline industries for wetlands losses” (includes PDF of lawsuit + video of John Barry)

Clancy Dubos (Gambit), “Historic lawsuit coming against Big Oil

Bob Marshall (The Lens), “Science to be key factor in lawsuit against oil and gas companies for coastal loss

Mark Schleifstein (Times-Picayune), “East Bank levee authority to file lawsuit Wednesday aimed at getting oil, gas, pipeline firms to restore wetlands and ridges

John Schwartz (New York Times), “Louisiana Agency Sues Dozens of Energy Companies for Damage to Wetlands

National Public Radio, “La. Flood Board Sues Oil Industry Over Wetlands

U.S. Geological Survey, “Wetland Subsidence, Fault Reactivation, and Hydrocarbon Production in the U.S. Gulf Coast Region

Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, “Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast

Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority homepage

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Top photo of oil/gas pipeline canals cutting through Louisiana wetlands, 2010, from Getty Images via Bloomberg; graphic by Dan Swenson for the Times-Picayune; map of oil and gas wells south of New Orleans from The Lens; photograph of Barataria Bay, Louisiana (2011) by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

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World Survives to Be Raptured by CO2 Poisoning and Believers’ Negligence

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

“Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed—even hastened—as a sign of the coming Apocalypse. . . .

“Why care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?”

—Glenn Scherer, “The Godly Must Be Crazy: Christian-Right Views Are Swaying Politicians and Threatening the Environment

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On Friday at the Union Square subway station it was difficult to walk from one train line to another without bumping into believers handing out leaflets about the end of the world, scheduled for Saturday, May 21, at 6:00 p.m. We were running late so we stepped around them, but they were great in number and made quite an obstacle course. How they present an obstacle in other ways is explained below.

Now that the sun has risen on a new day, May 22, it appears the planet has survived the series of cataclysms predicted for May 21, but don’t be sad: There are any number of other catastrophes lined up for us, some of them avoidable.

These believers are part of the problem. If only they believed in global warming, aka climate change, which is all too real, unlike the imaginings of Harold Camping of Family Radio that May 21 would be Judgment Day . . . or that the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 spells our doom.

People seem to want doom and catastrophe. Well, that can be arranged.

Judgment Day actually is happening but in slow motion, and has been unfolding for decades, but the faithful and the corporate-serving conservatives they elect to Congress are stubbornly ignoring the threat, or are even welcoming the end. ThinkProgress.org reported last November that 50% of the new GOP class of 2010 deny the existence of manmade climate change. A 2002 Time-CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations are going to come true. We expect that percentage has only increased.

In 2005, months before Hurricane Katrina, Bill Moyers wrote a chilling column titled “There Is No Tomorrow,” which has long been posted in the “Enviro Reading Room” after the essay on our Environment page, that draws upon “The Godly Must Be Crazy,” a powerful article (quoted above) by Glenn Scherer published at Grist.org around the time of the 2004 presidential election. Moyers, by the way, is a former minister and a man of faith, but he has no patience for those who ignore the destruction of the Creator’s handiwork, our once beautiful planet. See some choice passages from Scherer below.

Does a Global Sea-Level Rise of 10 to 20 Feet Sound to You Like a Matter of National Security?

Here is why  climate change matters to a blog concerned primarily with Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Carbon emissions aggravate global warming, which intensifies hurricanes and raises sea levels. What good are Category 5–strength levees if sea levels rise by 10 or 20 feet or more, as scientists have warned may happen in this century? If Greenland were to melt, the seas would rise 23 feet. If Antarctica also were to melt, seas would rise 38 feet.

Estimates vary, but considering the speed at which the ice caps are melting, some scientists foresee sea-level rises of more than 10 feet, possibly over 20, in the next century. The last time the earth’s surface temperature was at its present warmth—3 million years ago—the sea level was about 75 feet higher. (“Swiftly Melting Planet 2007”)

And one other thing that we think is kind of important as we approach hurricane season (begins June 1):

Global warming has been found to increase the intensity of hurricanes (though a definite link to causing more hurricanes has not been established). As Katrina showed, fiercer intensity is bad enough. (“Penguins Are Melting”)

It really doesn’t matter whether man-made industrial emissions are the primary cause of global warming: the fact is that the planet is warming. That fact alone should be enough to spur humankind to concentrated action. Denial, indifference, or inertia constitute negligent homicide—and the killing of most other life forms other than bacteria and cockroaches. What’s the word for “planet-killing”?

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9/11 “Battle of New Orleans” Joins Victims of BP Oil Spill, Exxon Valdez, Hurricanes, and 9/11 First Responders

Friday, September 10th, 2010

[ The following press release is presented as a public service announcement ]

NEW ORLEANS — In a historic gathering, Gulf Coast residents devastated by the BP oil spill will join 9/11 first responders, victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita to share lessons on preparing for future disasters from 1:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010. The event starts with a 1:30 meetup at the Creole Queen riverboat at the foot of Canal Street. (See schedule below.)

Outraged by what they believe is BP and the government’s inappropriate and slow response to the Gulf oil spill, this event will, for the first time, join concerned citizens with non-profit organizations for an exchange of ideas on community-led action, in response to the immediate and long-term health, environmental and economic impacts of the BP oil disaster.

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New Oil Explosion, Fire, off Louisiana Coast

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Long, Hot Summer

[ Update: Think Progress’s Ben Armbruster reports, “One day before its gulf oil rig exploded, Mariner Energy said ‘Obama is trying to break us’ with the deepwater drilling moratorium,” even though the platform that exploded today was not affected by the moratorium. Think Progress says the Associated Press is now reporting that, contrary to earlier statements (echoed below), the Vermilion Oil Rig 360 was in production at the time of the explosion. The New York Times now reports that “Mariner said that during the last week of August, the platform had produced about 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas a day and 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate.” ]

[ Original post begins here: ] The Times-Picayune and New York Times report that at about 9:30 a.m. today an oil platform (not a rig) exploded off the coast of Louisiana, 80 to 90 miles south of Vermilion Bay, and 13 workers abandoned the rig and are in the water, wearing protective immersion suits to prevent hypothermia. The U.S. Coast Guard is responding with helicopters to rescue the workers. The workers will be taken to Terrebone General Medical Center in Houma.

Bob Warren of the Times-Picayune writes:

Coast Guard Petty Officer Casey Ranel said the rig is around 90 miles south of Vermilion Bay and that a helicopter earlier today reported that it was in fire “and that there was smoke and there were people in the water.”

The Vermilion Oil Platform 380 is owned by Mariner Energy in water about 340 feet deep (thus it is not affected by the Obama administration’s moratorium, which applies to projects more than 500 feet deep). Texas-based Mariner, one of the largest independent oil and gas firms in the Gulf of Mexico, currently has 195 active drilling leases. The platform is apparently in exploration mode and not producing oil and gas, according to the Department of Homeland Security. [This appears to be in question, as noted above.] The rig is on fire. One worker is injured, but all workers are accounted for. No leak is known of at this time (12:45 EST). The platform is about 200 miles west of BP’s Macondo site where the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers. (Three months after that explosion, in late July, a barge hit an abandoned well in Mud Lake, part of Barataria Bay about 10 miles by water from Golden Meadow, Louisiana, releasing a gushing of oil and natural gas that took days to seal.)

Click here for video of reports by MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer and Anne Thompson with brief comments from Coast Guard chief John Edwards and an update on an investigation of the blowout preventer on the BP Macondo well. At the same time, Hurricane Earl is churning up the Atlantic, projected to be about parallel with the North Carolina / Virginia border by 8:00 a.m. Friday.

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[ Click here for LNW’s coverage of the BP oil spill. ]

AP photo above; MSNBC map below. ]

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Drew Landry Sings “BP Blues” to Presidential Commission

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

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“Just Do the Right Damn Thing”

Some of the most sensible and melodious testimony we’ve heard in a long time was given yesterday in New Orleans by crawfisherman and singer Drew Landry before the Presidential Commission on the BP Oil Spill. He has rolled up his sleeves as a volunteer to help with the cleanup effort and has started a good blog, Dirty Cajuns, as a practical info resource. He talked, he sang, the commission members listened (watch their faces as the camera pans across the dais), then he talked some more. Landry was eloquent with and without his guitar accompaniment.

My name’s Drew Landry. I crawfish out in the Atchafalaya Basin. I guess in late April I went out and volunteered in Venice. I still don’t have a job, but I just wanted to help clean up the spill, and there’s millions of volunteers who want to do something to clean up the spill that are willing to work for almost nothing, and instead we’re hiring all these contractors and wasting our $20 billion. We only have a certain amount of money to spend on this deal, and I feel like if we waste all the assets we have now, years down the road we’re not going to have anything. . . .

We definitely need other solutions, I mean, going green—whatever it takes, but to cut all of our people out of work right now, and also we don’t have any fisheries, we got nothing. We don’t want to be a welfare state, there’s no point in that. We’re hard-working people. . . . I never thought I’d be the hippie who brings his guitar to the meeting, but I’ll play it for you . . . [sings “BP Blues”]

I know you all care. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t care. . . . We’re not ready for hurricane season. There’s a Gulf full of oil, and we’re sitting here worrying about this right now when we need to be giving people hazmat training so they can defend their homeland so they’re not going to be kicked out forever . . . I mean, this could be the next expulsion of the Cajun people, people who love this place.

I know the EPA said not to use Corexit and they did it anyway. It feels like BP’s in control of this deal, and the Coast Guard does what they want, and the press can’t be around. More importantly the people don’t have a voice, they’re upset, and they’re not just angry. . . . What’s the future of our ecosystem with a hurricane in the Gulf? You know? What are we looking at? . . . This shouldn’t just be about a policy change. It should be about what makes the most sense, how are we going to keep people working. It just sucks. Just do the right damn thing. It shouldn’t be this hard. . . .

See Karen Dalton-Beninato’s interview with Landry here (he’s on the phone as he’s driving down to Grand Isle) in full here (NewOrleans.com) and here (HuffPo).

Check out his Dirty Cajuns blog (“gettin’ dirty to get clean”). The blog is loaded with good YouTube videos of people affected by the oil spill, folks down the bayou struggling to clean up the mess and get back to workin’ and livin’. See the Resources and How to Get Dirty pages with information about volunteering with the cleanup, legal and social services, etc.

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What Happens When You Call OSHA, White House

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Before we tell about the fun we had today phoning OSHA, sweet OSHA, we wanted to mention our recent and more enjoyable phone experience with Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a 400,000-member grassroots organization that is behind the “BP Makes Me Sick” campaign. Adam explained the Gulf Coast cleanup workers’ predicament as follows:

“At least 4 times now Keith Olbermann has focused on the issue of Gulf Coast cleanup workers who want to wear respirators as they deal with these toxins that are in the water, but BP is denying them the ability to do it and threatening to fire these workers if they do. The main reason that has been identified is that BP does not want images out there of people wearing respirators because that feeds the fact that they’ve exposed lots of toxins into the water and they’re trying to make this not seem like an environmental disaster or at least mitigate it as much as possible. So what we’re doing is forming this local-national coalition, asking the government to demand that BP allow the cleanup workers to wear respirators on the job . . .”

Dialing Through BP’s Perception Management

So today we did as Adam asked, and as we’ve urged our good readers to do: We phoned (and re-phoned) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the White House to say Won’t you please make BP be humane and let the workers in 100-degree heat breathe through respirators instead of being forced to “go commando” at the risk of being fired, inhaling those toxic crude oil fumes and Corexit dispersant chemicals because BP doesn’t want bad publicity? (Something like that. You get the drift . . . )

(Now, the following narrative doesn’t mean it’s complicated to call—this is just what happens when you keep asking questions . . . It’s really pretty simple.)

First we called the OSHA number 202-693-2000 given by the BP Makes Me Sick web site. A nice receptionist said yes, she’s been getting a lot of BP respirator-denial calls at this number, but the number that people should call instead is 800-222-1222: there’s a comment line where you can leave a message. But no, that 800 number led to a poison-in-the-workplace prevention office in New York City. The guy there, also friendly, said I guess you should call NIOSH—but the number he gave had been changed to a new number, 1-800-CDC-INFO, that would have required going through a Byzantine phone tree, definitely not the place to register a complaint about Gulf Coast worker safety. So we called back at the original number (202-693-2000) and told the nice receptionist what happened. Maybe this number here is the correct one after all? She said (reluctantly), Well, I can take your name and number . . . So we gave her name, number and URL. Thus, we verified by personal experience that the right number is 202-693-2000. She also gave us the fax number for the head of OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary: 202-693-1659.

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