[  ]
Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Archive for the ‘Natural Resources’ Category

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.

(more…)



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.

*

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

AP photo above; MSNBC map below. ]



Drew Landry Sings “BP Blues” to Presidential Commission

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

*

“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.

*



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.

(more…)



Stop BP from Hurting Cleanup Workers:
Join the “BP Makes Me Sick” Coalition

Monday, July 12th, 2010

We cannot let the denial of protective gear that hurt so many 9/11 cleanup workers happen again with the Gulf cleanup workers.

BP Refuses Respirator Masks for Cleanup Workers

Levees Not War has joined the “BP Makes Me Sick” Coalition of Gulf Coast fishermen, environmental groups, and some 60,000 Americans to press the White House and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to force BP to provide the workers cleaning up BP’s toxic mess to wear protective gear. BP has refused to allow protection because photographs of workers with air filter masks would be bad for the oil giant’s image.

20 percent of offshore workers have been exposed to 2-butoxyethanol, a chemical used in the dispersant Corexit 9527 that has been linked to health concerns. —“Where Are the Respirators?” (Mother Jones)

Click here to tell the White House and OSHA to protect workers (script provided).

Phone the White House (comment line 202-456-1111) and OSHA (202-693-2000 or 800-321-6742). • Also fax the White House (202-456-2461) and OSHA Asst. Secretary Dr. David Michaels at 202-693-1659.

“President Obama and the federal government must demand that BP allow every cleanup worker who wants to wear respiratory protective equipment to do so—and ensure that workers get the equipment and training they need to do their jobs safely.”

The Coalition is organized by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and backed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, and supported by some 35 environmental and public health and fishermen’s groups, including the Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Louisiana Shrimp Association, United Commercial Fishermen, and members of Congress including Reps. Alan Grayson, Kendrick Meek, and Carolyn Maloney (see signatories list here).

See the Mother Jones article “Where Are the Respirators?” below the fold, Elana Schor’s “Petition Urges Obama Admin to Protect Gulf Spill Cleanup Workers” in the New York Times, and Keith Olbermann’s interview with MaryLee Orr of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network on the screen below.

And then click here and here to UNF––K THE GULF.

(more…)


Martha Serpas: Our Life, Between Sea and Oil

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

In today’s New York Times, Louisiana poet Martha Serpas gives a rich and sensitive account of Louisiana’s environmental predicament by focusing on Bayou Lafourche where she was raised and the Cajun people who have survived through generations of “persecution, banishment and years of deadly storms.” These people and their culture—along with the entire southern part of the state—are now at risk from encroaching BP oil and salt water erosion of the delicate coastline.

Her essay is subtle and nuanced—the energy industry is not cast as a one-dimensional villain, and she acknowledges that “we Louisianans have not always acted in our own best interests”—and we’re happy to see that the Times editors gave her the space her subject deserves, room to explain some complex history and political, cultural, and environmental issues.

Well, enough clumsy summarizing. Please, read “Our Life, Between Sea and Oil” for yourself in its entirety below the fold. It’s well written, and we highly recommend it. We also hope you’ll watch the video clip of Veins in the Gulf, a feature-length documentary about Louisiana’s disappearing coastline. Martha Serpas is a participant in this film that traces the history of the environmental crisis of southern Louisiana and its threat to Cajun culture whose music, cuisine, and joie de vivre have enriched the nation and the world. The film is due out in September.

(more…)



Jim Bohlen, a Greenpeace Founder, Dies

Friday, July 9th, 2010

*

Navy Veteran, Peace Activist, Born on 4th of July

A quick note of appreciation for the life of James Calvin Bohlen (at left in photo above), a cofounder of the environmental and peace action group Greenpeace, who died Monday in British Columbia. He was 84. We did not know Mr. Bohlen—we confess we weren’t aware of him at all until we read the New York Times obituary—but we wish to take a moment to honor his life and work, his commitment to Stopping the Bomb, to peace, and to courageous action to keep the planet a livable place for all. Now that we know about him, we wish we’d been there with him.

Bohlen was a member of a splinter group of Canadian Sierra Club members called the Don’t Make a Wave Committee who opposed American testing of nuclear weapons at Amchitka Island in the Aleutian Islands (where he had served in the Navy in World War II as a radio operator). The U.S. had been testing in the Aleutians, at a point midway between Alaska and the USSR, since 1965. (For hair-raising accounts of the tests’ seismic and physical consequences, see here and here.) Among the opponents’ concerns was that the nuclear shock waves, so soon after the horrific Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964, would not only terrorize the already traumatized populace and release radioactive poisons but possibly also trigger new earthquakes (the test site was near a fault line) and tsunamis. In 1969, ten thousand protesters blocked a major U.S.–Canada border crossing, holding signs that read “Don’t Make a Wave. It’s Your Fault if Our Fault Goes.”

Bohlen had complained to his wife, Marie, that the committee was taking too long to make up its mind about how to stop the tests; she said offhandedly why not sail a boat to the test site? When a reporter from the Vancouver Sun happened to phone to check on the committee’s deliberations, Bohlen (perhaps to his own surprise) announced, “We hope to sail a boat to Amchitka to confront the bomb.” When the remark appeared in the paper the following day, the die was cast.

The Don’t Make a Wave Committee rented a halibut fishing boat, named it “Greenpeace,” and in September 1971 sailed toward the Aleutians, but was intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard. The public outcry had an effect, however—boosted by a fund-raising concert in 1970 starring James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Phil Ochs—and the U.S. stopped testing in 1971.

(more…)



Smoke on the Water: Alabama Conservationist’s Gripping Video of Death at Sea

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

*

On MSNBC’s Countdown on June 30 Keith Olbermann spoke to John L. Wathen, an Alabama conservationist with Hurricane Creekkeeper (Waterkeeper Alliance) who has flown over the Gulf of Mexico to film the BP oil flood, the dead and dying dolphins and whales, the fires burning on the sea’s surface, and the fires that are pouring immeasurable toxins into the air. (See more videos at bpoilslick.blogspot.com and click here for a “photobucket” of images from the aerial survey.)

In the YouTube video above of which clips were shown on Countdown, Wathen narrates in a sad Alabama drawl:

Will the Gulf ever be the same again? As we headed out toward Louisiana, it was mile after mile of rainbow, heavy, heavy slick oil, and then a circle appeared. Could there possibly be life under all of this? . . . As we looked closer, we saw this pod of dolphins obviously struggling just to breathe [36 dolphins in this pod; 18 dolphins in another]. . . . Then we found this guy, a sperm whale swimming in the oil, had just breached . . . along his back, we could see red patches of crude as if he’d been basted for broiling. Then there was this pod of dolphins found later, some already dead, some in their death throes. It seemed to be that they were raising their heads, looking at the fires, wondering, Why is my world burning down around me? Why would humans do this to me? . . .

The scope of this is beyond belief. It will take years at this rate to gather up even a portion of the oil that is on the surface today. Some of it looks more like bruised internal organs of the human body than the surface of the ocean. . . . First time I came out and saw a fire there was only one; today when we got here there were four. Within a couple of passes there were seven. From the size of these fires it seems as though we’re not only trying to kill everything in the Gulf of Mexico but everything that flies over it as well. . . .

From 1.2 miles from the shores of Gulf Shores, Alabama, to the Ground Zero site some 90 miles away, we haven’t flown over a single square inch of clear water. Imagine how many fires it will take to burn that much oil. There has to be something better than putting all this toxic smoke into the atmosphere. Why are there not large ships here with suction devices that can go down and pull this stuff closer to the source and put it on ships and recycle it somehow? . . .

*

Click here for Waterkeeper.org and here for a list of Waterkeeper groups working to protect the Gulf and other waters. Click here for the Blue Frontier Campaign (and see David Helvarg’s article below the fold.)

(more…)