Levees Not War
Infrastructure. Environment. Peace.

Posts Tagged ‘BP Oil Flood’

Remember August 29, 2005

Friday, August 29th, 2014

aug28katrinaIf you don’t live in or around New Orleans you may have forgotten, but August 29 is the day Hurricane Katrina assaulted the Gulf Coast with Category 3 winds (up to 175 mph) and storm surge, killing 1,833 and costing some $108 billion in damages, the costliest tropical storm in U.S. history. It was not until the following day that we began to realize that although the eye of the storm had curved eastward and the city was spared the worst—“we dodged a bullet”—the city was flooding! In addition to coastal St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and other parishes, 80 percent of New Orleans flooded when Katrina’s massive storm surge burst through the city’s outflow canals to Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet (MR-GO), the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, etc.—53 different levee breaches in all. (The surge was about 10 to 20 feet around New Orleans, and nearly 28 feet at nearby Pass Christian, Miss., exceeding the previous record set by Camille in 1969 by some 4 feet.)

The most dramatic and infamous of the flooded areas was the already poor Lower Ninth Ward. An animated graphic produced by The Times-Picayune shows the sequence of events, still horrifying to watch. It was a catastrophic failure of the mostly federally built storm protection system, and in the years since the scorned and humiliated the Army Corps of Engineers has worked overtime to rebuild and reinforce the area’s defenses against flooding. (The Corps’ funding and directives come—or don’t come—from Congress; this blog does not hold the Corps alone responsible for the failures.) For more about the flooding, and recommendations on reinforcement of the area’s flood defense system, see our interviews with Mark Schleifstein and Ivor Van Heerden.

See The Times-Picayune’s dramatic then-and-now photo essay and editorial “Nine Years Post Katrina: A Recovery Still in Progress.”

New Orleans: Proud to Rebuild Home

Much of the city has been rebuilt, and in some ways life in New Orleans is better than ever (see Magazine Street, for example). Other parts of town are still damaged, depressed. There are neighborhoods that will never be the same. Many people had to leave and will never return—they left to avoid the storm and could not have imagined they would not be able to return, or would not want to—but those who remain are bravely, determinedly rebuilding, and there are also thousands and thousands of new residents, many of them young, talented, imaginative and energetic. There is a relatively new and improved mayor, Mitch Landrieu, and the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010 the same weekend Landrieu was elected—a good warmup for Mardi Gras a week later. And then, lest anyone get too optimistic, a few months later, on Earth Day (April 22) 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform exploded nearby in the Gulf of Mexico and became the most destructive marine oil spill in history, devastating the state’s coastline, seafood industry, wiping out livelihoods beyond measure. The lawsuits go on . . .

8-29Much has improved since the storm, and much remains the same, or worse. The United States remains embroiled in Middle East wars, some of our own making (or making worse). The nation continues to spend far more on its military than on its crumbling infrastructure, and the Pentagon receives hundreds of billions per year that could instead go to a national healthcare system that covers everyone, to an improved educational system in which teachers are compensated as though their work is valuable, and so on. Scroll through this blog’s posts (samples below) and you’ll see that the issues are plenty, and the work goes on. Congress remains dysfunctional or, worse, actively hostile amid widespread unemployment, persistent and seemingly deliberate shredding of the middle class and its safety net (rolling back the New Deal and the Great Society), and ever-increasing corporate profits and tax evasion, and diminishing taxation of the super-wealthy. The earth’s environment is under increasing stress from carbon emissions (again, one party in Congress stubbornly denies that global warming / climate change even exist, or that humanity is responsible), so the warming and rising seas threaten not only coastal Louisiana but the entire globe, as New York and New Jersey learned from Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.

Well, on the bright side, there is plenty of work to be done: we shall not lack for causes to advocate for, write about, and urge elected officials and community and business leaders to assist with. Readers’ ideas are always welcome. E-mail us at leveesnotwar@mac.com.

As we have said many times, National Security Begins at Home. And, as we wrote on our About Us page years ago:

If New Orleans is not safe, no place in this country is safe. . . . Where will the federal government be when you’re down and out? Earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, collapsing bridges, hijacked planes . . . If the federal government neglects one city’s disaster, it can neglect them all. Without funding, without investment, things fall apart. The collapse of the physical infrastructure and the hospitals and schools and the justice system after the storm—what’s happening to New Orleans is happening to the entire country—except perhaps in luxury high-rises and gated communities. The Lower Ninth Ward is the national predicament carried to an extreme.

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In the next few days we’ll be posting about the upcoming annual Rising Tide conference to be held in New Orleans Saturday, Sept. 13. We’ll also be writing soon about a massive People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, Sept. 21. We’ll be at one but not the other—but both are important and we hope you can be there, too.

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Further Reading: Check Out These Important ‘Back Issues’

Levees Not War, a New York–based, New Orleans–dedicated blog, primarily covers the environment, infrastructure, and war and peace. Below are some selections that will appear in The Levees Not War Reader, forthcoming in 2015 from Mid-City Books. 

Hurricane Katrina / Environment

Is Katrina More Significant than September 11?  (9/11/10)

Understanding Louisiana’s Environmental Crisis

Louisiana Flood Protection Agency Sues Big Oil to Repair Wetlands  (7/25/13)

BP Celebrates Earth Day with Bonfire, Oil Spill: Well Leaks 210,000 Gallons a Day into Gulf of Mexico (4/26/10)

When Harry Met a Cover-Up: Harry Shearer Talks About The Big Uneasy  (10/14/10)

Interview with Mark Schleifstein, Pulitzer Prize-winning coauthor of Path of Destruction: The Devastation of New Orleans and the Coming Age of Superstorms

Interview with Ivor van Heerden, author of The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina

Interview with Christopher Cooper and Robert Block, authors of Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security

IEA Sees “Irreversible Climate Change in Five Years”  (1/21/12)

Wrath of God? : Global Warming and Extreme Weather  (5/24/11)

Infrastructure

Framing the Case for Infrastructure Investment, Taxing the Rich (2/7/12)

Infrastructure, Baby, Infrastructure! A Defense of Stimulus Investments  (4/9/10)

Republicans Secretly (Seriously) Like the Stimulus  (8/20/11)

Public Works in a Time of Job-Killing Scrooges  (3/3/11)

Barack, You’re Totally Our Infrastructure Hero! Obama, in Wisconsin, Calls for $60 Billion National Infrastructure Investment Bank  (2/14/08)

War and Peace

A Reluctant, Tentative Endorsement of (More) U.S. Military Action in Iraq  (8/10/14)

Obama Sends Troops to Protect U.S. Embassy in Baghdad  (6/17/14)

Congress, Now Is the Time to Vote “Hell No”  (9/4/13)

Here We Go Again [Syria]  (6/14/13)

As “End” of Iraq War Is Announced, U.S. Digs In, Warns Iran  (10/30/11)

As Combat Troops Leave Iraq, Where’s Our National Security?  (8/19/10)

“Kill the Bill” vs. “Stop the War”: A Tale of Two Protests  (4/11/10)

Deeper into Afghanistan: 360 Degrees of Damnation  (12/10/09)

Tax Day: How Much Have You Paid for the War?  (4/15/10)

Politics and Social Issues

GOP Is Not to Be Trusted with Adult Responsibilities  (10/17/13)

Marching on Washington [1963] for Economic and Social Justice  (8/29/13)

In Honor of Medgar Evers and Res Publica  (6/12/13)

Occupying Wall Street with Nurses, Teachers, Transit Workers, and the Rest of America’s Middle Class  (10/6/11)

“Arguing about How to Defuse a Huge Ticking Bomb”: Burn-it-Down Nihilism Spreads Among Tea-Infused House Republicans  (7/20/11)

Tyranny Disguised as Fiscal Discipline  (3/13/11)

Anti-Islamic Furor Helps al Qaeda, Endangers America  (8/23/10)

Nagasaki, Not Forgotten [65th anniversary]  (8/9/10)

Are “Conservatives” Conservative? Are They Even American? (10/6/09)

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“8-29-2005 Remember” design courtesy of Mark Folse.

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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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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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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.

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

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

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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? . . .

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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.)

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Gulf Coast Benefit Concerts on July 1, Coast to Coast

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

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In the spirit of Independence Day, nationwide concerts will be hosted by music venues on July 1st, 2010 to benefit those directly impacted by the Gulf Coast Oil Spill.

The organizers have created an ambitious goal: Gather music venues around the country to donate ticket sales on July 1st and create an online giving platform that encourages donations to the relief efforts. The fundraising goal is set to $500,000, which will be directed to the (nonprofit) Gulf Restoration Network, which provides assistance to the people, wildlife and wetlands affected as well as advocacy work throughout the Gulf Coast.

The organizers of the event include: Nic Adler, owner of The Roxy on the Sunset Strip; Megan Jacobs of The Roxy, Casey Phillips, talent buyer for venues including Tipitina’s in New Orleans and Viper Room & The Mint in Los Angeles, and Sloane Berrent, founder of Answer With Action and creator of The Causemopolitan.

Revenues from ticket sales will be donated to help the fishermen and their families along the Gulf Coast cope with this disaster in addition to wildlife and wetlands restoration for the Gulf Coast. Over 25 venues have been confirmed and more are being added every day. Artists performing include national as well as local acts across the US.

“We know through music and the generosity of people that we can help make a difference in the Gulf Coast,” says Nic Adler. “We hope this inspires others to make a donation, attend an event and get involved.”

The wetlands and wildlife are in desperate need of our attention now and can’t wait for BP to take care of those in need. Many of our fellow Americans in the foreseeable future will have no livelihood, are preparing to leave their homes and are now lining up for food handouts. With hurricane season on the horizon, there is reason for great concern and it’s crucial the affected communities be prepared for the worst.

Details on how to make a donation or find an event to attend in your area can be found on this site. Both the online giving platform and an online auction is going to coincide with the benefit concerts.

View the press release on Pitch Engine.

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“The Oysters Never Had It So Good.”

Friday, June 18th, 2010

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For anyone who might be concerned about the effects of BP oil on Louisiana seafood and needs reassurance that “oil will be well,” you just need to sit back, relax, and watch this 1960 newsreel of “progress at work” titled Lifeline to an Oyster, “presented as a public information service by the American Petroleum Institute.” (Note that “the trouble” is said to have started when the oystermen “claimed” that the oysters were being killed off by oil production. No complaints = no trouble?)

“The trouble started down in Louisiana on the Gulf of Mexico when the Louisiana oyster fishermen claimed that oil production was killing off the local oyster population. The oil companies didn’t agree, but they agreed to look into the matter. . . .

“In the research laboratory, every type of condition is created for the ‘oyster patients.’ A blanket of crude oil is poured directly on the water. Water is jetted through oil for six months. Oil-drilling mud was emptied into the water. . . .

“Every possibility was explored. After years of study and progress, the results were in: The test oysters showed no ill effects from oil, even under conditions which far exceeded those ever present in oil production. As a matter of fact, the test oysters were so happy they brought forth new generations to share their luck. They never had it so good.”

Well then, if this wasn’t killing the oysters, what was?

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BP Celebrates Earth Day with Bonfire, Oil Spill:
Well Leaks 210,000 Gallons a Day into Gulf of Mexico

Monday, April 26th, 2010

But Seriously, Tragically, 11 Missing Workers Are Presumed Dead

On Saturday, April 24, Coast Guard officials reported that the damaged Deepwater Horizon well on the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico was leaking oil at a rate of about 42,000 gallons (or 1,000 barrels) per day—since recalculated at 210,000 gallons per day, a fivefold increase. The leak, about 50 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, is some 5,000 feet (about a mile) below the surface. (Chris Kirkham of the Times-Picayune has written a detailed, illustrated report of efforts to cap the leak.) As of Monday afternoon, April 26, the Coast Guard said the oil spill measured about 48 miles by 39 miles, or 1,800 square miles, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. John Amos of SkyTruth reports that NASA photographs taken Sunday, April 25, show that oil slicks and sheen (“very thin slick”) covered about 817 square miles. Amos, who in Nov. 2009 was invited to testify at a Senate hearing on the risks posed by offshore drilling, wrote yesterday (April 25):

This is bad news—it means the blowout preventer on that well is not doing its job, and that several attempts by BP, Transocean and the Coast Guard to operate a shutoff valve on the well using a robotic ROV have failed. The oil slick has grown rapidly and now covers 400 miles.

A friend in New Orleans who is an industry insider says the Deepwater Horizon well “was as sophisticated a rig as has been built operating in the Gulf of Mexico (not a rust-bucket).” He adds:

So far, cleanup efforts haven’t done very well. 126,000 gallons of oil have been spilled, but only 33,726 gallons of emulsion (which is part water) have been picked up, and this is when conditions are calm. If you assume a 50/50 water/oil mix (a conservative assumption, IMHO), the cleanup has only been 13% effective.

Dig deeper here: WWL-TV reportCoast Guard unified command updateUSCG District 8 Flickr streamMMS article on closing blowouts (big PDF)

Our friend Aaron Viles of Gulf Restoration Network reports after a flyover on Sunday (read the entire post here):

We were shocked at what we saw. The main spill was at least 8 miles across . . . and stretching for 45 miles, in a Northeastern and Southeastern direction. The crude at the surface of the Gulf has been churned into a ‘chocolate mousse’ material that was easy to spot from our altitude of 4,000 feet. The mousse covered approximately 100 square miles, and then faded into a heavy, then light sheen, which faded about 20 miles from the Chandeleur Islands, critical bird nesting and migration habitat.

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