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September Coastal Scuttlebutt: daily mini-posts

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September 15

The logo I love to hate!

The September meeting of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) is scheduled for 9:30 today. Thus, in 45 minutes I’ll be sitting in a hearing room at the Louisiana State Capitol, listening to the latest official state assessment of the BP blowout and its consequences. My speculations on the fate of the wayward oil were posted a few minutes ago. Let me know what you think.

September 14

Driller’s diaspora apparently a delusion

Sayward Farr from Baton Rouge’s NPR affiliate WRKF-FM 89.3 reported an interesting statistic this morning during the local news segment of Morning Edition.  Of an anticipated 9,000 applicants for funding to compensate for job losses suffered as a result of the federal moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, only 160 oil and gas workers have applied for funding to offset lost income.

This after months of apocalyptic anti-moratorium rhetoric by Louisiana officials.  Apparently the oil and gas industry officials have been reluctant to lay off workers in an expected drillers’ diaspora from the Gulf of Mexico to other areas around the world.

Adult supervision needed for CWA mitigation funds

In this morning in the Times-Picayune Mark Schleifstein described a press conference held yesterday at the Audubon Zoo in which Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) unveiled important sister senate and house bills they’re sponsoring. The coastal bills by these unlikely allies would, if passed and signed, force the federal government to allocate 80% of the penalties paid by BP under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to gulf states to be used specifically for coastal restoration.

These important bills are supported by environmental groups and by Governor Jindal’s office and their purpose is absolutely appropriate. Nevertheless, in light of Governor Jindal’s imperious decision to spend $360 million in BP compensation funding to build highly questionable sand berms, I would urge the inclusion of language that would force ‘adult supervision’ on how the money is spent. Therefore I hope that the final drafts of the bills require an independent science oversight commission.

Plaquemines Parish fish kill – oil related?

Swede White reported on wrkf.org on a weekend fish kill in Plaquemines Parish. Parish President Billy Nungesser seems to suspect an oil connection but during this time of year fish kills occur in Louisiana on a regular basis as a result of low oxygen.

September 13

EPA letter objecting sand berm permit

Miguel Flores with EPA Region 6 deserves considerable credit for having signed a strong, clear letter to the New Orleans District Corps of Engineers opposing the permit application by the State of Louisiana to continue (and expand) the $360 million coastal sand berm project promoted by Governor Jindal.

The text of this letter follows as a jpeg image. If you depend on software that reads text files, depending on your computer setup you may also be able to download the pdf file here.

EPA Comments on LA Barrier Berm.pdf

817K   View Download

September 12

9/11 v Katrina?

Now that the ninth anniversary of 9/11 is behind us, native Louisianan Mark LaFlaur, who was in Manhattan when the twin towers collapsed, posted this thought-provoking essay in his blog Leveesnotwar.org that compares the trauma caused by that horrific event with Hurricane Katrina on 8/29/05. Mark argues with good reason that the memories and lessons of Katrina carry even more national significance than those of 9/11.

Coffee and climate change

Yesterday on NPR’s All Things Considered, host Guy Raz interviewed Shalene Jha, a researcher from California who’s been studying the environmental friendliness of shade-grown coffee vs. the more productive (higher yield) but less tasty and far more climate-unfriendly plantation-grown coffee. As a morning coffee lover and a long time fan of Community Coffee I plan to find out whether that Louisiana company currently imports shade-grown coffee or beans grown on former rainforests in Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala, etc. LaCoastPost readers with specific insight are invited to weigh in on this (and any other) issue with coastal significance.

September 11

On this sad anniversary of 9/11/01 the following info on oil and sand berms should provide some distraction from such knavery as Quran burning.

Fate of the oil continued…

A feature post is under preparation for LaCoastPost on the fate and whereabouts of the 4.9million barrels of crude oil that was released unceremoniously off the coast of Louisiana between April 20 and July 25.

In the meantime the science continues.

Richard Harris narrated a fascinating report on NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday that Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia coastal scientist, has discovered what may be a huge pool of oil on the bottom of the gulf. Once the magnitude of this pool has been estimated, the mystery of the whereabouts of the elusive oil could be closer to an explanation.

My former LSU colleague Walt Sikora pointed out that the September 2010 edition of the Smithsonian Magazine carries a feature article by Michelle Nijhuis on the possible impacts of the rogue oil. Spotlighted in the article are: Louisiana fishery scientist Jim Cowan, his Dutch-born postdoctoral research fellows Kim de Mutsert and Joris van der Ham, and Ralph Portier, a microbial ecologist. This team is attempting to track the ecological impacts of the oil in the nearshore and marsh zone around Grand Isle.

Sand berm ‘justification’

As many readers are aware, a decision on the permit application to continue constructing what were originally described as ‘temporary’ sand berms past the original October deadline and even to expand the berm system, is pending by the Corps of Engineers. A long term state employee kindly supplied me with the following executive order from Governor Jindal who used a passel of ‘whereases’ to explain the need for sand berms. This document was filed with the Secretary of State on June 11, 2010:

EXECUTIVE ORDER BJ 10-11

Property Use for Emergency Berm Project for Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response

WHEREAS, Pursuant to the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act, R.S. 29:721, et seq., and as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (Oil Spill), a state of emergency (Emergency) was declared through Executive Proclamation No. 20 BJ 2010 and extended through Executive Proclamation No. 37 BJ 2010;

WHEREAS, The Emergency has been declared a Spill of National Significance (SONS) and has impacted, damaged, and continues to impact and damage Louisiana’s natural resources, including land, water, fish, wildlife, fowl and other biota, and likewise has impacted and continues to impact and threaten the livelihoods of Louisiana’s citizens living along the coast, increasing the economic impact of this Emergency;

WHEREAS, Pursuant to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the United States Coast Guard and British Petroleum America Inc. (BP), the Responsible Party, have established a Unified Area Command to coordinate efforts to control the spill and respond to its effects;

WHEREAS, The Oil Spill has already impacted miles of the Louisiana coastline and marshes, has caused fishery, oyster harvesting area, and beach closures, has resulted in the suspension of additional drilling operations, and has caused the federal government to declare a commercial fisheries failure;

WHEREAS, Many areas of the Louisiana coastline have received heavy oil and sustained catastrophic damage, including Barataria Bay, the Breton Sound, Chandeleur Sound and the barrier islands;

WHEREAS, Louisiana’s coastline is comprised of 3.5 million acres of coastal wetlands, which represent approximately 40 percent of all the coastal wetlands in the Continental United States. Furthermore, billions of dollars in ongoing coastal restoration projects are at risk; and

WHEREAS, In an effort to contain this oil and other hazardous substances in such a manner as to prevent further impacts to the State’s waters and shorelines, and to minimize and mitigate the scope of this damage, the State has proposed and the United States has approved as part of its overall response/removal action for the Emergency a project to construct six (6) sand barriers in the Reaches designated as E-3, E-4, W-8, W-9, W-10 and W-11 in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, Emergency Permit NOD-20 dated May 27, 2010, Base File MVN 2010-1066-ETT, in the Gulf of Mexico, east and west of the Mississippi River (Emergency Berm Project).

WHEREAS, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral James A. Watson, the Federal On-Scene Coordinator, has informed BP in a letter dated June 4, 2010 of his determination that the construction of Emergency Berm Project is, under current circumstances, “a removal action that will achieve the containment and removal of oil;” that the Emergency Berm Project is “an action necessary to minimize or mitigate damage to the public health or welfare in areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil discharge;” that “the expense of this project is an appropriate removal cost under the Oil Pollution Act,” and that construction of the Emergency Berm Project should occur on the most expeditious schedule possible.

WHEREAS The State of Louisiana is prepared to undertake the Emergency Berm Project, BP has made funding available for the project consistent with the obligation of responsible parties to receive and pay removal costs, and the State of Louisiana, through the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (OCPR), has entered into a contract for construction and completion of the Emergency Berm Project.

WHEREAS, It is necessary to undertake construction of the Emergency Berm Project at Reaches W-8, W-9, W-10, W-11, E-3, and E-4, as soon as reasonably possible in an effort to eliminate the threat to the safety, health, and welfare of the citizens of the state of Louisiana, including the threat to the livelihoods of Louisiana’s citizens living along the coast and increasing economic impact of the Oil Spill, and eliminate and reduce the threat to Louisiana’s natural resources, including land, water, fish, wildlife, fowl and other biota, posed by the Oil Spill;

WHEREAS, It may be necessary to utilize certain property for construction and completion of the Emergency Berm Project; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to R.S. 29:724(D)(4), and subject to applicable requirements for compensation, the Governor may utilize any private property if he finds this necessary to cope with a disaster or emergency;

NOW THEREFORE, I, BOBBY JINDAL , Governor of the State of Louisiana, by virtue of the authority vested by the Constitution and laws of the State of Louisiana, do hereby order and direct as follows:

SECTION 1 : The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), OCPR, the Louisiana National Guard (LNG), and any other appropriate local, state, or federal governmental entity and their contractors, shall be authorized to access, enter, and utilize public and private lands or other property rights for the Emergency Berm Project, including but not limited to Reaches W-8, W-9, W-10, W-11, E-3, and E-4, as may be necessary to construct and complete the Emergency Berm Project, including but not limited to surveying and staking the project, conducting surveys, soil borings, environmental and cultural resource investigations, accessing the project area, conducting dredging, and depositing and discharging dredge and spoil material, all in accordance with any permits for the Emergency Berm Project or modifications thereto, the designs developed therefore, the authority of CPRA and OCPR as set for in La. R.S. 49:214.1, et seq., and any other similar rule, regulation or law, all with the intent and purpose of completing the Emergency Berm Project as soon as practicable.

SECTION 2: Any entry upon or work performed by government employees or their contractors upon private property shall be in accordance with Louisiana Attorney General Opinion Nos. 05-0360, 05-0360A, and 05-0373, and any compensation for property taken shall be in accordance with the requirements of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

SECTION 3: Any governmental entity seeking reimbursement for work performed as authorized by this Order shall comply with appropriate federal and state statutes and regulations.

SECTION 4: Any work performed pursuant to this Order shall be accompanied by documentation of the actual costs thereof borne by the governmental entity and shall be maintained for possible future reimbursement by any party responsible for the Oil Spill, including but not limited to BP.

SECTION 5: All departments, commissions, boards, offices, entities, agencies, and officers of the state of Louisiana, or any political subdivision thereof, are authorized and directed to cooperate with the OCPR and the CPRA in implementing the provisions of this Order, including the execution of necessary cooperative endeavor agreements.

SECTION 6: This Order is effective upon signature and shall continue in effect until amended, modified, terminated, or rescinded by the Governor, or terminated by operation of law.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have set my hand officially and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of Louisiana, at the Capitol, in the city of Baton Rouge, on this 11th day of June, 2010.

Bobby Jindal Governor

ATTEST BY?THE GOVERNOR Jay Dardenne ?Secretary of State

September 10

Sand berm project permit draws strong scientific objections

The following letter from The Western Carolina University Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines opposing the permit to continue constructing coastal sand berms was signed by 30 coastal scientists and sent to the Corps of Engineers on September 8:

September 8, 2010

Robert Tewis, Project Manager United States Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District Regulatory Branch Post Office Box 60267 New Orleans, Louisiana 70160-0267

RE: Permit Application Number MVN-2010-01066-ETT State of Louisiana, Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (OCPR) c/o Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure Group – Applicant

According to the Joint Public Notice, the decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impacts, including cumulative impacts, of the proposed activity on the public interest. The Western Carolina University Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines appreciates the opportunity to provide the following comments regarding the Corps’ evaluation of Permit Application Number MVN-2010-01066-ETT:

• Due to the unprecedented scope, magnitude and duration of the proposed dredge-and-fill project, it is our professional opinion that the project will significantly and detrimentally impact sediment transport, shoreline erosion and accretion, water quality, future mineral needs, wetlands, benthic communities, essential fish habitat, threatened and endangered species, navigation and the overall welfare of the people of Louisiana and the United States.

• The applicant has failed to provide adequate evidence to support the need for, or efficacy of, a dredge-and-fill project with the scope, magnitude and duration proposed.

• Methodologies used to ascertain existing baseline conditions are unacceptable. Data, calculations, assumptions and conclusions regarding the presence of existing surface and subaqueous oil at the time of construction must be clearly described, and the conditions expected (existence of oil) during project construction must be clearly disclosed since the existence of oil seems to be the sole justification for this project.

• Calculations, estimations, assumptions, modeling results, methodologies and conclusions must be transparent. This should include, but not be limited to, a thorough and accurate description of all modeling methodologies, processes, procedures and assumptions used, and the provision of all pertinent data used to assess baseline project conditions, project longevity, estimated project benefits and expected environmental impacts.

• Document 139551-PMD-091-S entitled Barrier Berm Project – Daily Report Day 91, prepared by Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure Group and dated August 31, 2010, shows that 35.01% of the total amount of sediment proposed to construct Berm E4 had been used,

294 Belk, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723 ? Tel: 828-227-3027 ? Fax: 828-227-7163but only 17.14% of the proposed length of Berm E4 had been completed. In addition, 95.3% of the total amount of sediment proposed to construct Berm W9 had been used, but only 48.17% of the proposed length of Berm W9 had been completed. These figures indicate a gross discrepancy in 1) the amount of sediment and time proposed and 2) that actually needed to complete the emergency project, and strongly suggest that the time and quantity of sediment needed to complete the proposed project are significantly greater than stated in the permit application.

• The evaluation of this application for a standard permit, as required under the General Conditions of NOD-20, must be based on an evaluation and assessment of current and reasonably foreseeable future conditions, not conditions existing at the time the emergency permit was issued. This evaluation must include the potential cumulative impacts of all proposed and contemplated activity on the public interest.

• The Corps should review the proposed action in light of the extent to which the action will cause adverse environmental effects in excess of those created by existing uses in the area affected by it, and the absolute quantitative adverse environmental effects of the action itself, including the cumulative harm that results (See Hanley v. Kleindienst, 471 F.2d 823 (2d Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 412 U.S. 908 (1973).

• CEQ guidelines say an EIS should be prepared where the impacts of a project are controversial, referring not to the amount of public opposition but to where there is a substantial dispute as to the size, nature or effect of an action. Because this project is likely to result in significant adverse environmental impacts (direct, secondary and cumulative), issuance of a permit may only occur after, and be contingent upon, the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.

• With respect to cumulative impacts, CEQ regulations require analysis of direct, indirect and cumulative impacts in the context that they not be limited to those from projects actually proposed, but must also include impacts from actions which are being contemplated (i.e., are not yet ripe for decision). In addition, contemplated actions must be “reasonably foreseeable,” not speculative and not off in the distant future. A cumulative impact assessment must, therefore, consider future barrier island stabilization/wetland restoration efforts being contemplated by the state of Louisiana.

• We strongly recommend that effective mitigation and biological and sediment monitoring plans be developed and implemented by an objective third-party contractor should a permit be issued for this project.

In summary, this application is asking to allow the largest dredge and fill project in US history without any thoughtful design, little scientific consultation, no serious environmental impact analysis and no assessment of cumulative impacts. This project should not, and cannot be permitted without a full Environmental Impact Statement. Appended to these comments, please find a letter signed by 30 of the nation’s top coastal scientists.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the above referenced project and associated documentation. Please contact the Program if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely, Robert S. Young, PhD, PG; Director

Andrew Coburn, MEM; Associate Director

Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines Western Carolina University 294 Belk Cullowhee, NC 28723

Tel: 828-227-3027 | Fax: 828-227-7163 | http://psds.wcu.edu

Today’s The Times-Picayune published an article by Cain Burdeau with AP, about local reactions to a letter from EPA Region 6 to the Corps of Engineers challenging the state permit application for the sand berm project. Garret Graves with the governor’s office is Governor Bobby Jindal’s chief berm promoter. He insisted to Burdeau that completing about 40 miles of berms and expanding to a 100 mile system is still as appropriate as it was in May when this concept was first laid out.

I was struck by the following conflicting comments, the former by an elected official, the second by a coastal geologist:

David Camardelle, Mayor, Grand Isle: “To be honest, most of these (EPA) people sit behind a computer; they all have degrees, but none of them have a lick of commonsense.”

Greg Stone, Director, LSU Coastal Studies Institute: “The next tropical storm or tropical cyclone or winter storm that comes through this area, they (the existing berms) are not going to stand a chance,” Stone said. “They have begun to disintegrate and they are not doing the job that was anticipated.”

September 9

Voo Drew Elation

At the risk of inviting the derision of my old buddies who remember my lifetime disdain for football I freely admit to great excitement about tonight’s Superbowl redux, not in Miami but at the Superdome. I’ve never been to a Saints game in person but for what it’s worth on August 22 Drew Brees, my girlfriend and I were in the same restaurant on Magazine Street.

In today’s The Times-Picayune Mark Lorando describes an NFL documentary to be aired Wednesday called, “America’s Game: 2009 New Orleans Saints.”

Who Dat fever has reached a level of passion that is absolutely unprecedented in my 37 years in south Louisiana. I’m wondering whether and how a little of this energy could be channeled into a Cinderella saga about saving America’s Who Dat Delta.

EPA opposes sand berms

Mark Ballard reported in today’s The Advocate that the EPA recommended yesterday that the Corps of Engineers not extend the existing emergency permit to complete the construction of the controversial ‘oil-intercepting’ sand berms promoted so heavily by Governor Jindal! Now we’ll see what decision comes out of the Corps office on Leake Avenue. My offer to debate in public the governor’s coastal advisor Garret Graves about the sand berms (e.g., on the Jim Engster Show on WRKF-FM) still stands.

September 8

Louisiana natives H.P.Long and Emilie Bahr

The Kingfish was shot 75 years ago today but his coastal impacts live on

September 8, 2010 is the 75th anniversary of what turned out to be a fatal shot to the abdomen of Senator Huey Pierce Long at Louisiana’s new State Capitol that he had previously built as governor of the Bayou State. Robert Travis Scott with The Times-Picayune documented this historical event in an 11.5 minute video posted today on nola.com. As Scott reports, serious doubts remain about whether Dr. Carl Weiss, the purported assassin, actually fired the bullet that killed Long two days later.

The Kingfish was from Winnfield Parish in north Louisiana but he, his brother Earl and his son Russell greatly influenced the development of south Louisiana. This influence included setting the stage for the enormous political influence in Baton Rouge of the oil and gas industry, as well as the gigantic footprint that this industry left on the muddy deltaic coast.

September 8, 2010 also marks the anniversary of the birth 30 years ago of another notable Louisiana native, my incredible daughter Emilie, currently studying urban planning at UNO while keeping one foot in journalism.

Oil in the gulf: muckraking v. reporting

The ultimate fate of 4.9 million barrels of oil for which BP and its subcontractors are responsible will probably remain newsworthy and the subject of study for years – at least until the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process is complete and litigation and court judgments have finally been resolved. In the meantime lots of folks, some with technical credentials and some not – but many with political agendas – are weighing in on how much oil still lurks in the gulf and where the various pools of petroleum are currently ‘hiding.’

Two groups normally at odds have become unlikely bedfellows in this discussion. These are state officials and opponents of offshore drilling. Both groups argue that at least half of the 4.9 million barrels of oil is still lurking somewhere out there, whereas federal agency reps and a growing number of scientists report that evaporation and microbial degradation have eliminated most of the oil.

The contrast between these polar points of view is demonstrated in recent articles by Mac McLelland in Mother Jones (8/26/10) and Mark Schleifstein in The Times-Picayune (9/8/10). Both reporters wrote about residual BP oil but McLelland’s piece is anecdotal and subjective, whereas Schleifstein’s piece is unemotional and based on real science.

Photo from USFWS

September 7

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest?

Whooping cranes were the largest birds ever to fly over the seven thousand year old Mississippi River delta and wade through wetlands searching for frogs. Richard Burgess wrote an article for today’s The Advocate about a tentative – and curiously controversial – plan to reintroduce a small number of whooping cranes to freshwater marshes in Vermilion Parish.

Upon reading this article my first thought was that the late great coastal naturalist Percy Viosca must have seen these hugely magnificent birds that disappeared from the ‘Sportsmen’s Paradise’ during the 1930s (see a three part tribute to Viosca here, here and here).

My second thought was consternation that reintroducing a native bird could possibly be controversial.

This reminded me of concerns expressed by some Louisiana logging interests after Ivory billed woodpeckers were reportedly sighted in Louisiana’s threatened coastal forests in 2005. If landowner opposition to the reintroduction of whooping cranes to south Louisiana prevails I will nominate a new state license plate slogan: Cuckoos’ Paradise!

September 6

Sand berms, still the sand berms!

IMHO the biggest coastal news on Labor Day, 2010 is the headline article in yesterday’s The Advocate by Mark Ballard and Amy Wold on the continuing saga of the sand berm project to block oil incursion. Continuing and even expanding this project awaits permit approval – despite its moot justification, given the capping of the Macondo well on July 15.

A more extensive post on this issue will appear tomorrow in LaCoastPost.

September 5

Mr. President: put Jimmy Carter’s solar panels back on the White House roof!

IMHO Bill McKibben is the most creative leader in the daunting political effort to offset the enormous power of the coal, and oil and gas industries in order to minimize the horrific implications of global warming and climate change facing mankind during the next 100 years. I listed Bill as a global warming hero in this post. This quiet teacher from Middlebury College in Vermont, probably the greenest campus in the nation, appeared on the Letterman Show Friday night to describe an ambitious political project on green energy that he’s directing on 10/10/10. This video clip of McKibben’s appearance on Letterman was posted on HuffingtonPost.com and it’s well worth watching.

In April 2009 Casey DeMoss Roberts with the Gulf Restoration Netwrok wrote a guest post on McKibben and I’m proud to have shaken hands with Bill at Tulane University during back then, at which time he admired the LaCoastPost logo with its symbolically eroded fleur de lis.

McKibben’s grass roots campaign includes an effort to persuade President Obama to reinstall Jimmy Carter’s rooftop solar water heating panels on top of the White House, panels that were inexplicably torn off by President Reagan in 1980.

Macondo well done in by hubris, impatience and Murphy’s Law

David Hammer wrote an excellent lead article for today’s The Times-Picayune in which he describes five cost-cutting human errors in the drilling operation of the Macondo ‘well from hell.’ The final blow that culminated in the fatal blowout on April 20 and the release into the gulf of 4.9 million barrels of rogue oil was the mechanical failure of the 300 ton blowout preventer that has now been removed for forensic examination. This is a stark account of how a combination of arrogance, hubris, green eye shade thinking and plain bad luck can make the best-laid plans go awry.

September 4

Thad Allen – ACC agnostic?

A sharp-eyed friend from Georgia sent me the following message via email:

Len,

You may have to add another very familiar name to your list from April Fool’s Day: Thad Allen, the Coast Guard bureaucrat.

In the March 2010 issue of Smithsonian magazine there is an article about Barrow, Alaska and the dramatic climate changes that are occurring there.  In the article, Commandant Thad Allen told the author that he is an “agnostic” as to the causes of global warming. Agnostic, yeah right.

That’s a diplomatic way of saying denier with reference to global warming.

Could there possibly be more than one bureaucrat in the Coast Guard named Thad Allen?

Walt

Here’s the entire quote from the article in The Smithsonian by Bob Reiss:

Even officials who question the source of the warming are concerned. “I’m agnostic as to the causes,” Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen told me. “All I know is there is water where there was once ice.” And where there is water, “we are responsible for it.”

I’m somewhat shocked that this ‘ACC agnostic’ is the same Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen who so impressed his peers in the FEMA debacle following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Admiral Allen is set to step down in September as the federal government’s point man in the response to the Macondo well blowout.

Both the Katrina-Rita and BP disasters are connected to the American oil addiction, the former because of the loss of perhaps 800 square miles of natural coastal protection in Louisiana from oil and gas exploration and recovery – in addition to rising tides and stronger storms from a warmer world ocean. I would think that Admiral Allen would have connected these dots long ago.

I’ve seen nothing in the media on the Admiral’s views on ACC, which would seem quite newsworthy, given the Obama Administration’s efforts to oversee energy legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil. Readers with inside information are encouraged to weigh in.

The two faces of Bobby Jindal?

September 3

Oil boom removal underway – so what about those sand ‘booms,’ Governor?

Chris Kirkham wrote an article published yesterday in The Times-Picayune on an agreement signed onto by the governor and parish officials on an effort now underway to remove 300 miles of floating booms in Louisiana waterways prior to potential storms during the remainder of the hurricane season. I agree that removing the floating booms is appropriate, because floating oil is no longer a threat and storm-tossed booms can harm marshes. On the other hand how can the continuing construction of $360 million worth of sand booms to block oil be justified?

Science to the rescue?

Long before April 20 LaCoastPost was calling attention to the consistent disdain for and dismissal of academic science demonstrated by Louisiana coastal officials. In the post blowout epoch this paradigm has become even more apparent and worrisome.

Mark Schleifstein with The Times-Picayune wrote an article published this morning on nola.com about the emergence of an academic science team under the direction of the federal agency NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) to settle what has become an extraordinary disagreement re the fate of the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil released from the ill-fated Macondo well between April 20 and July 15.

On NPR’s Morning Edition today Debbie Elliott covered a similar theme. Independent scientists have been hired by the town of Orange Beach, Alabama because local officials don’t trust agency or BP reports. For example, airborne oil has been found on the stems of both sea oats and beach umbrellas along the Alabama coast.

Current state of the Mariner well accident

Sandy Davis and Gerard Shields wrote an article for today’s The Advocate that summarizes the current state of the accident yesterday morning on the oil production platform south of Vermilion Bay.

The hands of Adam, God and Science

September 2

God and the coast

Today’s The Times, the UK’s distinguished newspaper, published a front page, above the fold article by Hannah Devlin with the following headline: God did not create the Universe: Hawking. This news item is also described here by the BBC, here by the online magazine Slate.com and here by HuffingtonPost.com.

Stephen Hawking, the world’s most famous living astrophysicist, concluded in his forthcoming new book The Grand Design that the Universe, which obviously includes Mother Earth and the Mississippi River delta, arose spontaneously, without the help of a Divine Creator.

The opposite position, i.e., for an ultimate Creator and against Hawking’s view has been argued by British Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, also described today by Hannah Devlin in The Times. If Hawking is right it will take much more than faith and hope to save our coast!

Another gulf oil platform explosion

graphic from The Times-Picayune

David Hammer with The Times-Picayune described the occurrence of nother oil platform explosion occurred at around 9:00 AM CDT today, 80 miles from Lousiana coast south of Vermilion Bay, 13 workers rescued, one injured. Presumably no oil is escaping.

Law students study the coast

Yesterday I received this email message from a young friend and environmental law student at LSU (member of the class of 2011) :

Hey Len-

My class, “The Law of Coastal Adaptation and Global Warming,” is keeping a blog. Take a peak if you are interested Coastal Adaptation to Global Warming Blog. Here’s another link.

Beaux Jones*

*Son of Bert Jones, former LSU and NFL football star

Garret putting a bug in David's ear?

September 1

A perfect job for Garret Graves!

Jan Moller with The Times-Picayune reported today that Louisiana Congressman Charlie Melancon, leading challenger to incumbent US Senator David Vitter, has formally requested that the latter agree to participate in five public debates without pre-screened questions.

Coastal issues have never been so important to the future of our state. Thus it occurs to me that Louisiana’s top coastal official and former Vitter staffer Garret Graves is ideally positioned to urge his former boss to forget politics as usual and debate in public, preferably somewhere south of I-10/I-12.

Climate change action opponent converts, promotes carbon tax

Juliette Jowit reported yesterday in The Guardian that Bjorn Lomborg, one of the highest profile international opponents of action on climate change, has reversed his position and is now calling for a $100 billion/year carbon tax. This is very big news.

Petroleum hydrocarbons detected in Louisiana oysters and crabs

Sue Sturgis, with the online magazine Looking South from the Institute for Southern Studies, reported yesterday that Wilma Subra, award winning environmental chemist, has detected significant levels of petroleum-related hydrocarbons in oysters and crabs collected from prime estuarine areas in south Louisiana and Mississippi. This study, supported by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (Lean) and the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, suggests that reopening certain commercial oyster and crabbing areas in both states should be postponed until the residues of crude oil can be further degraded by Momma Nature. My thanks to Ben Sandmel who writes for PoliticsDaily.com for forwarding the link to this story.

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    I am trying to get a grant for the Calcasieu Riverkeeper Project. Starting October 1 people can sign in to the Pepsi Refresh refresheverything.com website and vote for our proposal. We would be most grateful for your support. Thanks! Mike Tritico

  4. Mike Tritico says:

    The contention that the big new fish kill in Plaquemines Parish is “typical” because of “low oxygen” which occurs at this time of year ignores something I have been trying to point out for years: We are likely to have a resident population of Pfisteria piscicida and P. shumwayae here although I have been unable to get LWLF or DEQ to verify that. The stressing of an ecosystem, by oil contamination, for example, could make conditions more conducive to the survival and competitiveness of the P. species. I have seen “low oxygen” blamed for fish kills in SW LA when the oxygen level was no lower than when there were no kills. What should be done is a termination of the utilization of a convenient but unfounded scapegoat excuse and implementation of a real survey of LA coastal areas, pristine and impacted, for the presence of the Pfisteria species. Also, rather than using oxygen measurements alone, it would be helpful if investigators would measure Eh since that could give a more precise view of the conditions within not only the water column but also the sediment. Certainly, after the fish (and whales – air breathers) have died, there would be low oxygen because of the decomposition of the carcasses. It really is time to stop being half-baked on scientific questions in our coastal area. MTritico Biologist 09/15/10

  5. For me, the recent discovery of a vast layer of oil on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico by University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye and her team was momentous. For the very beginning of the BP disaster it was obvious they were trying to hide their mess by using dispersants to “make it go away.” When the oil had finally cleared from the surface, even our federal government was happy to chime in – “All over, all gone.”

    Well, the unaccounted for oil is not all in mysterious, shifting plumes, its right where we can find it, literally on the bottom of the Gulf’s food chain. What will the the costs to the Gulf’s ecosystem (and our commercial fisheries) be if we don’t clean it up? Fortunately, most of BP’s promised $20 billion-in-escrow is still available for developing the technologies that will be needed to restore the Gulf.

  6. Per Jindal’s Executive Order he can only take the private lands needed for his berms so long as the purpose and need for the land is related to the oil spill. He also can only keep his Executive Order in place if the Federal Emergency Declaration is still in place.

    So Jindal’s effort now to build the berms for hurricane protection are not covered by his Executive Order and any property taken would not be taken legally.

  7. Wombat is correct that Lomborg’s opinions are irrelevant, but so are Dyson’s. Neither is a specialist on climate, though Dyson’s record in his field is certainly more distinguished than Lomborg’s, and he has not deliberately misled the public as Lomborg has in the past. But both ignore the data on global warming and the body of science that continues to grow. It says something about our society that as the science accumluates, so does the denial. We could generalize that a segment of the population will always ignore evidence to believe what they want to believe, and the amount, substance, and quality of the information supporting the evidence makes no difference at all. That apparently will never change.

  8. Great posting, Len.
    btw, that is the online mag: “Facing South” (for all you googlers:)…

  9. Kelly Haggar says:

    Lou Dolinar
    August 31, 2010 4:00 A.M.
    Slippery Oil, Slipshod Coverage
    In their reporting on the Gulf spill, the media have been wallowing in exaggeration.
    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/245201/slippery-oil-slipshod-coverage-lou-dolinar

    Once upon a time (pre-FedEx, pre-UPS), two of us on an accident board hand carried samples of oil from a landing gear accident to different labs. The other guy went to Utah; I to Ohio. His guys determined the oil was contaminated with hydraulic fuild and that’s why the strut broke off during the landing. My guys said the oil was fine and it so it couldn’t have affected the outcome.

    Head scratching time. All we could think to do was have the two labs talk to each other and see why each got the results they did. After the cross-talk the Utah folks decided they hadn’t run the tests correctly, it wasn’t contaminated, thus and agreed with Ohio that the oil wasn’t the cause.

    I long ago figured out there’s no generally accepted definition of the density required to be a “plume.” Nowdays many things are detectable at extraordinarily low levels, far below any known or demonstrable harm. Had a chat last week about this low concentartion stuff with an MD in the public health field and she wasn’t the least bit concerned.

  10. I would take the article about petroleum hydrocarbons in oysters (Looking South) with a grain of peer review. This is the same award-winning chemist (Wilma) and the same Sue Sturgis, and the same Institute for Southern Studies who cried wolf over safe and naturally-occurring concentrations of arsenic in sediments after Hurricane Katrina. It was so bad that even the Louisiana DEQ came out seeming reasonable, by comparison. Check out page 3 and endnote number 3 of this report:

    http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/portals/0/news/pdf/BNA-DailyEnvironmentReport-11-06-06.pdfso

    The case for anthropogenic global warming is no stronger with the likes of Lomborg on board. The man simply does not have the standing. Lomborg made his reputation as an “environmental skeptic” by attacking strawman arguments he constructed by exaggerating and misrepresenting real positions. The guy doesn’t even know where the oxygen he breathes comes from. In short, he’s the kind of guy you want on the other side of the argument. Call me when Freeman Dyson recants.

  11. Mike Robichaux says:

    Dear Len:

    Another great story.

    Keep up the great work.

    Mike

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