June 2011 Coastal Scuttlebutt
Coastal engine running on one cylinder
Record river floods throughout the Mississippi River basin this Spring, coupled with record droughts in south Louisiana (and west into Texas and Arizona) have created a contrasting pattern of side-by-side wet and dry landscapes. This ironic situation demonstrates the desperate need for a system of conduits and valves to manage water flows optimally through the delta, just as a manifold or a fuel injection system distributes gasoline vapor to each cylinder in a combustion engine.
During the past century, huge areas of formerly robust coastal forest, marshland and distributary ridges in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes have either been starved for sediment and sunken below sea level, or actively dredged away to create navigation and oil and gas canals. This was formerly the most productive part of the coast, nourished by the central branch of the lower river, Bayou Lafourche. Unfortunately the fuel for this middle cylinder of a three-cylinder engine was cut off when the Bayou was artificially plugged by the state in 1904.
Later on, the corps of engineers disabled the eastern cylinder with artificial levees that line the river through most of Plaquemines Parish, forcing river fuel to flow unburned out of the exhaust pipe at SW Pass.
Nikki Buskey has for several years been doing yeoman work covering coastal stories throughout the huge zone between the Atchafalaya River and the lower Miss, which has become virtual ground zero for land loss in Louisiana. She wrote an important article that appeared on June 12 in The Daily Comet, pointing up the fact that much of the dead or dying area on the western side could be nourished once more by high water flows coming down the Atchafalaya River…if only a manifold system, existed.
During the 1940s the Intracoastal Waterway (ICWW) was dredged across the coast from east to west. This artificial conduit could theoretically be used to convey river fuel from the Atchafalaya east from St. Mary Parish into the most rapidly degrading marshes in Terrebonne. The problem is that the Houma Navigation Canal forms a major fuel leak that precludes the effective distribution of fuel during the incredible opportunity that we see today.
Until the state and the Corps of Engineers get serious about ‘re-plumbing’ the entire lower river system on a massive scale, future high river flows will also be squandered in terms of saving south Terrebonne and Lafourche,. Instead, most of the ‘political energy’ has been used up in a Quixotic effort to build an unsustainable wall between the sinking delta and the gulf.* What a waste!
*The Morganza-to-the-Gulf project.
After perusing my usual media sources for coastal issues of particular local interest I came up short this morning. Check back later today in case I see or hear something hot.
California congressman pushes for more offshore oil drilling here – but not along HIS coast!
On June 10 The Times-Picayune published a guest opinion columnby Congressman Darrell Issa, (R-CA), that berates President Obama for supposedly ceding the federal response to the Macondo well blowout to BP. Issa chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a committee that he seems to think exists to reform government by eliminating any oversight of business.
Issa’s partisan rhetoric describes President O’s response to Macondo in terms that would perfectly apply to President W’s mishandling of Katrina. It sounds as though it had been drafted by his Louisiana colleague Steve Scalise (R-Metairie), another knee jerk anti-Obama, drill-baby-drill idealogue. This attitude doesn’t bode well for a modicum of compromise that would be necessary were an effective energy policy ever to be adopted in DC.
Here’s a telling quote:
…Meanwhile, the administration has issued a series of new drilling regulations. The effect of this regulatory chokehold has meant that 12 rigs, thus far, have already left the Gulf for operations in other countries…With their departure, the American economy has lost thousands of jobs at a time of paralyzing unemployment.
This charge rings particularly hollow, in that cconomic analyses have so far shown no significant drop in gulf coast employment related to oil and gas production.
Here’s another telling quote:
…One year later, it is time for the administration to reopen our natural resources to needed exploration and reassess its hurried restructuring of the agencies responsible for ensuring safety and efficiency of the drilling rigs off our shores.
Does anyone out there truly believe that the big players in oil and gas will walk away from the place where Exxon Mobil just announced a ‘huge’ find in 7,000 feet of water off of Louisiana?
Most interesting to me is that a congressman from California, which has long banned offshore drilling along its coast, has no such compunction about promoting the environmental risk of unregulated drilling here in Louisiana. Talk about hypocrisy!
Why not use the Bonnet Carre floodway as a test flume for levee design?
Mark Schleifstein wrote two stories in today’s The Times-Picayune that are related. In one he describes the beginning of the slow process to close the Bonnet Carre structure by replacing the large wooden ‘needles’ in the bays that have been open for weeks. At its peak the almost unimaginable flow of 316,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of river water has passed into Lake Pontchartrain, equivalent to 8.4 Superdome’s-full each and every hour!
Most drivers probably don’t notice this but motorcycle riders and folks in open top vehicles, such as yours truly, can feel a significant temperature drop while crossing over the Bonnet Carre floodway on I-10, from the chilled river water passing under the causeway.
The second article by Schleifstein involves a controversy over how best to armor the dry side of the newly refurbished earthen levees around New Orleans from hurricane-driven surge levels that exceed the levee tops, scouring the soil away. The Corps of Engineers is reportedly considering three alternatives that could be described like the quality/cost of products advertised back in the day in catalogs from the old retail chain Montgomery Ward: good, better and best.
In this case the choices are: a dense carpet of Bermuda grass; a layer of synthetic fabric (Astroturf?) through which grass will grow; and articulated concrete blocks, also with grass growing through the gaps.
State officials naturally prefer the concrete blocks, whatever the cost, while the corps wants to choose based on a budget limit of $300 million.
These two stories are related because, as I have proposed before, the Bonnet Carre floodway would make a perfect ‘water tunnel’ to test alternative levee construction techniques. First, the property is federally owned and would require no land owner permission or environmental easement. Second, it’s full of sediments of different grades from sand to silt to clay. Third the property is periodically subject to enormous volumes of flowing water, providing a perfect real-world test of alternative levee construction and armoring techniques, including my preference, the use of dense plantings of live oaks.
Why does no one at corps NOLA district headquarters on Leake Avenue, including project manager Chris Brantley, consider using a small portion of this giant flume as a corps sand box?
For weeks I’ve been commenting about the tragic missed opportunity to take advantage of the record volume of sediments flowing past New Orleans this Spring that could be nourishing our dying delta. Chris Kirkham wrote a feature story on this issue that was posted yesterday in HuffingtonPost. It’s gratifying to see a broad recognition of this issue. I’m currently working on a flood wrap up post in which I plan to say more about Kirkham’s article.
Pulling the plug on Baton Rouge’s unique swamp tours business
Koran Addo reported in today’s The Advocate that yesterday a judge ruled against my friends Frank Bonifay and Jim Ragland, who had sued for compensation for the total loss of their business enterprise, Alligator Bayou Swamp Tours. Shutting down the tour business was the inevitable result of the decision by the presidents of Iberville and Ascension Parishes to literally pull the plug that maintained navigable water levels through this remnant of a former majestic coastal swampforest.
As noted here on March 28, 2009, I had long maintained an interest in the concept of restoring historic hydrologic conditions throughout this tri-parish area, including the possibility of the annual Springtime addition of a pulse of river water from pipes through the river levee into a deepened and restored Bayou Manchac.
This could have preserved access to a local jewel of a swamp system for students and tourists, improved flood water storage capacity and helped nourish the Pontchartrain Basin, while accommodating explosive development in East Baton Rouge, Ascension Parish and Iberville Parishes that have literally formed a noose around the Spanish Lake system. In the short term, the only plausible way to maintain the swamp tours business would presumably have been to dredge the waterway to a greater depth, but the cost would have been prohibitive.
I’m certainly not the only one who misses an occasional leisurely evening cruise through a local swamp hosted by the genial skippers Bonifay and Ragland. If this is progress, give me just the opposite.
On July 22, 1999 I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ted Danson as we both testified in DC to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. I spoke on behalf of Governor Mike Foster to defend continued funding of the Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) and he was there to complain about southern California beaches closed down because of excess pollution from urban sewage.
I was reminded of this experience yesterday while listening to the Diane Rehm show on NPR, during which the famous radio host interviewed the famous actor about his new book Oceana, which calls attention to the ominous increase in fouling and overfishing of the world ocean. Danson is obviously not a scientist but he has devoted 25 years to publicizing mankind’s ultimate dependence on the sea.
Although Danson recognizes America’s current dependence on petroleum in general and foreign oil in particular, he’s realistic about the futility of drilling our way to oil independence. His comments on the temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling in the gulf sound foreign to ears that have become attuned to the barrage of condemnation of a policy that remains anathema to Louisiana politicos,
Whether or not you agree with Sam the Boston bartender, this interview is worth a listen.
New physical model of the river system could be the Gulf Coast ‘Ark of the Covenant’
Today’s The Times-Picayune carries an editorial on the need for the federal government to allocate more money to maintain a deepwater navigation channel in the lower river, which is literally a choke point for American commerce. Rapid shoaling during the current extreme high river stages has prematurely exhausted the annual dredging budget for the corps.
This plea for more dredging money reminded me of a conversation that I had last week with Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Clint Willson, who manages the small-scale physical model of the lower Mississippi River at LSU. This model was described in som detail by Fabian Acker, an engineer and freelance science writer.
Long before the great 2011 flood this model predicted a significant increase in dredging efforts to maintain navigation in the lower river, as a result of rising sea level.
On January 22, 2009 I posted on the use of the model to predict the shoaling of the river. On March 13, 2009 I posted a feature article on Willson and the master designer of the model, Sultan Alam, in which I noted that this ‘01’ model is overdue for replacement with a larger and more sophisticated ‘02’ version.
I was excited to hear Dr. Willson say that a certain public foundation has shown interest in raising the funds to replace the existing model. A new version would be larger and more realistically scaled and with an expanded footprint. I think I heard him say that a new version may even simulate the operation of the Old River Control Structure and the Atchafalaya basin, which would be truly awesome.
Optimizing river flows from Old River to the Gulf to both save America’s Delta and support deepwater navigation is the ultimate goal of coastal planning. A new and expanded physical model of the lower river is the single tool that could effectively and objectively achieve this elusive goal in an absolutely apolitical context. This would represent the coastal Ark of the Covenant. I have the greatest respect for Sultan Alam, who designed the existing model and who resides in France. He should obviously be commissioned to design the new model.
I respectfully urge the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) to discuss investing in an updated and expanded model as an agenda item for its June meeting next Wednesday.
Wikipedia hearts the Morganza-to-the-Gulf Project
Nikki Buskey reported yesterday in The Daily Comet that a $24.1 million water control structure designed to block hurricane surge waters from entering the mouth of Bayou Grand Caillou in south Terrebonne Parish is underway. In a classic example of Cajun engineering this control structure uses a massive floating barge 213 ft x 40 ft x 30 ft that will swing closed like a screen door to seal off the lower bayou from storm surges.
The Bayou Grand Caillou project is a component of a massive 72 mile hurricane levee system parallel to the coast known as Morganza-to-the-Gulf (MTTG), which has become highly contentious because of its huge construction and maintenance costs, dubious effectiveness…and the fact that it would impound and ultimately doom 1,700 square miles of deltaic wetlands that are rapidly subsiding and turning into open water.
I don’t know a single credible coastal scientist who supports the MTTG project as designed. On the other hand, this water control ‘valve’ and a companion lock on the Houma Navigation Canal could be critical components of a modified plan to beneficially redirect Atchafalaya River water…without impounding coastal wetlands.
While writing this mini-post I Googled MTTG and discovered a glowing description of the project in Wikipedia. This highly biased account was clearly written by the Terrebonne Levee District and/or the US Army Corps of Engineers, federal sponsor of the project. Is anyone out there who’s authorized to edit Wikipedia interested in describing the down side of MTTG?
Amy Wold reported in today’s The Advocate that Louisiana State Climatologist Barry Keim spoke at the Baton Rouge Press Club yesterday on a sobering projection of the risk to coastal Louisiana of the 2011 hurricane season. A study by Philip Klotzbach and William Gray, two experts from Colorado State University, predicts that the Louisiana coast stands a 47% chance of experiencing landfall by a named hurricane before November.
This projection closely aligns with a parallel but less site specific document released by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), that was described recently in The Times-Picayune. On June 2 Mark Schleifstein reported on both documents, also in The Times-Picayune. (scroll down to Momma Nature spins the hurricane wheel).
Here’s a quote from Wold’s article:
NOAA’s forecast calls for 12 to 18 named storms, with six to 10 of them becoming hurricanes, and three to six of them becoming major hurricanes, Keim said.
“All indicators suggest it’s going to be busy (this year),” Keim said.
Part of the reason is the Atlantic Ocean is in a period of warmer than normal sea surface temperatures, which began in 1995.
Ms. Wold didn’t report on whether or not Dr. Keim was asked about the possible relationship between global warming and the higher than normal surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean. I’m very curious whether he considers this ‘period’ of higher temperature to be temporary or a permanent…and worsening…condition.
State admits that flood sediments are being wasted
The great Mississippi River flood of 2011 could theoretically occur during any given spring. This one began taking shape during late 2010, could have been foreseen months ago and should have surprised no one paying attention to the entire river basin.
Amy Wold wrote an article for today’s The Advocate that points up the abject failure of coastal authorities to plan in advance to reap the benefits of the record volume of sediments, most of which are currently flowing through, rather than over our dying delta. Not being prepared to ‘harvest’ some of this precious resource is an inexcusable waste and an indictment of officials, both state and federal.
The following quotes from a state official are telling:
“When we have a high-water event, it’s a shame we can’t use it,” said Jerome Zeringue, deputy director of the state Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration. (‘Shame’ is not nearly a strong enough term.)
There are a number of diversion projects that have been approved by Congress and are being studied now, but they’re not ready to go yet, Zeringue said. (In fact, the governor’s office has failed to support serious independent science studies of the potential impacts of coastal projects of any kind, from large river water diversions; to the destructive impacts of hurricane levees; to using temporary sand berms to block oil).
Zeringue said that there are a number of reasons for the closings (of both Davis Pond and Caernarvon) including that the two diversions are used to control salinity levels in the marsh — which are already fresh enough due to high river water.
Controlling salinity should not control the operation of any diversion project. Introducing mineral sediments should be the primary goal, and the formation of an emerging delta in Big Mar, where Caernarvon water is introduced into Breton Sound, attests to this critical function.
Zeringue’s comments are transparent euphemisms for the reluctance of the governor’s office to further inflame oyster leaseholders still mad about the ill-advised opening of the two structures in May 2010, presumably to block the incursion of rogue oil from the Macondo well blowout.
For twenty years the scientific community has recognized that creating new upstream outlets for distributing river water and sediments is the only hope for saving America’s Delta. This will require dramatic re-plumbing of the Atchafalaya and lower Mississippi Rivers, to trap sediments in shallow bays, while reducing the dredging budget to maintain a deep navigation channel in each outlet.
This goal should take precedence over any and all vested interests, including oyster leaseholders, commercial and recreational fishers – and the navigation industry, each of which could coexist with and benefit from a new and sustainable river management paradigm.
Wold’s article concludes with these quotes:
Denise Reed, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New Orleans, agreed that the concept of how the lower Mississippi River is operated and managed will need to be a topic of conversation after this flood event is over.
“Do we still want to operate the flood system the same way we did in the 1930s?” she asked.
Reed said she’s optimistic that the current flood is going to provide a way to talk about how things worked this time — and the possible benefits of doing things differently in the future.
I’m a lot more cynical than Dr. Reed. In addition to Morganza and Bonnet Carre, every available river outlet should be in operation, not just to lower the river but to trap every possible grain of sediment. We may not get this chance again for decades.
Harry Shearer’s film on Hurricane Katrina a hit at Manship
Last evening my significant other and I visited the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge to view Harry Shearer’s no-holds-barred documentary The Big Uneasy. The film demonstrates in embarrassing detail the obvious complicity of the US Army Corps of Engineers in the largest unnatural disaster in US history – the tragic and unnecessary flooding throughout much of greater New Orleans during the passage of Hurricane Katrina. The film focuses on three technical authorities whose lives and careers have been dramatically impacted by their unblinking candor in the forensic investigations and evaluations of the corps’ response to its institutional failure: corps hydraulic pump expert Maria Garzino; UC Berkeley Engineering Professor Bob Bea and coastal geologist Ivor van Heerden, formerly with LSU.
It was strange to view a serious film featuring so many folks with whom I have had direct personal interaction, including Bea, van Heerden, writer/historian/levee board official John Barry, geographer Rich Campanella, architect David Waggoner, journalist Mike Grunwald, coastal geologist Woody Gagliano, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation founder Carlton Dufrechou and Corps of Engineers Project Hope leader Karen Durham-Aguilera.
Chief villains in the film include corps bureaucrats, of whom none has ever paid any penalty for the agency’s abject failure. Other targets are the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which has been accused of colluding in a cover up of the tragedy, and LSU, which summarily curtailed the academic career of its former Hurricane Center co-founder Ivor van Heerden.
After the showing, Mr. Shearer fielded lots of questions from the audience, including a (rhetorical) query on the likelihood that the film will be shown at LSU. This suggestion, which provoked chuckles, made me flash on the fact that Harry Shearer’s name will not be included on the list of possible commencement speakers at the Ol’ War Skule anytime soon.
Vitter opposes commerce nominee
Bruce Alpert reported in today’s The Times-Picayune that our junior senator David Vitter is ‘fuming’ over the nomination by President Obama of John Bryson as his new secretary of the US Department of Commerce. And why is that? Because he (Bryson) founded the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an organization with an extraordinary record of protecting ecosystems on which humanity depends, including America’s Delta. I suppose that Vitter would have preferred the nomination of David or Charles Koch, the notorious brothers who spend billions trying to persuade elected officials that climate change is a myth.
Come on, David.
Flooding, gulf hypoxia and ethanol
On June 2 Leslie Kaufman reported in The New York Times on the possible effects on gulf hypoxia of the extreme flooding in the Mississippi River basin. The focus of the article is that the record floods will probably dramatically increase agricultural runoff from the corn belt. This could expand the extent of the low oxygen zone (gulf hypoxia) off the Louisiana coast to exceed the record area measured in 2002.
I find it very curious that Kaufmann’s article doesn’t even mention the government-subsidized ethanol program that has presumably increased corn production significantly since 2002. Growing corn for ethanol, which EPA has supported, is wildly popular in Iowa, despite the fact that it uses more energy, releases more CO2 and produces more nitrogen runoff than it saves by substituting ethanol for gasoline.
New USGS land loss map misses the forest for the blades of marsh grass
The US Geological Survey (USGS) National Wetlands Center in Lafayette just released a new map of coastal land change in Louisiana since 1932, showing the pattern and details of almost 1900 square miles lost since 1932. Amy Wold described this rollout in an article in today’s The Advocate.
An A/P summary of this event is as follows:
NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Geological Survey says it has mapped 1,883 square miles of land loss in coastal Louisiana since 1932, a figure lower than previous estimates.
The agency says land loss rates have slowed from an average of more than 30 square miles per year between 1956 and 1978. About 16 square miles of coast were lost each year from 1985 to 2010.
The marshes disappearing the fastest are in Breton Sound and the Barataria and Terrebonne basins.
Previous studies estimated the loss between 1,900 square miles and 2,300 square miles.
USGS said Thursday it has improved the way it calculates land loss.
I respectfully disagree with the USGS numbers. I believe the land loss map ignores the functional loss of an essential part of America’s Delta. I don’t quibble with the detailed marsh information that is depicted but it literally ‘misses the forest for the marsh plants.’
Ironically, while the new map was being heralded at a press conference at the State Capitol I was listening to scientists at LSU’s School of the Coast and Environment at LSU describe the patterns and causes of land loss. I was attending a science meeting of the Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force, which is directed by John Hankinson from EPA.
Alex Kolker, Ph.D., dismissed the popular misconception that Louisiana coastal land loss has occurred uniformly across the coast as a smooth curve that conveniently averages the area of a football field every hour (as was apparently stated at the USGS press conference). Land loss (not just wetlands) has instead occurred periodically in large spurts, followed by periods of stasis. The change is driven by surface and subsurface subsidence, sas level rise, storms, salt water encroachment into freshwater habitat, channel and canal dredging, low river years, and tectonic shifts.
Richard Keim, Ph.D., reported the fact that the familiar land loss maps produced by USGS (including this latest version) all omit a huge chunk of the coast that has been steadily subsiding, degrading and turning from healthy forest to slowly dying forest to scrub-shrub habitat to marsh and ultimately to open water with pulses of salt water during droughts, which kill bald-cypress trees outright.
Among his slides. Dr. Keim used the current USGS land change map, on which he circled a huge area of coastal forst habitat that has been steadily degrading – but with no indication on the map. He didn’t mention the reasons for this omission but I suspect that the change is being ignored because it isn’t easily picked up from satellite images and because some of it is happening outside of the official coastal zone. Among his remarks, Keim specifically pointed out the huge potential impacts of the Morganza to the Gulf (MTTG) levee project, which if completed will be particularly destructive to coastal forests. This theme was picked up by several of his fellow speakers.
Why do we persist in misleading the public by ignoring a massive ongoing reduction in storm surge protection and habitat value that is happening right under our noses?
Harry Shearer comments on the Corps
I plan to see Harry Shearer’s The Big Uneasy tomorrow evening in Baton Rouge and to hear comments from the director of this documentary on the unnatural disaster that we remember as Hurricane Katrina. This famous actor, musician, radio host, satirist and critic posteda typically biting review of the Corps of Engineers in HuffingtonPost.
Momma Nature spins the hurricane wheel
The annual gulf coast roulette game is underway, in which every June we sea level residents of south Louisiana assess our odds of staying dry until November. Odds are calculated by two separate facilities, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Spring, Maryland (340 ft above MSL) and far, far inland at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado (5,430 ft above MSL).
Today in The Times-Picayune Mark Schleifstein reported that seasoned odds-makers Phil Klotzbach and William Gray at the latter institution have just released their predictions, which aren’t particularly encouraging. For example, according to Klotzbach and Gray, the coastline between the Sabine and the Pearl Rivers stands a 20 % chance of a strike by a serious hurricane in 2011.
Paying nature back
NPR’s Marketplace featured a story by Sabri Ben-Achour yesterday that warms the cockle of this ecologist’s heart. It features the growing interest in quantifying the dollar value of the natural work services being performed by undisturbed ecosystems. This concept is supported by ecologists who subscribe to an energy-based theory of value (myself included). Despite being dismissed out of hand by classical economists, it appears to be gaining traction. Stay tuned.
Flooding, drought and pending gulf storms. What’s next, coastal locusts?
A political science grad student recently announced that he would symbolically, not actually, burn an American flag on the LSU Parade Ground, presumably to dramatize how the First Amendment helps prevent tyranny of and by the majority. Whatever his intended message, it was totally lost in an embarrassing circus of mindless jingoism, political correctness, administrative ineptness and police pratfalls. Anyhow, as of today, the actual burning of anything outdoors is illegal throughout Louisiana, as reported by David J. Mitchell in today’s The Advocate.
Dr. Barry Keim, Louisiana State Climatologist, was interviewed for Mitchell’s article. Barry, if you see this I’d like to know how the current drought compares with the record drought in 2000 that triggered the infamous brown marsh incident.
The bizarre juxtaposition of record floods, droughts and a possible severe storm season through November all imply significant coastal impacts that are far too complex to contemplate. I guess we’ll all have to sit back and watch what happens.
BP Bucks Editorial
On May 5 LaCoastPost recommended in some detail how Louisiana’s share of the ultimate penalty charged to BP and the other Macondo blowout perps should be spent…if any significant coastal benefit is to be realized. Not to be outdone, yesterday The Times-Picayune weighed in with an editorial recommending appropriately that whatever its final amount, the money should at least be spent on gulf environmental projects and not to subsidize marina construction. Tradition sure dies hard along the gulf coast.
Appointee for national commerce secretary has coastal credibility
President Obama announced the appointment of John Bryson, a California utility company president, as his new Secretary of the Department of Commerce. This was reported by Frank James on NPR’s new political blog It’s All Politics and also by Julie Pace in HuffingtonPost.
Bryson sounds like the ideal candidate who somehow combines a strong environmental record with a law degree from Yale, high level business experience and support by Jack Donahue, head of the US Chamber of Commerce. Here’s a brief bio from Pace’s article:
Bryson, 67, is a former chairman and chief executive officer of Edison International, a California-based energy company. He also has an extensive background in environmental issues, having co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council and served on a United Nation’s advisory group on energy and climate change.
The coastal implications of the nomination of John Bryson (which will require Senate confirmation) is based on his seeming philosophical similarity to J. Wayne Leonard, New Orleans-based CEO of Entergy. Both are smart, successful utility chairmen who understand the gravity of climate change and who support a market based cap-and-trade system as a virtually painless way to reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions. With Leonard’s support, Entergy funded a recent study showing the catastrophic consequences for the gulf coast of sea level rise driven by human-caused global warming.