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March 2012 Coastal Scuttlebutt

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This mini-post is normally updated daily by noon CDT.

MARCH FOURTEENTH

The Gypsy River

Mississippi River shows its Bohemian side on the East Bank

Definition

Bo·he·mi·an [boh-hee-mee-uhn]

noun

1. a native or inhabitant of Bohemia.

2. (usually lowercase) a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

3. the Czech language, especially as spoken in Bohemia.

4. a Gypsy.

adjective

5. of or pertaining to Bohemia,  its people, or their language.

6. (usually lowercase) pertaining to or characteristic of the unconventional life of a bohemian.

7. living a wandering or vagabond life, as a Gypsy.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) convenes today for its monthly meeting in Baton Rouge. This body represents the nexus for coastal policy decisions for the state, and no coastal project of significance can be implemented without being blessed by the CPRA.

Mother Nature and the Mississippi River are obviously not constrained by such bureaucratic niceties. In today’s The Times-Picayune Mark Schleifstein reported that the irrepressibly free spirited Mississippi River has created a new crevasse downriver from New Orleans, allowing an uncontrolled flow of river water and sediment into the East Bank at the Bohemia Spillway.

This aptly named spillway was created in 1926 as a ‘blowout plug’ to relieve pressure on river levees in New Orleans and the crevasse just happens to be within a few miles of two alternative sites being proposed for a controlled (gated) diversion project five times larger than the 8,000 cfs project constructed at Caernarvon in 1990.

The crevasse formed on its own, without waiting for endless public meetings, land rights negotiations, engineering design contracts, NEPA determinations, etc. Schleifstein reported that the river breakout is being celebrated by John Lopez, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF). Here’s his quote:

“Development of a new pass on the river is significant, and the fact that it is so far upriver puts it in range of what many people suggest as a good location to divert river water and sediment to build new wetlands,” Lopez said.

He pointed out that both the state’s new coastal restoration master plan update and a federal-state wetlands restoration program call for diversions near the new pass.

This positive attitude contrasts sharply with comments from the Corps of Engineers, as reported by Schleifstein:

A spokeswoman for the corps, which maintains the Mississippi River navigation channel, said the agency is not yet concerned about the new crevasse but will keep a close eye on it.

“It would be an issue if this diversion of the river’s flow causes shoaling in the channel, but this is a naturally deep part of the river’s channel,” said corps spokeswoman Rachel Rodi.

Keep on rollin, Gypsy River!

MARCH THIRTEENTH

Bobby Jindal lectures Barack Obama on  energy policy

Today’s Wall Street Journal published a 946-word op-ed screed by Bobby Jindal, our part time governor and full time candidate for national office, in which he blames President Obama for failing to provide his constituents with all the cheap energy that they could possibly consume. Jindal seems to assume that unlimited energy would result from ‘simply’ increasing domestic hydrocarbon production.

Louisiana’s most prominent climate change denier, who thinks of CO2 as primarily a plant fertilizer, implies that the U.S. could simply drill and frack and mine its way to energy independence. He must have skipped the biology lectures at Brown University on the real world implications of the second law of thermodynamics.*

Jindal accuses Obama of marching in lockstep with the ‘radical environmental’ agenda. Not a single word about climate change or sea level rising rapidly along the Louisiana coast. Not a single word about energy conservation with higher mileage standards, insulating buildings, mass transit…or any other means for reducing American dependence on fossil fuel.

Jindal’s diatribe implies that if he were president we’d be busily:

1)   drilling everywhere along our coasts, including Tampa, where the attendees at the upcoming GOP convention in October could gaze fondly at the offshore oil rigs; and in Sarah Palin’s backyard, the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge;

2)   hydro-fracking the BeJeezus out of the gas trapped in underground rocks, even beneath critical aquifers and near population centers, where earthquakes could be triggered;

3)   blasting the tops off of the all the Appalachian mountaintops in West Virginia to access all that ‘clean coal’ that would otherwise go to waste;

4)   installing more pipelines across our boundary like Keystone XL for whatever minimal import needs would still be unmet.**

5)   building bigger and higher sand berms across our coast, with whatever funds we finally get from BP.

Here are two Jindal quotes and what they imply:

Quote: Because energy prices are driven by a sense of future risk, the president should create a more predictable environment for exploration and production.

Message: Why in Hell can’t Obama snap his fingers and make peace in Afghanistan, stop the genocide in Syria, defuse the Iranian-Israeli flashpoint, assuage the outrage over the murders in Afghanistan and perform other international miracles?

Quote: President Obama claims to be focusing this election year on the American economy. To make that pledge true, he must make wholesale changes to his energy policy and put energy prices and energy independence ahead of zealous adherence to left-wing environmental theory.

Message: Our President cares much more about the opinions of climate experts like Dr. James Hansen than the naive opinions of the voters who blame him for $3.75 gasoline.

*The law of entropy, commonly expressed as, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Another expression of the 2nd law is,
“You can’t get something for nothing; what’s more, you can’t even break even.”

**Apparently Bobby doesn’t see Canadian oil as foreign. Eliminating imported oil from South America, Arabia and the Middle East implies that Edwin Edwards’ pride and joy, the LOOP terminal off of Port Fourchon, would become obsolete.

MARCH TWELFTH

Gov. Jindal will address his loyal minions in the state legislature on the need to privatize state government.

Legislative session to be dominated by education, retirement and budget balancing…but important coastal bills will also be heard.

Great; the first workday under daylight savings est arrivé!

Top news stories in today’s The Times-Picayune, here and The Advocate here, describe the beginning of the regular legislative session that begins today at noon Central Daylight Time. The former is a compilation by T-P staff and the latter by Mark Ballard and Jordan Blum.

The makeup of both the state house and the state senate are disproportionally dominated by middle-aged white men, thanks to the money invested by both Governor Jindal and Senator David Vitter to stack the deck with dependably complicit and conservative folks. Click here to search for pre-filed bills by topic, committee or author.

From a coastal standpoint the approval of the 2012 Louisiana Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast is paramount, followed by two bills by Sen. Gerald Long that deal with planning for freshwater needs into the future: SB436 and SB495. I also note a bill by Karen St. Germain that would rename the state entities responsible for coastal protection and restoration: HB 916.

MARCH ELEVENTH

Mary Landrieu fiercely defends the Restoration Act on its passage through a treacherous political gauntlet. Graphic slightly modified from painting by John William Waterhouse, Ulysses and the Sirens, 1891.

Restore Act still on course for passage and enactment

An editorial in today’s The Times-Picayune celebrates the fact that the Restore Act, which would allocate 80% of the environmental penalties held against BP specifically to ‘fix’ the gulf coast, has successfully been tied to the mast of a $109 billion must-pass transportation bill…and that the House will soon vote on the same bill. The editorial praises Mary Landrieu and the entire Louisiana congressional delegation, including David Vitter, for steering this package on its odyssey through swirling undercurrents, rocks, shoals, and past political sirens, such as Tea Party members, toward the entrance to the port of coastal restoration.

Here’s a quote:

The fact that the Senate amendment was adopted by a comfortable 76-22 margin — and with bipartisan support — is a testament to the momentum that the legislation is gaining. Days earlier, the measure had appeared to be in trouble, and Sen. Landrieu said she thought the measure, which needed at least 60 votes, would either pass by one vote or lose by two.

We’re not there yet and ‘Restore’ could still run aground but the harbor lights may be just around the bend.

MARCH TENTH

Cartoon by Steve Benson

The genetic basis for political partisanship…and its coastal significance

I’m strongly convinced that climate change is one of the four paramount impediments to the sustainable restoration of America’s Delta. The other three are sediment limits, rising diesel cost and politics.

Mina Novelo and I returned home from Baltimore yesterday after three days, two of which involved a lot of prodding, poking and bloodletting of my skinny body by three top MDs at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Much of the remainder of the time was spent in conversation with my cousin and our host J. Henry Riefle III, aka “Hank,” on the broad intersection among the universes of anthropology, environmental science, socioeconomics and politics. My younger sister Mary Shafer Bahr still lives in Baltimore and she joined us for a small portion of this conversation.

Among many topics, we discussed the fact that all four GOP nomination seekers are in various stages of climate change denial, with Rick Santorum being the most adamant. Riley E. Dunlap described a Gallup poll about the increasing gap from 1998 to 2008 between the Rs and Ds with respect to belief in climate change. That trend presumably continues today.

During our conversation in Baltimore, I recalled an unabashedly partisan February 8 post by Chris Mooney in HuffingtonPost, purporting to explain why Republicans disbelieve climate change. Mooney includes an interesting hypothesis on the genetic basis and evolutionary significance of the philosophical differences between liberals and conservatives. This is a great read for coastal advocates who face over seven more months of debates over presidential politics.

MARCH NINTH

The uncivil War on Coastal Wetlands

St. Tammany wetland permits in dispute

I’m writing this while flyingback to Louisiana from my home state of Maryland. When the United States became precariously disunited during the 1860s Maryland occupied the eye of the political storm between Union and Confederate sympathies.

A century after the end of that bloody conflict, which some Baltimoreans called the War of Northern Aggression but my ancestors probably called the War of Southern Intransigence, our nation entered the second most politically divisive period in American history – 1963-74.

I arrived at LSU in 1973, where Free Speech Alley had spawned the careers of David Duke fighting against civil rights and Paul Templet fighting for the coastal environment. I was an official member of the post-Earth Day coastal science community and had been invited to LSU to study the impact of oil and gas pipelines on coastal wetlands.

Nineteen seventy-three was a year before Tricky Dick Nixon resigned but a year after he had signed the remarkably progressive Clean Water Act (CWA). Section 404 of that legislation famously (or infamously) defined wetlands as areas in which: (1) the soils are wet and anoxic during at least part of the year; (2) signs of periodic flooding can be found; and (3) species of plants are identified that are known to be adapted to such stressful conditions. These are pretty ambiguous metrics, providing lots of wiggle room for developers.

By 1973 Louisiana scientists had already documented the progressive loss of the nation’s largest ‘stockpile’ of coastal wetlands in America’s Delta. Environmental advocates were calling for additional restrictions on wetland development and, thanks in large part to Dr. Templet’s efforts, Louisiana’s Coastal Zone Management (CZM) program was approved in 1980, giving the state limited co-authority with the Corps over permits in coastal wetlands.

CZM was followed in 1989 by Louisiana’s Coastal Restoration Program. This provided a modest financial incentive for large coastal property owners in Louisiana, mostly oil and gas related corporations, to ‘support’ wetland conservation. These landowners had been dealing begrudgingly with even the weak state/federal wetland permitting system and their permits had (and have) rarely been denied.

Just as Maryland was the center of political conflict during the Civil War, south Louisiana has become the center of political conflict during the undeclared and uncivil War on Coastal Wetlands.

A March 4 article by Christine Harvey in The Times-Picayune describes a current North Shore skirmish in this ongoing conflict. Rapid growth in St. Tammany Parish, accelerated by Hurricane Katrina, has come a cropper with a shrinking area of undeveloped dry land. The Corps of Engineers has classified much of the lower and wetter landscape in St. Tammany as wetland, which cannot be legally developed without a mitigation procedure that is supposed to offset the damage.

Much of this development pressure is apparently outside of state jurisdiction and solely on the shoulders of the Corps, which has adopted the so-called Modified Charleston Method for wetland mitigation. This makes wetland mitigation much more expensive, inflating the construction cost of roads, homes and shopping centers.

State officials, including North Shore Native Son Senator David Vitter, rail against the corps’ restrictions on landscape development but beg for government resources to save the coast that is increasingly threatened by continuing development…and rising sea level.

It’s supremely ironic that the CWA gave most of the authority to define and classify wetlands and to restrict wetland development to the Corps, which is most frequently blamed for the loss of America’s Delta…and most derided by Vitter as hopelessly slow to save the delta. Hypocrisy rules in the War on Coastal Wetlands! 

MARCH EIGHTH

James E. Hansen, Ph.D.

Jim Hansen, climate change criminal

I’m still in Baltimore and working on limited data use time on my laptop wireless connector, so this mini-post is truly mini.

Like many coastal advocates I frequently encounter climate change skeptics or outright deniers so I like to be armed with current info from real experts. No one comes with better credentials on the subject of human-caused climate change and what it implies than James E. Hansen, Ph.D. who was recently arrested at the White House for his politically incorrect views!

Here’s the video-clip of a recent TED talk by Dr. Hansen that was posted today in HuffingtonPost. Watch it! Click here for Hansen’s blog site at HuffPost.

MARCH SEVENTH

Coastal Restore Act stalled in the Senate, in trouble in the House

Mary struggles to save Restore

Greetings from Baltimore, Hon!*

The hopes and dreams to save part of America’s Delta are largely riding on the Restore Act, which would dedicate 80% of whatever the ultimate government penalties on BP and its fellow perps in the Macondo blowout turn out to be.  Senator Mary Landrieu has been carrying the water for Restore in the Senate and her latest effort in that regard was to attach it as an amendment to a $109 billion Transportation Act, which has strong bipartisan support…although so far not enough to pass the 60 vote filibuster hurdle.

The transportation act was recently being held hostage by the unrelated and highly contentious ‘Blunt amendment,’ which would give institutions the right to withhold health services to their female employees. Now that that hurdle has been cleared,

Bruce Alpert reported in today’s The Times-Picayune that Tea Party members in the House are threatening to scuttle Restore. Representatives Steve Scalise (R-Jefferson) and Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) have been taking the leadership role in the House, which seems even more problematic.

Alpert reported that Louisiana Junior Senator David Vitter has introduced a ‘Drill Baby Drill’ amendment, to allow for oil production off of the coast of Florida, which is extremely controversial in the Sunshine State with its ‘pristine’ non-working coasts. Thanks, Senator.

*You haven’t lived until you’ve been served a delicious Maryland crab cake by a Baltimore waitress, who calls you “Hon.”

MARCH SIXTH

Coastal Mary Landrieu

Mary Landrieu for Senate in ’14!

Louisiana’s Senior Senator and my friend Mary Landrieu appeared at the weekly meeting of the Baton Rouge Press Club yesterday, where she announced that she will run for reelection in 2014. I was unfortunately unable to attend the event but I proudly and unequivocally endorse Ms. Landrieu’s re-election to a well deserved fourth term.

Mary should be re-elected for many reasons, including the fact that  Senator Olympia Snowe, another moderate voice in the increasingly partisan Senate, is retiring and we need more, not fewer strong female members of congress. During Mary’s campaign, coastal advocates will hopefully tell their colleagues about her stalwart and unwavering support for the restoration of America’s Delta.

Restoring south Louisiana to a sustainable landscape has been ‘Coastal Mary’s’ obvious passion and primary mission since she was first elected in 1996 to fill the seat of retiring Sen. J. Bennett Johnston. At that time Mary’s diminutive figure was overshadowed by the towering Senator John Breaux, who had become Louisiana’s coastal hero after he deftly negotiated the passage of the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) in 1989. After Breaux retired Mary improbably inserted her tiny feet into his large coastal shoes and has somehow filled them admirably ever since.

MARCH FIFTH

Must reads for big picture coastal advocates.

Charles C. Mann opened eyes at Tulane

Forgive today’s very brief mini-post, which reflects the fact that I’m preparing for an early morning trip to my home town of Baltimore.*

Today I want to express my appreciation for those responsible for another outstanding environmental law summit that was hosted by Tulane Law over the weekend. This annual Spring event always presents fascinating discussions of wide ranging issues of global and local environmental and legal concern and the 2012 summit was no exception.

The high point of the summit, both for me and for my companion Mina Novelo, was a mind-blowing keynote address between five and six PM on Saturday afternoon, long after Cooter Browns  and the bars on Frenchman Street had opened their doors. The speaker was Charles C. Mann, who described a few of the revolutionary insights that he has unearthed since becoming a noted authority on human impacts on Mother Earth.

Time scale modified from a USGS graphic (maybe they don't acknowledge the Anthropocene!)

I have joined the ranks of a growing number of observers of global change who have adopted the use of  the term ‘Anthropocene’ to distinguish modern global conditions from the 11,700 year Holocene epoch, during which warming temperatures and rising seas created America’s Delta.

At 5:00 PM on Saturday March 3rd I believed that the Anthropocene epoch began around two centuries ago, when the European members of our species became addicted to fossil fuel. By 6:00 PM, after Mann had concluded his remarks, I had become convinced that the Holocene-Anthropocene boundary goes back to at least 7,000 years bp, when native Americans dramatically changed the ecology of the entire New World, long before Columbus arrived in 1492.

As I wrote on March 2 before hearing Mann speak, I can’t wait to read his two books, 1491 and 1493. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring our copies with us from Baton Rouge for him to sign!

*The purpose of the trip is primarily to visit two Johns Hopkins University medical coaches who are helping me stay focused in the coastal game. As lagniappe, Ms. Novelo will for the first time in her life walk on ground zero for political gridlock, during the peak period of partisan politics in recent memory.

MARCH FOURTH

State acquires critical forest property – what about this, Nucor?

Much of the newly expanded Maurepas Wildlife Management Area coastal forest land could be improved if the Nucor Corporation.would grant an easement to the state to introduce river water into the WMA during high river stages.

Bob Anderson reported yesterday in The Advocate about the acquisition by the state of a 30,000 acre tract of critical coastal forest property that expands and makes contiguous the 140,000 Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area by connecting the eastern and western tracts (see graphic).

Anderson reported that the purchase cost of $6.5 million was paid by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) using $4.5 million of federal funds through the federal Coastal Forest Conservation Initiative, and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation provided the other $2 million through its acquisition fund, which contains money from litigation involving habitat damage in the state.

I enthusiastically join with those who celebrate this acquisition, including Robert Barham, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Jerome Zeringue, Executive Director of the CPRA:

It binds the largest contiguous tract of wetland forest remaining in the lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley, said Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Now it will be “available in perpetuity for all people who love the outdoors,” he said. “A key component of our sportsman’s paradise will remain in public hands forever.”*

Not only is the swamp important for the creatures that live in, and people who enjoy, such places, but it serves to buffer the effects of hurricanes, Barham said.

Hydrological restoration of the property, which will include cutting slices out of spoil banks along the Amite River Diversion Canal to let water flow into and out of the swamp, should restore the flow of fresh water and nutrients, officials said as they announced the land acquisition and toured parts of the swamp.

Ownership of such land gives the state a chance to restore and protect coastal forest tracts that provide ecological value and reduce storm damage, said Jerome Zeringue, executive director of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

The timing of the expansion of the Maurepas WMA perfectly coincides with the construction of the massive Nucor iron processing facility near Convent. The Nucor site backs up to the head of the Maurepas swamp system, which is dying for lack of river water. I have been promoting the concept of convincing Nucor to grant an easement across its property to convey river water into the swamp, providing a source of water, nutrients and fine sediments to the WMA.

A few weeks ago I heard a rumor that Nucor has heard about my proposal and is in fact interested. I would strongly urge Jerome Zeringue and Robert Barham to encourage Nucor in this effort.

*I respectfully question Barham’s use of the words ‘perpituity’ and ‘forever,’ given projected sea level rise during the next 88 years of the 21st century.

MARCH THIRD

MICHAEL DeMOCKER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE A yard full of crosses representing "all that was was lost courtesy of BP and our Federal government" fills a front yard on Grand Isle during the oil spill disaster on Tuesday, June 1, 2010.

BP agrees to $7.8 billion partial settlement to private plaintiffs: what does this mean for America’s Delta?

The biggest coastal news item today is the announcement that an out of court settlement was reached yesterday between BP and a large group of claimants, in which the oil giant will pay at least $7.8 billion for medical and economic claims of individuals and businesses negatively impacted by the Macondo well blowout in 2010. David Hammer* wrote a lengthy account in today’s The Times-Picayune about this complicated story that is still unfolding and could drag on through 2012 and for decades beyond.

The payoff will come from a $20 billion escrow account that BP had set aside for penalties. About $6 billion has already been paid out from this fund by the government-appointed broker Kenneth Feinberg, so subtracting roughly $8 billion more only leaves $6 billion to settle state and federal damage claims. This will clearly be insufficient to pay the claims of the five gulf states seeking portions of the federal fines that will be imposed under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act. I therefore assume that BP and its co-defendants could ultimately be on the hook for an additional $20 billion, or perhaps more.

Judge Carl Barbier has once again postponed the start of the new trial from March 5 to a later date, apparently with the hope that additional settlements will be reached. This would reduce the scope of the trial, in which a mind-blowing 72 million pages have documents have been filed.

The Louisiana response to the news of this partial settlement is reflected in the following quote from  Hammer’s article:

Garret Graves, the state of Louisiana’s trustee for the its environmental damage claims, welcomed the settlement between BP and private plaintiffs, but also made it clear that the government claims are still ready for trial.

“It is pretty clear that BP feels that they are above the law and the Coast Guard is still looking for it,” Graves said.* “We are looking forward to an expedited trial plan to fast track justice and recovery.

“We have been preparing for trial for over 18 months and are very anxious to get into court as soon as possible on the remaining matters before the court,” Graves added. “This would include confirming the obvious gross negligence determination, any criminal issues resulting from the investigation, and tens of billions of dollars in natural resources and Clean Water Act fines reinvested in our coast and the Gulf — it is the only way we will have a long term recovery from one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters.”

Despite our desperate need to maximize help from the feds in terms of restoring the gulf coast, Louisiana officials cannot resist gigging the feds at every opportunity, including the Macondo blowout. For example, I’m puzzled by Graves’ ambiguous statement about the Coast Guard; for example, what does “it” refer to? He seems to accuse the Coast Guard of either being unclear about the law or seeking to ignore it.

The caption on the above photo implies that coastal residents hold the feds liable, along with BP, for what was lost. This reflects the effectiveness of Gov. Jindal’s campaign to blame the Obama Administration for the disaster. That’s a strange way to curry cooperation and help from the Obama administration.

The fact is that the BP disaster, tragic though it was for the people killed and injured, was truly a god send for the State of Louisiana. The blowout and subsequent oil discharge happened just in time to provide the only serious funding source to partially implement phase one of the 2012 Louisiana Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, which currently awaits approval by the state legislature.

As the BP incident slowly moves toward an ultimate financial resolution it would be refreshing to see a cease and desist order from Governor Jindal in terms of partisan political rhetoric. Sigh.

*With assistance from Mark Schleifstein and The Associated Press.

MARCH SECOND

Where’s the public voice in the new private oil spill response program?

Macondo blowout photo from the LOSCO web site

David Hammer reported in today’s The Times-Picayune that major oil companies active in offshore oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico have pooled their resources and instituted the Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC) to respond quickly to future well blowouts or other kinds of accidental releases. Here’s the description of MSRC from its website:

The oil and shipping industries acted to provide (oil spill response) capability by supporting the formation of the Marine Preservation Association (MPA) and the Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC). MPA, whose membership consists of companies engaged in the business of petroleum exploration and production, refining and marketing, transportation and shipping, provides steady state funding to MSRC in furtherance of the objectives of OPA-90 and the recognition by MPA’s Members of the importance of a high quality, dedicated spill response capability.

MSRC is an independent, non-profit, national spill response company dedicated to rapid response. MSRC’s capabilities include a large inventory of vessels, equipment, and trained personnel, complemented by a large contractor workforce in numerous locations in the continental U.S., Hawaii, and the Caribbean. MSRC also provides dedicated access to alternative response technologies such as in situ burn kits and aerial and vessel dispersant spraying.

The MSRC sounds like a vastly expanded version of the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office (LOSCO) that was established in 1989 (in the Office of the Governor) following the EXXON Valdez disaster in Alaska. Here’s a quote from the LOSCO web site regarding its role:

LOSCO’s primary function is to ensure effective coordination and representation of the state’s interests in all matters related to spill response and prevention. Our principal goals are to: 

· Minimize unauthorized discharges of oil
· Provide for an effective spill response
· Compensate the public for damages to the state’s natural resources
· Assist the public through education, service, and public outreach

Despite these lofty official goals, the small LOSCO office was strikingly invisible during the Macondo well blowout in 2010, when one would think it would have played a prominent role in the state response. Cynics like myself have always believed that the LOSCO was purposely designed as a figurehead institution with no real teeth. Given the political power of oil and gas in Louisiana, nothing else was conceivable.

The impotence of the LOSCO is no reflection on the performance of my colleagues on staff, who are strictly limited by whatever authority Governor Jindal doles out. Staffers of this office have been diligently working in the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process to quantify ecosystem impacts of the Macondo disaster.

Speaking of authority or lack of same, I’m very curious whether the bylaws of the industry-led MSRC provides for coordination with both state and federal agencies. For example, when the next disaster occurs, will the Coast guard, EPA, NOAA and gulf state agencies be invited to sit at the emergency response table?

Enquiring minds would like to know.

MARCH FIRST

Bonnie Jo Mount/Post - Smithsonian Institute anthropologist Dennis Stanford, left, and University of Exeter archeologist Bruce Bradley examine knives from the last Ice Age. Background map modified from a Post graphic.

Forget those northwest Johnny-come-latelys; the first Americans landed in Maryland 22,000 years ago!

I began my coastal science career in Maryland in 1961, working in the Chesapeake Bay. You can thus understand my thrill at reading this article by Brian Vastag in The Washington Post about evidence that the first immigrants to the Brave New World were Europeans who emigrated to what is now Maryland 22 thousand years ago, not the latter day Asians who crossed the Bering Straits 7 millennia later.

This radical theory is premised largely on a stone knife found in 1970 with a 22,000 year old mastodon tusk in the contents of a fishing trawl dragged in 240 feet of water, at a location that was dry land when the mammoth died. That was the during height of the Pleistocene period, when global sea level was about 130 meters (420 feet) lower than today.

After finishing this mini-post I’ll be working on my speaking points for a panel discussion on the coastal implications of the Panama Canal expansion, to be presented at 3:30 Saturday March 3 at the 2012 Tulane Environmental Law Summit. I’m excited to report that the keynote address at this notable Spring event will be presented at 5:00 by Charles C. Mann, who’s an authority on the pre-Columbian and post-Columbian states of the Americas, with two acclaimed books on that subject (1491 and 1493, respectively).

Check out the schedule for the summit and register here.

Charles C. Mann books on pre and post Columbian days.

 

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  15. riverrat says:

    “Screed” indeed – the Governor’s WSJ editorial read as if it were written by an oil industry robot (which it was.) One can counter the many falsehoods and distortions in Jindal’s piece, but the specifics aren’t as important as the goal. Like all his decisions, the editorial was done to feed his national ambitions – the same motivation behind all his major (and a few minor) decisions. The interests of his state are left far behind. From the way he declares war on the President, you’d think that Louisiana didn’t need a national partnership to restore its coast (or have an adequate health care system, or education system, etc. etc.) The people of this state will rue the passivity they showed in the face of the self-serving agenda of this venal little man.

    • piers chapman says:

      Unfortunately he’s not alone. All the Republican candidates for President seem to believe that if only we can extract more oil within the US, we can reduce the price at the pump. Romney’s speeches in Missouri today were full of this nonsense.

  16. Kelly Haggar says:

    In other legal news, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the VA Attorney General cannot apply the Fraud Against
    Taxpayers Act (FATA) to the Univ of Va, meaning Michael Mann’s e-mails and files cannot be obtained under that law. This ruling has no effect on the separate suit to obtain the identical material under VA’s Freedom of Information Act.

    If anyone wants the details and the opinion, download it from “http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opnscvwp/1102359.pdf.”

    The case is captioned “Cuccinelli v. Rector and Visitors of University of Virginia.”

  17. Kelly Haggar says:

    5th Cir just upheld Robinson. Much too early to tell if an en blanc (the whole circuit) will convene – that’s how Comer on AGW was overturned. At least on this first round, the Navy destroyer analogy has been affirmed. My first take on the opinion is that the panel is badly mistaken on Central Green. Stay turned. But, for now, the winners can take a bow.

    Here’s a law prof’s first cut on the ruling:

    The 5th Circuit just affirmed the lower court decision in the Katrina Levee Breaches Litigation. The Court basically rejected Flood Control Act immunity unless the “damages result from waters released by flood control activity or negligence therein.”

    I assume this is headed to the United States Supreme Court. If this case is not overruled, it will have a devastating effect on coastal wetlands. This ruling will force the Corps into building levees everywhere that hurricane surge might threaten a populated area. These barriers will prevent wetlands from migrating inland as the ocean rises, leaving major sections of the coast with the ocean breaking against a levee.

  18. Very exciting find! And it’s too bad for me that I am out of town this weekend and so will miss the Tulane Environmental Law Summit!

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