For Immediate Release
December 3, 2008
Contact: Aaron Viles, 225-615-0346,
Shell Receives Letter Demanding Wetlands Accountability
Groups Seek $362 Million for Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Damage
New Orleans, LA â€“ Today, 30 local, national and international organizations, ranging from Greenpeace USA to the Louisiana Shrimp Association and spearheaded by the Gulf Restoration Network, sent a letter to Shell Oil, holding Shell accountable for wetlands loss caused by the companyâ€™s pipeline canal dredging in coastal Louisiana, and asking Shell to contribute $361,984,000 to the restoration of Louisianaâ€™s wetlands. This letter is part of an effort which aims at holding oil and gas companies responsible for the role they have played in wetlands loss.
â€śThere is solid evidence that forty to sixty percent of Louisianaâ€™s coastal wetlands loss can be traced to oil and gas activities,â€ť says Aaron Viles, Campaign Director for the Gulf Restoration Network. â€śIt is only fair that companies like Shell pay for the cost of the damage they have caused.â€ť
While Shellâ€™s fortunes continue to rise, coastal Louisianaâ€™s marshes are disappearing at an astounding rate and thus leaving the whole region more vulnerable to future hurricanes. According to records from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources,
Shell Oil has dredged 8.8 million cubic yards material while laying pipelines since 1983. These activities alone have caused the loss of 22,624 acres of wetlands in the last 25 years.
The gas and oil industryâ€™s response has been that they are already paying. Chris John, a former Louisiana Congressman who is now president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, stated in a recent interview on WWL-TV, "The fact of the matter is we are paying," he also said that the problem will not be solved unless people stop pointing fingers. In the same interview, he names the Army Corps of Engineers as one other party responsible in damage to the wetlands.
Louisianaâ€™s political leadership has also responded, in agreement with the gas and oil industry. Garrett Graves, director of the Governorâ€™s Office of Coastal Affairs, in the WWL-TV program recently aired stated that holding the industry responsible for their actions is not on his agenda, and also in the interview stated â€śWeâ€™re working with the energy industry, together trying to try to get this done.â€ť
However, the revenue pointed to by Mr. John is simply the money the industry pays State and Federal government for the right to drill, and does not constitute accountability to Louisianaâ€™s environment or communities on the part of the gas and oil industry. Shell is responsible for part of the destruction of wetlands, and they have the resources to do something about their mistakes before it is too late, contend the groups.
Anne Rolfes, Founder of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a member of the coalition to hold Shell accountable for wetlands loss, affirms, â€śFor over fifty years Shell has contributed to the destruction of our coast. Itâ€™s only fair they pay their share of the bill.â€ť
The current situation in southern Louisiana informs the national debate around expanding offshore drilling on the Atlantic and Pacific Coast. Increased off-shore drilling would be detrimental to coastal communities, which is clear in the case of Louisiana. Decades of oil and gas activity along the coast have left the expanse of coastal marsh created by the Mississippi River in a shredded, weakened state.
Restoring Louisianaâ€™s coast would benefit the state and nationâ€™s economy in countless ways. Every three to four miles of wetlands reduce storm surge by one foot, so reversing the land loss crisis would help guard thousands of homes and businesses from future devastation.
â€śThe recreational hunting and fishing industry in Louisiana is a major driver of the stateâ€™s economy, but it is increasingly threatened by coastal land loss,â€ť states Mike Lane, publisher and co-owner of RodNReel.com. â€śIrresponsible corporations such as Shell Oil have made billions of dollars in profit from the resources of our state and it is time that they gave back to the coast.â€ť
To truly restore the coast and protect South Louisiana communities will likely require a commitment of upwards of $50 billion dollars, a burden which outstrips the currently identified state and federal revenue streams. While significant projects have been authorized by the federal government, appropriating these funds will be far more challenging. To ensure Louisianaâ€™s coastal needs are met, parties responsible for the coastal wetlands crisis such as Shell must be brought to the table.
The letter is a continuation of an on-going effort to bring Shell to the table. Earlier this year, the Gulf Restoration Network and others flew a banner over the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which read â€śShell, Hear the Music, Fix the Coast You Broke,â€ť while concerned citizens attending the festival wore tee shirts with the same slogan. Shell is the major sponsor of Jazz Fest.
On August 19th, elements of the coalition converged at New Orleansâ€™ One Shell Square to hand-deliver to Shell a giant invoice for wetlands restoration to the tune of $361,984,000. That effort was supported by a major celebrity, and the highlight of the event was the appearance of Mr. Bill, the play dough character from classic Saturday Night Live, in a limousine, with his entourage of supermodels, security and paparazzi.
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The letter to Shell may be viewed at this web link: http://tinyurl.com/shellcares1 and the WWL TV story quoted can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/shellcares
Gulf Restoration Network
338 Baronne St. Ste. 200
New Orleans, LA 70112
w: 504.525.1528 ext. 207 c:225.615.0346