On January 13th, people around the country will be wearing blue for oceans to support the first-ever national ocean, coast, and Great Lakes policy.
Our nation's oceans and coasts are spectacular, resource-rich environments that are home to an incredible diversity of life, but they're managed by 20 different federal agencies trying to implement 140 separate and sometimes conflicting laws and regulations. To help overcome the threats facing our oceans and coasts, we need a unifying, national ocean policy that protects, maintains, and restores our remarkable ocean and coastal resources â€“ and we now have the opportunity to get just that.
The Federal Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, which held one of six public hearing sessions in Gulf Region during October, has released its recommendations for national marine spatial planning policy (click here for the report). It's time to come together to show support for our oceans and coasts and urge President Obama to issue an Executive Order to turn these recommendations into reality. Go to wearblueforoceans.org to attend an event near you, or to sign up to host your own!
The ninth largest body in the world, the Gulf of Mexico, often considered â€śThe Mediterranean Sea of the Americas,â€ť is an astonishingly diverse, interconnected ecosystem. Yet the Gulf and its communities face the increasingly serious consequences of Dead Zone-causing pollution, a severe oil and gas industry footprint, unsustainable fishing practices, dramatic wetlands loss, and ocean acidification from global warming. An ecosystem-based, conservation-guided national ocean policy will help us protect and restore these extraordinary and necessary resources for years to come. So check out wearblueforoceans.org, and come out to an event near you on January 13th!
And for a great talk on why our ocean resources are so crucial, check out renowned ocean researcher Sylvia Earleâ€™s Ted Prize talk:
Letâ€™s face it, the potential consequences of climate change are staring us in the face here in the Gulf. These consequences, such as sea level rise, increased storm intensity, and ocean acidification (which decimates coral populations) are already impacting our communities, fisheries, and wildlife. Looking through this lens, it is quite discouraging to see that two Gulf states, Louisiana and Texas, are aggressively speaking out against EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses. These letters all stem from an â€śendangerment findingâ€ť from the EPA, as well as an associated proposed rule regarding the regulation of some greenhouse gas emitters. The most discouraging thing about both of these letters is the distinct absence of concern regarding the environmental effects of greenhouse gas emissions on our coast. The bulk of both letters focus on the perceived impact on the oil and gas industries, as well as the added work imposed on the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). In fact, LDEQ goes as far as to use the impacts of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike as a reason to not regulate greenhouse gases, despite the fact that if sea levels continue to rise, we will lose wetlands that protect communities from storms, as well as protect oil and gas infrastructure from the elements and boat strikes.
Further, LDEQ contradicts itself in the December 15th letter. This letter states that regulation of greenhouse gasses should not occur â€śthrough unilateral agency policy under the auspices of EPA.â€ť And yet in a brief that LDEQ submitted in a court case regarding the Big Cajun power plant, LDEQ states that it â€śis aware of the issues associated with climate change and greenhouse gases. Likewise, so is EPA.â€ť LDEQ goes on to say that â€śgiven the regulation of greenhouse gasses is currently being addressed at the national level by the EPA, [LDEQ] made the decision that it will follow EPAâ€™s lead.â€ť LDEQ stresses that EPAâ€™s regulation of greenhouse gases â€śis the only workable approach to an issue with nationwide implicationâ€¦.If the EPA ultimately determines that greenhouse gas emissions must be limited, [LDEQ] will follow suit.â€ť (emphasis added) To put it simply, the letter from LDEQ Secretary Harold Leggett* is decidedly not following EPAâ€™s lead, it is actively challenging it.
Given the upcoming holidays, I do not have the time, or desire, to dispute the letters from Louisiana and Texas line by line, but I must say again that I am disappointed by these letters. Given the fact that we are at ground zero when it comes to sea level rise and climate change, and our experience with the energy sector, the Gulf States should be leaders in promoting a clean economy, and not obstructing progress towards cleaner air and healthy, sustainable communities. I am glad that, regarding the regulation of greenhouse gases, the EPA is living up to the â€śEâ€ť in its name. I wish I could say the same for LDEQ and TCEQ.
*At the time of posting this blog, it was brought to my attention that Harold Leggett officially resigned as Secretary of LDEQ. He will be replaced by the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Environmental Compliance, Peggy Hatch.
Matt is Water Resources Program Director for the GRN
Transparent sea cucumbers! Wildcat tubeworms! The Census of Marine Life, a decade-long international research project, has inventoried over 17,600 deep-sea species that live where no sunlight seeps through. Check out this truly remarkable footage:
The findings are a cry for conservation-based ocean policy, as even deep-sea ecosystems feel human impacts. Robert S. Carney, LSU professor and co-leader of the project's Continental Margin Ecosystems, sums it up well: "Many species live there [the "abyss"]. However, the abyss has long been viewed as a desert. Worse, it was viewed as a wasteland where few to no environmental impacts could be of any concern. 'Mine it, drill it, dispose into it, or fish it - what could possibly be impacted? And, if there is an impact, the abyss is vast and best yet, hidden from sight.' Census of Marine Life deep realm scientists see and are concerned."
The Pascagoula River and the Mississippi Sound are an amazing natural and economic treasure for Mississippi - home to wildlife like pelicans and dolphins, and famous for their fantastic fishing. Unfortunately, they are threatened right now by a Department of Energy plan to hollow out an underground salt dome near Richton, Mississippi in order to store more oil! This plan involves sucking 50 million gallons of water a day from the Pascagoula River every day for five years, and dumping this polluted, hyper-salty water off the coast of Horn Island.
To add salt to the wound, this irresponsible plan will cost American taxpayers upwards of $4 billion dollars! Recently, Congress set aside another $25 million dollars for this project. Despite widespread opposition, Congress keeps approving more and more public money for this environmentally destructive project! Click here to tell your representatives to put the brakes on the Richton salt dome and listen to the public's concerns by holding Congressional field hearings now:
The Mississippi Sound and the Pascagoula River are vital economic drivers for the state's economy and this project puts these resources and the jobs that rely on them at risk. Marine fishing alone employs over 6,000 people! It's time for our representatives to listen to the public and stop squandering taxpayer dollars on this wasteful project. Take action by sending a message to your representatives now!
Please join me, members of the Healthy Gulf Krewe, and other dedicated GRN volunteers for a conference call to learn more about joining the Healthy Gulf Krewe to help save the Gulf.
Wednesday, December 9th at 7:30pm Central Time Call-In Number: 712-775-7000 Conference Code: 969864#
Below is the blog I posted a while ago that gives a brief overview of the Healthy Gulf Krewe. It's pretty good, but it will be even better to discuss the vision for the Krewe, its mission, and what it means to be a Krewe member on Wednesday's call. Look forward to speaking with you then!
Gulf Restoration Network is proud to launch the Healthy Gulf Krewe to continue building the movement of ordinary citizens from around the country fighting for Louisiana's wetlands and a healthy Gulf! You are officially invited to join the Krewe, and you can get started by contacting Dan Favre,
or 504-525-1528 ext 209.
Healthy Gulf Krewe Mission:
To unite and empower people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico (and have fun while doing it!). To build the Gulf Restoration Network citizen voice throughout the country. To develop dedicated volunteer leaders to defend the Gulf Coast.
On the Gulf coast, the traditions of Carnival are celebrated from Galveston and New Orleans to Mobile and Tampa. The bands of revelers, known as â€śkrewesâ€ť, are famous for parades and balls, and many also support good causes. Gulf Restoration Network is using tradition to fight for the future with the Healthy Gulf Krewe, a nation-wide band of fun-loving, hard-working activists passionate about defending the Gulf.
Spend at least 10 hours per month fighting for the Gulf
Organize 10 events per year to educate and mobilize the public (see reverse for ideas)
GRN Commitment to You
Materials â€“ From our No Coast, No Music Benefit CD and your choice of GRN t-shirt to brochures, posters, and petition sheets, weâ€™ll provide the materials to get things done (and look good doing it!).
Knowledge â€“ Youâ€™ll receive our newsletter, calendar annual report, and e-mail action alerts to keep you up to date. Krewe members will also be invited to special briefings and skills trainings - over the phone, and perhaps even here in New Orleans.
Support â€“ Monthly conference calls will keep the Krewe in touch, and GRN staff will be happy to help you brainstorm, plan, and execute your events. And weâ€™ll show you a great time when you come to visit!
As we celebrate the wilderness and amazing cultures of the Gulf, weâ€™ve got to fight for the future. Defend our wetlands, defend ourselves! To learn more and join, contact GRN Campaign Organizer, Dan Favre at
or 504-525-1528 ext 209.
Potential Events for Krewe Members to Organize
Set up a table and gather petition signatures at a local farmersâ€™ market, street festival, or music show (we could probably help get you set up with Dr. John, Galactic, Tab Benoit, Amanda Shaw, Anders Osbourne, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and a few others)
Make a short presentation to a local civic organization (your Rotary club, your church, your friends at the bar) and collect petition signatures addressed to your elected officials
Phonebank GRN members and activists to engage them in a specific effort, event, or campaign
Host a GRN Happy Hour or a â€śMardi Gras Party with Purposeâ€ť with New Orleans food and drink to raise money and awareness for GRN
Meet with other environmental or civic groups to enlist their support
Organize a movie screening â€“ anytime is great, and especially important as part of GRNâ€™s work to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Katrina and Rita
Join us in Washington DC to lobby your stateâ€™s delegation for a federal commitment to a sustainable Gulf coast, and/or meet with your Senators and Representative at home
Put together a panel of speakers to present at a local university (maybe you could even get a GRN staffer to come talk!)
Conduct a press conference to publicize an important event or report
Put on a huge benefit concert to raise awareness and money (we know the guys in Galactic . . . )
Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer (a.k.a "Krewe Organizer") for GRN. Join the Krewe by contacting him at
or 504-525-1528 ext 209.
We learned yesterday of a tragic loss to New Orleans and all who care about our city and region's future. Pam Dashiell, a long-time leader in the Holy Cross neighborhood, was found dead in her home. As the co-leader of the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, she was a strong and steady voice for a truly long-term, sustainable recovery for her neighborhood, a recovery that embraced a vision of carbon neutrality, robust coastal lines of defense, and environmental & social justice.
Personally, Pam was one of the first activists I ever worked with when I made my move to New Orleans about ten years ago. I was working for a national environmental group and we were about to release a report detailing environmentally harmful and fiscally irresponsible federal projects. The industrial canal lock expansion topped the list locally, so Darryl Malek Wiley with the Sierra Club introduced me to the Holy Cross Neighborhood leaders who had been spearheading efforts to stop the project, Pam and John Koeferal. They were both so welcoming, and so passionate about the cause, I knew I had found long-term partners.
As I moved onto other issues, campaigns and organizations, Pam was always there. We ran into each other in the Hague at an international Shell protest (the photo is our group enjoying some corporate accountability camaraderie). We served together on the board of advisors of the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal & Ecological Health. We worked together on coastal wetlands restoration advocacy, on closing the MRGO (see the WDSU clip below), on global warming advocacy, on Gulf recovery advocacy. We joked about how much time we spent together in meetings, sometimes four a week.
I always wanted to sit next to her to make sure we could collaborate, bounce ideas off each other, and most importantly make each other laugh. Pam was the heart and soul of her community, and we are all going to miss her. Her legacy is her work. We will keep heading to the vision that Pam was diligently working towards. We'll get there together, it's just not going to be nearly as much fun now along the way.
Aaron Viles is GRN's campaign director
The Times-Picayune ran their obituary on Pam today. You can see it here.
Included in it are details for Friday's memorial and Saturday's funeral:
A memorial tribute will be held Friday at 6 p.m. at All Souls Episcopal Church, 5500 St. Claude Avenue. A funeral will be held at All Souls on Saturday at 11 a.m., with visitation starting at 9 a.m. Rhodes Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development will be covering all the costs for the burial, memorial and funeral.
Donations can be made out to their 501 (C) 3 partner Teagras Helping Hands, and sent to the CSED at 5130 Chartres St. New Orleans, LA 70117
One additional thing I have heard is that next week's meeting of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association will include sharing memories of Pam, as part of their holiday potluck. All are welcome. It's next Thursday, December 10th, from 5:30-9:00 p.m. at 4804 Dauphine Street.
Also, the Gambit blog has a piece on her, and some folks have made some very nice comments.
Having seen all of the press coverage and politicians making statements about the opinion written by Judge Duval finding that Corps negligence resulted in the levee breach that flooded St. Bernard Parish and the Ninth Ward, last week I obtained a copy of that opinion.
After having read all 156 pages of the opinion, what I find most surprising is how most of the coverage and statements by politicians fail to acknowledge the actual basis for the Courtsâ€™ finding of liability. Contrary to many of these statements I have heard, the Court did not find the Corps liable because it built the MRGO. Rather, he found the Corps liable because their continuous failure to properly maintain the MRGO and address significant erosion contributed to the breach of the Reach 2 Levee that protects St. Bernard Parish and the 9th Ward. On other hand, he did not find them liable for damages to New Orleans East or for the levee breach that occurred in the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal.
What is most striking about the entire case; however, is that the Judges recitation of the facts shows, an utter disregard by the Corps for over 20 year of the safety of the residents of St. Bernard Parish. After detailing the history of the MRGO and the expert testimony presented at trial, Judge Duvalâ€™s opinion specifically found that
â€śClearly, the Corp failed to maintain and operate the MRGO in a manner so as not be a substantial factor in the destruction of the Reach 2 Levee. In addition, it failed to take action that it could have taken to place foreshore protection using the very operation and maintenance funds which proved to be sufficient to fund these actions in the 1990â€™s. Instead, it ignored the safety issues for the inhabitants of the region and focused solely on the maritime clients it serviced so well.â€ť
The second thing that is so striking â€“ but not surprising for those of us who watchdog Corps projects -- is the Corpsâ€™ blatant disregard for the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The Corps published its â€śFinal Composite Environmental Statement of Operation and Maintenance on Three Navigation Projects in the Lake Borgne Vicinity Louisianaâ€ť in March of 1976.
In February 1988, it published a â€śMississippi River-Gulf Outlet St. Bernard Parish, La. Bank Erosion Reconnaissance Report" which reported that the Outlet was experienc severe erosion that was steadily widening the MR-GO and that the east bank along Lake Borgne was dangerously close to being breached. According to the Court, despite this finding, the Corps never supplemented its 1976 Environmental Impact Statement as required by NEPA, and â€śnever addressed mitigation measures, alternatives, or risks to human life and property, or any other disclosures required by NEPA and its implementing regulations.
Finally between 1980 and 2004, the Corps performed a total of 26 environmental assessments of the MRGO relating to operation and maintenance in which in each instance the Corps found that the operation and maintenance had no significant impact (FONSI) . . . . â€ť (Opinion at p. 133-134.)
Sadly, this case is alone sufficient proof of the need for the reform of this powerful agency and ensures that in the future, community safety is given equal importance to the interests of navigation.
As our readers know, many of our issues end up being settled in a legal manner. Recently we were profiled by attorney.org, which is a non-profit website that features breaking legal news, as well as profiles organizations that work on various issues. If you have a chance, you can check out GRN's profile and the other organizations and news items on attorney.org. Matt Rota is GRN's Water Resources Program Director
The Gulf Region is known for its fishing, and so it's in everyone's best interest that Gulf fish stocks thrive. Unfortunately, as Daniel Pauly pointed out this fall, the fishing industrial complex has made "eating a tuna roll at a sushi restaurant...no more environmentally benign than driving a Hummer or harpooning a manatee."
Recent recreational season closures in the Gulf came after catch limits were exceeded, but the decision to close the amberjack season has excited a couple protests and press. While the system used to estimate catch levels has significant problems, the fact that we are able to take action to manage the Gulf's amazing fisheries sustainably and limit overfishing is encouraging. The short-term pain of an early closure must be balanced against the long-term gain of healthy Gulf fish populations.