Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

Thursday, July 2, 2015 - 12:47pm
oil clean up june 2010

Five years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana, claiming eleven lives and causing devastating harm to Gulf Coast’s communities and ecosystem. Today, BP, the Gulf States and the Department of Justice reached a settlement agreement on the fines associated with their Clean Water Act penalties and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment.

“The needs of the Gulf are urgent and by settling this case we avoid years or even decades of legal appeals,” said Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director with Gulf Restoration Network. “Although $18.7 billion is a significant sum, we have serious concerns about how much of this money is actually going to be allocated towards restoring the Gulf’s environment and impacted communities. The funds from this settlement provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to repair the Gulf in the wake of the BP disaster and make our coasts and communities stronger and more resilient for future generations....

Friday, June 26, 2015 - 10:17am
Governor's Oyster Council for Mississippi Final Report
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Oyster Council Chairman Dave Dennis and MDRM Director Jamie Miller (l to r)

This week the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources released the final report of the Governor’s Oyster Council on Restoration and Resiliency. Both MDMR Director Jamie Miller and Governor Phil Bryant have said that 2015 is the “year of the oyster” in Mississippi. It is the year to start helping oysters recover. Oyster dock landings have plummeted from half a million sacks to 26,000 sacks in a decade, after the resource sustained two successive setbacks: Katrina and the BP oil spill. Council chairman Dave Dennis, Director Miller and his MDMR staff released the report on time in the form of recommendations for the industry and the Mississippi Legislature. They fell into three broad categories: Oysters in the Environment, Oysters in the Economy, and Oyster Aquaculture and Emerging Technologies. The Mississippi Legislature will need some education about oysters and the industry they support so some of the report’s recommendations can get funded...

Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 10:15am
Graph of Dead Zone Sizes 1985-2015
Graph of Dead Zone Sizes 1985-2015 (click image to enlarge)

Scientists recently released their predictions of the size of this year’s Gulf Dead Zone. They predict that the Dead Zone will be approximately 5,500 square miles, or the size of Connecticut. This is approximately the size of last year’s Dead Zone (5,052 mi2) and almost three times the goal of the Dead Zone Task Force.

The most recent Dead Zone Action Plan called for a 45% reduction of Dead Zone-causing pollution in the Mississippi River and set a goal of reducing the size of the Dead Zone to 1,930 mi2 by 2015. Needless to say, we blew through that goal without any real success. So the EPA and Task Force just said “oops” and just moved the goal posts. Now the goal is to to make the same reductions by 2035. Still with no real description how that will happen or what...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 - 11:12am

What a great way to kick off the summer. This past Friday, over 600 people gathered at the Peristyle to dance, drink, and donate. The Green Project, Global Green and Concordia were all celebraing decades of water protection work, and for GRN, this was our 21st birthday celebration!

People arrived to the beat of Luther Gray and the Congo Square Preservation Society, and a couple of young drummers joined in. To stay cool, we snacked on fresh watermelon, gazpacho, cocktails and champagne. Special thanks to the eight local artists who painted our silent auction rain barrels. They created custom works of art that function as sustainable systems to catch rain water!

In addition to the silent auction, there was a raffle, with a huge grand prize won by Rosalie Torres. She took home over $900 worth of goodies from local businesses ranging from an Unique Product Watermeter clock to a...

Monday, June 22, 2015 - 11:45am
sea turtle

The deadline for citizens to weigh-in on a new round of projects proposed as part of early restoration efforts in the wake of the BP drilling disaster is just around the corner. The good news is that a majority of this funding, which is part of the early restoration Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), is being dedicated to restoring the marine and coastal environment, including a much-needed project to protect bluefin tuna by helping longline fishermen transition to more sustainable fishing gear and a project focused on restoring sea turtle populations. Join us in thanking the NRDA trustees for these efforts to protect our coasts and marine life!

It’s exciting that this round of funding will include projects truly focused on restoration, but as we celebrate this significant step forward, we also need to make sure that the NRDA trustees are giving the public all the information they...

Friday, June 19, 2015 - 3:24pm
Photo credit Jonathan Henderson/GRN/Southwings.

In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, a federal judge has ordered the Department of the Interior to make documents available showing how much fracking is really going on in the Gulf. 

In addition to information on how many wells are being fracked in the Gulf, this ruling could give the public a better idea of how much toxic waster water is being dumped into Gulf waters. This waste water is filled with toxic chemicals and is used, under intense pressure, to crack the sea floor in order to reach the oil deposits underneath. Similar techniques are used for onshore fracking, and both present possibly catastrophic consequences. 

In an article, our own Jonathan Henderson stated “(T)he seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico is not flat; it is full of canyons and ridges and steep inclines and declines (and) (T)here's faults; it's unstable, and any...

Monday, June 8, 2015 - 2:37pm
NRDA Phase IV Mississippi Projects Long Beach Ms
NRDA Trustees hold Public Meeting for Phase IV Early Restoration Project Comments in Long Beach, Ms.

On Thursday, June 4th, in Long Beach, Miss., trustees for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) held a public meeting for commenting on funding proposals for ten projects across the five Gulf States. These are restoration projects funded by penalties generated by the Oil Pollution Act in the wake of the BP disaster. This federal act requires a broad damage assessment in the Gulf, and although this is not finalized, several rounds of “early” restoration funding have been released by the trustees. These ten plans comprise Phase 4 of “early” NRDA funding.  Gulf Restoration Network provided preliminary comments Thursday night on two projects particularly affecting Mississippi. The meeting was attended by around 70 people. Final comments are due to the trustees on June 19th.

Construction of living shorelines in sections of the Bay of St. Louis, Biloxi Bay, Graveline Bay, and Grand Bay are proposed in Mississippi’s three coastal counties:...

Saturday, June 6, 2015 - 7:35pm

Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has been predominately located in the central and western portions of the Gulf off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but federal lawmakers have recently introduced legislation that would allow drilling much closer to Florida’s coast.

According to an article in the Tampa Bay Times, under current law drilling is prohibited within 125 miles off the coast of the Panhandle and 235 miles off the coast of Tampa Bay. The prohibition of drilling in this area started in 1983. Understandably, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida wants to extend the current moratorium on drilling, protecting the state, in particular tourism. Both of Louisiana and Mississippi’s senators, along with one of Texas’ senators, are pushing to expand oil and gas development to within just 50 miles off Florida’s coast. If this is allowed, pristine beaches would be subject to the impacts of...

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 10:09am
Santa Barbara Oil Spill
Photo courtesy of General Physics Laboratory

This piece was written by David Helvarg, the executive director of Blue Frontier, and was originally printed as an Op-Ed in the LA Times. Blue Frontier is an ocean and conservation policy group.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of high beach season, but there are miles of coastline near Santa Barbara that will be out of commission this weekend thanks to a pipeline oil spill.

This is how most offshore oil works: You drill miles off the coast, pump the oil onshore to be processed and pipe it along the coast. On Tuesday, an underground pipeline that runs between Gaviota and Refugio State Beach ruptured, and the oil followed gravity into a culvert and back out to sea.

More than 100,000 gallons of oil may have spilled, including an estimated 20,000 on the beach and in an oil slick in one of our nation's richest marine habitats....

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 8:49pm

How can Louisiana fund the integrity of its Oyster reefs? Public monies from polluters may provide a big boost, but it seems that the powers that be leave money from enforcement of coastal permits on the table. 

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor released a report on subsidies to oil and gas, and this time, it's the oysters on our public reefs that pay, as well as the farmers that work with these reefs. Shell is limited; time is running out for our reefs, but it seems that oil and gas can take all the time it needs to pay for its damages to the natural resources of Louisiana.

You can read the honest responses from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries here (page 17) in the Auditors' report.

The Report Summary states as follows:

LDWF needs to improve its process for...