Gulf Restoration Network

United for a Healthy Gulf

 
Blogging for a Healthy Gulf
Raleigh Hoke
Stop Mississippi Power's Plans for Coal Mine and Power Plant
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 07:45
Mississippi Power is moving forward with plans to build a dirty, unnecessary, and expensive coal plant in Kemper County, Mississippi, and they want ratepayers to foot the bill!

The plant and associated mine will impact approximately 6,000 acres of wetlands and disturb over 40 miles of rivers, streams and creeks - all at an enormous cost to Mississippi ratepayers. In fact, one expert stated that rates for Mississippi Power customers could "increase substantially" if this $2.4 billion dollar project is allowed to move forward.
The Mississippi Public Service Commission is currently considering the "cost and benefits" of this plan, so now is the time to take action to stop this expensive and destructive boondoggle. Just visit the link below to send the Commission your personal message:

http://action.healthygulf.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2145

The streams and wetlands which will be disturbed by the proposed project form an intricate system which ultimately feeds into the Pascagoula River and out into the Mississippi Sound. From fishing, hunting and swimming in these waters, to the natural flood protection that these wetlands provide, this resource is too valuable to sacrifice for such a dirty boondoggle.
In a recent column, the editor of the Mississippi Business Journal spoke out against Mississippi Power's funding scheme for Kemper coal, stating that "the ratepayers of Southeast Mississippi ought not be on the hook for the bill." That's exactly right, and now is your chance to help stop this project by sending the Commission your message.

Raleigh Hoke is GRN's Mississippi Organizer
 
Dan Favre
GRN Hosts Successful Student Leadership Training
Monday, 01 February 2010 14:29

The weekend of January 22-24 was filled with students learning how to fight for the health of the Gulf. Our student interns from around the Gulf, service learners from Tulane and a few great activists from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette gathered in New Orleans to gain the skills, knowledge, and experience they’ll need to work with GRN to protect the natural resources of the region.

The Students United for a Healthy Gulf Leadership Conference kicked off on Friday night with an overview of the history of the GRN’s work by Executive Director Cynthia Sarthou and a screening of Paradise Faded: The Fight for Louisiana.

The foundations of good organizing come from an understanding of the issues and hands-on training. For many of the students participating, it was their first attempt at grassroots organizing so they started off with the most tried and true method: petitioning. After a presentation on the dangers of cypress mulch by Campaign Organizer Dan Favre, the students on the basic organizing track went out into Audubon Park and across the Tulane campus to speak to the public about this important issue. In a little less than an hour the students returned with over 230 signed postcards! The students were excited to see that they could make an impact in for the health of the Gulf just by talking to the average citizen out on the street.

Meanwhile the students on the event planning track learned how to plan an event of their own. Again we focused on Cypress and the students were given to tools to plan a rally at a mulch retailer and then set forth to make that happen. They divided responsibilities and held a meeting to get the other students excited and engaged about the rally they were planning for Sunday.

Interspersed with other presentations by GRN staff focused on maintaining healthy waters, stopping global warming, and organizing strategies for the Gulf; students went on to learn how to recruit and train volunteers, turn people out to events, and earn media coverage of our issues.

At the end of the day of training and presentations the students went home excited to get out and see the marsh and protest the sale of unsustainable Cypress mulch the next day!


On Sunday, we could not have ordered a better day for a walk in the swamp. We were able to see 4 alligators and learn about the places we are fighting to protect.

Energized from our walk, we headed over to the Home Depot where we started to protest its selling of unsustainable cypress mulch in front of the store. We were quickly told to leave the property, but not before we got inside to get a few pictures of some of the students standing next to a pile of cypress mulch with a sign explaining why it kills our coast!

We moved over to the neutral ground where we chanted at the passing cars and encouraged them not to buy cypress mulch. Our new cheer for the day was a big hit: “Who dat? Who dat? Who day selling that cypress mulch? Who dat? Who dat? Who dat buying that cypress mulch?”

Everyone headed home feeling good about our contribution to the fight for the coast and more ready than ever to make plans for future efforts. We’re excited for the semester!

Helen Rose Patterson is the GRN's Campus Organizing Intern.

 
Grace Morris
FASCINATING GULF VIDEO: Corals, Cabrera Snapper, Sharks and More
Friday, 29 January 2010 08:45
Check out this National Geographic short about some of the beautiful and unique marine life that inhabits the Gulf and narrated by renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle.




This year is shaping up to be a big year for marine life. 2010 is the culminating year of the Census of Marine Life, a decade-long, international research project that's involved more than 2,000 scientists who have pioneered to our planet’s ocean depths and discovered incredible biodiversity in place previously believed to be lifeless. This is also the year that the United Nations dubbed 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity.

In the United States, the federal government is working towards a first-ever, ecosystem-based, national policy to protect, maintain, and restore our coasts and ocean (click here to support this visionary policy). And as it has for the past fifteen years, GRN, with your support, continues to fight for a biodiverse, vibrant Gulf of Mexico.
 
Jonathan Henderson
Why is Senator Landrieu Fighting Global Warming Action?
Thursday, 21 January 2010 13:01

Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast region is ground zero for the impacts of global warming. One need look no further than the research done by the best and brightest scientists in the world to see that rising sea-levels and more powerful storms have wreaked havoc on our vulnerable coast and communities. Fortunately, last December the Environmental Protection Agency, at the urging of the Supreme Court, announced its intention to begin a (relatively long) process to regulate greenhouse gasses. http://epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html

Senator Landrieu, who has worked tirelessly to help Louisiana secure federal resources to stem the tide of our coastal wetlands crisis, doesn’t seem to get the connection between the coast and our climate. Lining up with the oil and coal companies, Senator Landrieu is working with Alaska Senator Murkowski on proposals to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Sen. Mary Landrieu told reporters Wednesday that she is working with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Murkowski's efforts to block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the agency's current Clean Air Act powers.
There is no secret that Senator Landrieu has raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars from polluters: Mary Landrieu received $252,950 in oil contributions between 2007 and 2009. In total, Landrieu has accepted $574,005 from oil companies through 2008, which makes her one of the highest recipients of oil money. In addition to oil, Landrieu has received $69,458 in coal contributions during this same period. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Mary_Landrieu.

And in case there is any doubt that this attempt by Murkowski and Landrieu to scuttle the EPA’s authority to act on global warming, a recent article in the Washington Post exposes the fact that lobbyists for polluters who are fighting against action on climate have actually helped Murkowski draft her amendment: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/01/18/18greenwire-senates-top-epa-critic-raked-in-utilities-camp-30688.html?pagewanted=2

The time is now to stand up against the political/oil/coal cartel. The future of our State and the entire Gulf Region is at stake. It’s time to make sure senator Landrieu sides with the future of our coast and communities, not the short term interests of polluting industries.

You can take action now by calling Senator Landrieu's DC office at 202-224-5824 and give her the following message:

"I’m calling about Senator Landrieu’s support of Senator Murkowski’s efforts to gut the Clean Air Act. I’m very disappointed she’s siding with lobbyists and big business Wall Street interests instead of Louisiana families and small businesses and hope she’ll reconsider. Louisiana needs policies that will push us forward into a clean energy economy not push us back to the failed energy policies of the past. Our wetlands, coast and communities are at stake.”

 



Jonathan Henderson is the 1Sky/Global Warming organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network. For more information contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .




 
Grace Morris
Common Water: Come Together Over Coasts & Oceans
Tuesday, 19 January 2010 10:55
The call to support healthy coasts and oceans is uniting the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic, environmentalists and scientists in Louisiana with schoolchildren in Hawaii, and even Sherman’s Lagoon characters and Voodoo donuts! Our ocean and coasts now need your voice, too.

These environments support an astonishing diversity of life and are critical to our well-being. The Gulf of Mexico, considered the “Mediterranean of the Americas,” supports untold numbers of species—many unique and found nowhere else—, includes half the wetlands in the United States, and is home to one of the most productive fisheries in the world.

Unfortunately, the Gulf and all of our nation’s coastal and marine resources are managed by 20 different federal agencies and 140 different and often-conflicting laws and regulations. This tangled management isn't effectively addressing the threats facing our coast and oceans, from unsustainable fishing to wetlands loss to water pollution.

In a historic first, the Federal government is developing a national policy to protect, restore, and maintain our ocean and coasts. The process began last June, when President Obama created an Interagency Federal Ocean Policy Task Force to formulate a first-ever, science-based national ocean, coast, and Great Lakes policy. The Task Force then held six public hearings throughout the country—stopping in New Orleans in October—to hear local comments inform the national framework. In December, the Task Force released its Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spacial Planning, and we’re nearing the close of the final window to offer public comment to support the creation of a unifying, ecosystem-based, conservation-conscious ocean policy.

Scientists, conservationists, and environmentally minded citizens from around the country have rallied to support this visionary approach to managing our ocean and coastal systems. To help realize the full promise of a strong national ocean, coastal and Great Lakes policy, click here to submit a public comment.


Recently, GRN and friends represented the Gulf during the national day of action Wear Blue for Oceans by bringing scientists and citizens together and gathering in blue outside the Audubon Aquarium. Local coastal wetlands expert Dr. Denise Reed of UNO, GRN’s Executive Director Cynthia Sarthou, and University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Marine Science’s Dr. Steven Lohrenz spoke to the 30+ blue-wearing citizens about what a science-based national ocean policy can accomplish for the Gulf of Mexico. Delta the Dolphin of the America’s Wetland Estuarians joined our speakers in supporting healthy coasts and oceans—click play below to see brief Q&A between the panel and Times-Picayune’s Chris Kirkham.



Wear Blue for Oceans was a huge success—citizens throughout the nation wore blue to support a strong national policy that protects, maintains, and restores our coasts and ocean. Check out the pictures -- Delta the Dolphin in NOLA, sharks and sea turtles at City Hall in SF, fish outside the White House in D.C., and the tasty ocean scenes of the renowned Voodoo Donuts of Portland! It's all in the Wear Blue for Oceans gallery (link here).

  • To read about the New Orleans event in the Times-Picayune, click here.
  • To see and hear the entire New Orleans Wear Blue for Oceans event, click here—it’s all on YouTube!

And finally, some quotations from our Gulf experts…remember to add your own by submitting a public comment!

“The time when the oceans could be treated as an inexhaustible resource has long passed. We now recognize that our oceans are fragile and limited in their capacity to withstand the effects of human activities. Indeed, we have already vastly altered ocean ecosystems in ways that include overfishing, loss of critical habitat, introduction of invasive species, and diminished water quality. And these problems will continue to worsen if we do not embrace an ocean policy that seeks to balance human use of our oceans with sustainability and stewardship.”
-Dr. Steven Lohrenz, University of Southern Mississippi, Professor and Chair of Marine Science

“If you look at the deep waters of the Gulf, you have a lot of agencies that have conflicting authority. You have MMS; you have the Coast Guard; you have the National Marine Fisheries Service…Those three agencies—let's just take those three [as examples]—don't really communicate with each other and they often have conflicting purposes for an area. The Coast Guard may want to allow somebody to build a navigation canal, somebody else may want to put an oil and gas pipeline, and then NOAA or National Marine Fisheries Service may feel that that's a critical area for a species. And in the past, there's been no actual framework for them to sit down and hash out...the actual framework for making sure that the resource is protected.”
-Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director of Gulf Restoration Network

"The river is our greatest resource for (coastal) restoration and yet we have all kinds of different things that we want to do with it. But we have not yet found a way to have a conversation about how we use the river for restoration, continue to navigate on the river and continue to protect ourselves from riverine flooding in Louisiana. This is the opportunity to do that, and the fact that the federal government is coming out with this (national ocean policy) is a way to get that on the top shelf."
-Dr. Denise Reed, Professor and Interim Director of Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, Department of Geology and Geophysics.
 
Jonathan Henderson
National Climate Call-in Day - Pick Up Your Phone!
Tuesday, 12 January 2010 10:58
The U.S. Senate's failure to pass a strong climate bill in 2009 presented a significant roadblock to progress in protecting our coast and communities from the impacts of global warming. From rising sea-levels to more powerful hurricanes made stronger by rising water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast are ground zero for the impacts of global warming.

Our partners at 1Sky have organized a national Call-In Day of Action Today, January 12th, and we need supporters like you to participate by using 1Sky's easy call-in tool to make a call to Senator Landrieu.

Can you sign up today to make a call for our coast?

Register at www.1sky.org/calls.

Making the call is easy and will only take a few minutes. When you sign up, you'll receive all the numbers and information you need to make an effective call. Also, by using the online call-in tool provided by our partners at 1Sky, you help us to track the numbers of calls being made for our coast and communities. Knowing our own numbers is important in the ongoing fight against climate change deniers and big polluters who prefer the dangerous status quo.

If you cannot make the call today you can always use the online tool to place a call at a later date.

For our Coast and Climate,

Jonathan Henderson
Louisiana Global Warming Organizer


Jonathan is the 1Sky Louisiana Organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network. For more information, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .




 

 
Grace Morris
Wear Blue for Oceans!
Wednesday, 23 December 2009 13:18


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 – 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 “The Mediterranean Sea of the Americas,” 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 Earle’s Ted Prize talk:


 
Matt Rota
Hey Louisiana and Texas, "E" stands for "environment" not "emissions"
Monday, 21 December 2009 15:08
Let’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 “endangerment finding” 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 “through unilateral agency policy under the auspices of EPA.” And yet in a brief that LDEQ submitted in a court case regarding the Big Cajun power plant, LDEQ states that it “is aware of the issues associated with climate change and greenhouse gases. Likewise, so is EPA.” LDEQ goes on to say that “given the regulation of greenhouse gasses is currently being addressed at the national level by the EPA, [LDEQ] made the decision that it will follow EPA’s lead.” LDEQ stresses that EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases “is the only workable approach to an issue with nationwide implication….If the EPA ultimately determines that greenhouse gas emissions must be limited, [LDEQ] will follow suit.” (emphasis added) To put it simply, the letter from LDEQ Secretary Harold Leggett* is decidedly not following EPA’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 “E” in its name. I wish I could say the same for LDEQ and TCEQ.


You can see the letters from Louisiana and Texas (and South Carolina) prominently displayed on LDEQ’s website at http://www.deq.state.la.us/portal/


*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
 
Raleigh Hoke
GULF VIDEO: Transparent Sea Cucumbers and Wildcat Tubeworms
Friday, 11 December 2009 08:36

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."

 
Raleigh Hoke
Save Mississippi's Pascagoula River
Tuesday, 08 December 2009 08:17

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:

http://action.healthygulf.org/t/5894/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=28072

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!

Raleigh Hoke is GRN's Mississippi Organizer
 
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