On Saturday, August 25th, before Hurricane Isaac arrived on the Louisiana coast, I was on a Southwings sponsored flight piloted by Lance Rydberg. While flying over and around coal terminals in southern Plaquemines Parish, I asked myself what happens when a hurricane comes up the river and slams its winds and storm surge into these huge mountains of dirty coal. I took extensive photos of the Kinder Morgan International Marine Terminal (KM) and its â€ścontainmentâ€ť system but found no comfort in the miniscule internal levees surrounding coal piles the size of small mountains. I had a sinking feeling that something here could go terribly wrong. Then it happened.
In August, the Governor of Mississippi announced the formation of GoCoast2020 â€“ an advisory body to guide the Governor and other state officials on the use of BP fine money coming to the state under the RESTORE Act. Theyâ€™ll be holding public hearings this week, and GRN and our allies will be there working to make sure that they spend this money on strengthening and restoring Mississippiâ€™s coastal environment and economy â€“ not on unnecessary and harmful pork-barrel projects. Can you make it to one of the public hearings too?
Tuesday, Oct. 2nd from 6-8 pm: Mississippi Gulf Coast Community Collegeâ€™s Fine Arts Auditorium, U.S. 90, Gautier.
Wednesday, Oct. 3rd from 6-8 pm: Long Beach Community Center, 20257 Daugherty Road.
Thursday, Oct. 4th from 6-8 pm: Bay Saint Louis Community Hall, 301 Blaize Ave.
These RESTORE Act funds constitute a once-in-lifetime opportunity for Mississippi to create a legacy for conservation and one of our best chances to restore our fishing and seafood tradition by protecting and improving our coastal ecosystems. Come out next week to tell these decision-makers that the environmental health of Mississippiâ€™s coast and communities should be a central priority. Email me at
if you're planning on attending one of the hearings.
Yesterday, I ventured down to Elmerâ€™s Island (and Grand Isle) to check on current conditions and impacts in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac and the wake of the BP disaster. Elmer's Island Wildlife Refuge, owned and maintained by the state of Louisiana, is a 230-acre tract of barrier beachfront located on the southwestern tip of Jefferson Parish. It is located directly across Caminada Pass from Grand Isle, LA. The state closed the Island to the public in May of 2010 due to heavy oiling from the BP drilling disaster in the Gulf. The state reopened the Island to the public in May of 2011. I have made numerous trips to this island since April 2010 including several flyovers and have reported back on the ongoing impacts, including this post on November 15 of 2011, and this one March 9th, 2012.
Huge thanks everyone who participated in the Defend the Gulf Short Film Showcase competition! We had some great submissions this year covering a number of different Gulf environmental issues â€“ from the Dead Zone to wetlands loss to the BP oil disaster.
Alas, there can only be one winner per category, so without further ado . . .
Short Film Category
Winner -- Vanishing Pearls: The Oystermen of Pointe a la Hache by Perspective Pictures
Runner-Up -- Spill Baby Spill by Bryan Hopkins
Winner -- Youâ€™re Welcome: BP Voices from the Gulf by Second City and The Partisans
Runner-Up -- BP Bringing People Together by Second City
Congratulations! Winners and runner-ups, along with other selected submissions, have been included in the Defend the Gulf Short Film Showcase DVD that is being distributed to volunteers across the country who are hosting screenings to help raise awareness and inspire action for a healthy Gulf!
Wow, sounds great. Unfortunately, digging beneath the headlines reveals a less glowing report from Gulf waters.
The most significant increase in Gulf catch comes from the uncontained, uncapped, Gulf menhaden harvest. Going from 900 million pounds on average for the past 10 years, they lept to 1.3 billion pounds in 2011.
Nearly a year and a half after BP proudly and loudly announced they would spend $1 billion to begin the process of restoring the Gulf in the wake of their disaster, do you want to guess how much they've committed to the projects needed to implement that 'early restoration'?
Less than 10%.
That's right in 15 months, and with billions in projects suggested to BP and Gulf and federal leaders, they've agreed to about $60 million in restoration efforts.
View looking south from Mississippi's West Ship Island. Late last month, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant announced the formation of the GoCoast2020 â€“ an advisory body to guide the Governor and other state officials on the use of RESTORE Act funds in Mississippi. GoCoast2020 is made up of over one hundred members, distributed between 8 subcommittees (see the full list here). Most of the members are elected officials from the coast, members of the business community, or state officials. Their mandate is to present the Governor with a final report in January with â€śrecommendations and ideasâ€ť on how the RESTORE funds should be disbursed.
With the Presidential race in its final heat, GRN is looking to mobilize our best activists to help keep the stories of the Gulf alive and elevate them to the national discussion. We need your help to inform and inspire your friends, family, and community to take action to protect and restore the Gulf.
Despite the recent victory for the Gulf with the passage of the RESTORE Act to direct BP's fines to Gulf restoration, Hurricane Isaac's aftermath proved that BP's oil is still in the Gulf, and our coastal communities still need action to rebuild the coastal lines of defense that once kept them safe from storms.
You can help protect the Gulf of Mexico by hosting a Defend the Gulf Home Movie Screening! Hosting is easy, and we'll provide the materials and support you need to be successful. You'll work to set up a venue (your living room, for instance) and invite friends and family.
As Louisiana continues to reel from flooding and chemical spills in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) is trying to quietly change the rules to make it easier to pollute our waters. Specifically, they are attempting to weaken their â€śantidegradationâ€ť rules, which are required by the Clean Water Act and help ensure clean waters stay clean and polluted waters donâ€™t get dirtier. Tell LDEQ to keep our waters clean:
LDEQ is proposing so-called â€śminorâ€ť revisions to their rules that will significantly weaken pollution protections for Louisianaâ€™s waters. For example, some of Louisianaâ€™s most pristine waters â€“ like the Tchefuncte and Bogue Falaya Rivers - are designated as Outstanding Natural Resources Waters. Under the law, they are supposed to be protected from degradation and new sources of pollution, but LDEQ is actually changing the definition of â€śdegradationâ€ť to allow for more pollution discharges into Louisianaâ€™s healthiest rivers, streams, and lakes. They are also failing to establish legally required procedures to determine if adding pollution to clean waters is socially or economically justifiable.
On Monday, I had the privilege to take another flyover to document the environmental consequences in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. A special thanks is deserved by pilot, Skipper Tornsmeire, and the nonprofit, Southwings, for making this flight possible. This was a joint flight between GRN, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and the Lower Mississippi River Keeper.