Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 11:55am

Don't Let Oil and Gas Delay on DispersantsFour and a half years. That's how long it's been since Gulf Restoration Network, our partners and the public called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do a better job overseeing the use of dispersants. The EPA has finally heard our calls, recently releasing a proposal to strengthen the testing of dispersants before they can be used to respond to oil spills. However, the oil and gas industry is stalling for time by asking for a three month extension of the comment period for this proposal. Further delay means a greater risk to the communities and environments of the Gulf and the nation – tell the EPA to not let oil and gas delay on dispersants.

The BP drilling disaster made it tragically clear that federal rules overseeing the use of chemical dispersants are...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 2:50pm
Sperm Whales
Sperm Whales in the Gulf, August, 2011

Over 600 scientists met last week at the 2015 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference in Houston, Texas. Presented studies examine the effects of the BP drilling disaster, several showing a vast area on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico where marine life is sparser than it was before toxic “oil snow” settled there almost five years ago. Two specific studies supporting this conclusion are Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University's research of sperm whales in the Gulf from 2010-2013, and the U.S. Geological Survey's look at fish on oil-stained reefs in 2010 and 2011. In a 1,500 square-mile-area around the site of the Deepwater Horizon rig, researchers found sperm whales that once routinely gathered to feed on squid and other organisms are now avoiding the area, indicating that there are no longer any viable food options. Fish populations on the Alabama...

Monday, February 9, 2015 - 10:53am
Little Tchefuncte River. Photo courtesy of Little Tchefuncte River Association
Little Tchefuncte River. Photo courtesy of Little Tchefuncte River Association.

Artesian Utility Company, Inc., responsible for treating the sewage that is produced from the Lake Ramsay subdivision, continues to discharge pollutants, including fecal matter, into the Little Tchefuncte River on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana.  Over a year ago, GRN and the Little Tchefuncte River Association filed suit against Artesian for failure to comply with their permit under the Clean Water Act and discharging excessive pollutants into the river. In a settlement, the Judge ordered that Artesian comply with the permit, but Artesian has continued to discharge pollutants into the river since the judgment. Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, our council, asked the Judge to find Artesian in contempt of the court order to comply with the permit.  Artesian is still exceeding the limits allowed in their discharges of chlorine and fecal coliform into the Little Tchefuncte River.  Witnesses testified their quality of life has been negatively affected due...

Friday, February 6, 2015 - 3:37pm

This January, I traveled to the ditches of Plaquemines and St Bernard to hear the glorious choruses of winter frogs with the Louisiana Master Naturalists, as part of the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program.  Among elders, specialists, and interested naturalists with ears, we silently stood in the shoulder of highway 46 and listened for the breeding chorus of Pseudacris fouquettei,  The Cajun Chorus Frog. 

I'm sure we looked funny, standing still in the dark as cars passed. But our ears were working to find the calls of these little beauties. We also heard the roar of engines moving past, all part of the sonic environment of St Bernard, and something that doesn't seem to bother the raucous frogs.

We also heard the Peep! of "Spring" Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer ) and the stretched-rubber song of Southern Leopard Frogs.

It may seem silly...

Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 2:22pm
Oil in the gulf June 2010
BP's oil in the Gulf, June 2010

Oceanographer Jeff Chanton and his team at Florida State University recently conducted a study that found that 6-10 million gallons of oil from the BP disaster are coating the sea floor. 

From a sample area of 9,266 square miles, Chanton and his nine-member research team took 62 sediment cores and tested them for oil by checking for the presence of radioactive isotope carbon-14. Most sediment does contain carbon-14, so Chanton reasoned that sediment samples without carbon-14 indicate that oil is present. Working with Florida State Geography Professor Tingting Zhao, Chanton determined that 3,243 square miles of the Gulf floor remains covered in oil. The buried oil in the sand will likely lead to further damage in the future as, Chanton says, it is unlikely to decompose quickly.  

The damage that the oil's continued presence will have on the Gulf's ecosystem cannot be fully determined because effects will...

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 5:14pm

Oysters inspected by MDEQ
Oysters inspected. Photo credit: MDEQ.

Mississippi’s Governor Phil Bryant recently announced the formation of the Governor’s Oyster Council to help the coast’s oyster industry restore a fishery that has been hurt and diminished over just a few years by hurricanes, the BP drilling disaster and its aftermath, and oyster reef mortality due to salinity changes. The fresh water from rivers feeding the bays and marshes on the coast has been one of the few reliable natural factors, but that could change if rivers continue to be dammed upstream.

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent by the state’s Marine Resources Department over the past decade to recover oyster production, and at least 50 million dollars of the early BP disaster restoration funds are planned for more oyster reef building and repair in Hancock County. This large project in Heron Bay is...

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 10:06am
New Orleans Industrial Canal
New Orleans Industrial Canal. Courtesy USACE

If there is one thing that the Corps of Engineers loves to do is continue resurrecting projects that have been shown unnecessary or environmentally harmful. Maybe that is a little uncharitable, as the Corps does do a lot of great work, but it is frustrating to see that a project that we and our partners beat back two other times has once again reared its ugly head.

A little history: back in 1998 the Corps decided to replace the lock, and widen and deepen the canal, despite the fact that the dredged material would be laden with harmful chemicals that have accumulated over the years. Due to a legal challenge, the courts stopped the Corps for continuing with the project until they adequately showed that they prepared an adequate Environmental Impact Statement.

Fast-forward to 2007. The Corps came out with a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Once again, we challenged this...

Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 4:31pm

amber and adam briggle are Denton
Amber and Adam Briggle are Denton, Tx

In January, Amber and Adam Briggle of Frack Free Denton spoke to Tammany Together regarding the history of the 2014 ban against hydraulic fracturing in Denton, Texas.

Despite the shale play already humming in the overheated boom, Denton passed stricter regulations, then a complete ban on fracking once those regulations were found to be routinely violated by drillers.

The Briggles recount the beginning of a movement, from scattered personalities fighting permit by permit fights, scaling to a "Denton Advisory Group" that wrested legitimacy away from the industry Task Forces, leading to regulation of routine noise and spill problems. Once companies were found to be violating their reasonable regulations, though, movement leaders fought and won a ban on hydraulic fracturing for their town of Denton, in the middle of...

Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 3:37pm

At the CWPPRA meeting this past month, Task Force members voted on important wetland projects in order to protect new orleans from surge.  the Shell Beach Marsh Restoration project and the Orleans Landbridge projects are in the footprint of the State's Master Plan and the Army Corps' MRGO restoration.  Unfortunately, the funding for such essential flood protection for New Orleans has not been forthcoming from either the Corps or the State. For 24 years, CWPPRA has led the way in developing the science, engineering, the monitoring, and the implementation process for the wetland restoration program. There is much to be learned from the successes and the failures of the program.

These two projects, though they are small, are in critical landform areas in the Pontchartrain Basin. They will build essential wetlands that knock down storm surge and provide fish and wildlife habitat....

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 10:58am

Tell BP to Make It RightThe third phase of the BP drilling disaster civil trial ended on February 2, and we need your help telling BP to make things right – click here to take action.

The results of this trial will ultimately determine how many billions of dollars in Clean Water Act civil fines BP must pay. Under the RESTORE Act, 80% of these fines will come back to the Gulf for restoration, so there is a lot at stake for the Gulf’s communities and environment.

In September of 2014, the court determined that BP’s conduct leading to the drilling disaster was “reckless,” and BP was guilty of willful misconduct and gross negligence. Despite this ruling, BP continues to cynically downplay its responsibility for the catastrophe, and is fighting in the courts to avoid making things right. BP has even said...