Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

The Gulf Restoration Network and Save Our Cypress Coalition continue to call on Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart to stop selling unsustainable cypress mulch in order to live up to their own environmental commitments. Cypress forests contain incredible ecological value, and they defend communities from storms and flooding. Unfortunately, these beautiful swamps are being clear-cut solely to produce garden mulch. Many positive steps have already been taken, and tens of thousands of acres of cypress forests have been saved due to the efforts of the Save Our Cypress Coalition. There is, however, more that retailers and government must do to ensure full and just protection of cypress forests throughout the Gulf region and the Southeast.

To help ensure expanded and lasting protection of cypress forests in the Gulf, please join us for the December 4th Cypress Day of Action. Visit this website to sign up and receive more information.

The nationwide grassroots efforts are already paying off! Wal-Mart, who is no longer selling cypress mulch that is harvested, bagged, or manufactured in the state of Louisiana, is the current leader on cypress sustainability. Lowe’s has instituted a temporary moratorium on cypress mulch from “coastal Louisiana”, yet further promises and negotiations have stalled. Home Depot, a self-proclaimed environmental leader among retailers, also claims to avoid mulch from coastal Louisiana, but the company has not directly responded to the Save Our Cypress Coalition. All three companies must do more to uphold their corporate environmental policies as they pertain to endangered cypress forests.

The steps the companies have taken are a good start, but there are lingering concerns. In response to announcements made by Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot and Coalition efforts to end illegal logging, cypress logging activity has gradually come to a halt in coastal Louisiana. Thousands of acres of cypress forests have been saved from the mulch machine!


Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to ensure lasting protection of Louisiana’s swamps, and success in Louisiana may lead to increased production in other vulnerable areas outside of the state. Without a transparent and credible certification program, retailers are unable to truly verify the source of their cypress products, and suppliers have proven willing to hide the real source of their mulch in the past.

Since the campaign began two years ago, the Save Our Cypress Coalition has grown, and reports of cypress logging in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and other states continue to surface. A recent Clean Water Act legal challenge in Georgia saved one cypress swamp and demonstrated that much of the cypress logging occurring today would be deemed illegal if properly examined. The retailers have done nothing to address cypress logging outside of Louisiana.

In order to live up to their stated environmental policies, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart must stop selling unsustainable and illegally harvested cypress mulch, no matter where it is logged.

Wherever you live, join GRN and the Save Our Cypress Coalition on December 4th for a Cypress Day of Action to help build on our successes for a future full of cypress forests!

Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer at GRN.

 

This November the 9th marked Gulf Restoration Network’s (GRN) 2nd Annual Mississippi Fundraiser. This event is a great opportunity to meet some of Mississippi’s most well-known environmental activists, environmental scientists, local business owners, and environmentally conscious citizens.

The fundraiser takes place on the Captain Pete, one of Ship Island Excursions’ boats. The boat ride begins and ends at Gulfport Yacht Harbor. Our guests experienced a 3 hour cruise in the Mississippi
Sound enjoying a cool November evening in Mississippi, the occasional dolphin swimming alongside the boat, and a beautiful sunset. Party goers also enjoyed some delicious local fare. Food for the event was donated by Confusion Sophisticated Casual Dining and the beer was donated by Lazy Magnolia Brewery (thanks guys).

This year’s hosts were Louis Skrmetta, owner of Ship Island Excursions & Board member of GRN, Robert Wiygul, Board Member of GRN, and Terese Collins, long time supporter of GRN and Mississippi activist.

Funds raised from this event will support GRN campaigns like:

Protect Our Wetlands Protect Ourselves: GRN Works to protect wetlands that are critical in providing flood protection and clean water. We watchdog government agencies to ensure that wetlands are not unnecessarily destroyed by new development.

Healthy Waters: GRN works to protect and restore rivers and bayous throughout the Gulf of Mexico that are critical to recreation, fisheries, wildlife habitat, and drinking water. In Mississippi, we are committed to stopping the withdrawal of 50 million gallons of water a day from the Pascagoula River as part of the Richton Domes project.

Every Fish Counts: GRN is calling on the Gulf Council and National Marine Fisheries Service to develop and enact effective regulations to end overfishing and provide for sound management of fisheries that is based on science.

Thanks to everyone for their support! And if you weren’t able to make it this year, we sure hope to see you next year.

Truly,

Jessica Netto

Development Coordinator

 

Make It Right Foundation Does It Right for Cypress Forests

The Make It Right Foundation and BNIM Architects have joined the Save Our Cypress Coalition, making yet another real commitment to sustainability and the long-term survival of New Orleans. Cypress forests are important natural storm and flooding protection, but they are being clear-cut solely to produce garden mulch.

By choosing alternatives to cypress mulch and explaining the choice to residents and project participants, Make It Right is helping to enhance the sustainability of the entire Gulf region.

Cypress forests are the best natural storm protection for coastal communities and defend inland communities by absorbing flood waters. If historical wetlands and cypress forests had still been in place, the impacts of Katrina on places like the Lower 9th Ward would have been greatly reduced. Unfortunately, Louisiana is rapidly losing its coastal wetlands, and cypress harvesting for mulch exacerbates the problem. Along with natural storm protection, cypress forests provide important habitat for wildlife and many recreational and eco-tourism opportunities.

Many homeowners and gardeners choose cypress mulch because they just don’t know the impact the product has on our natural wetlands. As a model for sustainable building and landscaping that chooses sustainable alternatives like pine straw and recycled building materials, Make It Right is informing concerned consumers.

Upon learning of the dangers of cypress mulch, Make It Right and Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell Architects (BNIM), the group in charge of the landscape design, moved quickly to ensure cypress mulch would not be used on the project in the future. They will also help to educate the public about sustainable mulch alternatives.
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The Save Our Cypress Coalition is a group of over 160 environmental organizations, churches, eco-tourism businesses, landscapers, and civic groups from all over the country that are working to end unsustainable harvesting of cypress forests for mulch products. The Coalition has focused on educating consumers and calling on Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Lowe’s to live up to their environmental commitment by halting the sale of unsustainable cypress mulch, wherever it is logged. www.saveourcypress.org

The Make It Right Foundation’s mission is to be a catalyst for redevelopment of the Lower 9th Ward, by building a neighborhood comprised of safe and healthy homes that are inspired by Cradle to Cradle thinking, with an emphasis on high quality design, while preserving the spirit of the community’s culture. www.makeitrightnola.org

BNIM Architects is committed to producing work that maximizes human potential, productivity, and health. Each of their projects works to minimize consumption of resources, reducing waste and pollution and restoring natural systems. They have provided the landscape design services for Make It Right at no charge. www.bnim.com
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Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer for GRN who knows more about mulch than he ever thought possible.

 

For the second year in a row, the Gulf Restoration Network partnered with the Voodoo Experience to educate festival attendees about the issue of Louisiana's coastal wetlands crisis. Voodoo Experience is one of New Orleans' largest and most popular musical festivals. As the festival's official nonprofit partner, GRN worked with event organizers to educate performing artists about the issues.

GRN had a major presence in the private musician's lounge and organized a press conference in the media tent with artists Marc Broussard, "Big Sam" Williams and Dan Dyer. GRN's artist gift bags proved to be a big hit, and featured our Defend New Orleans - Defend the Coast tee (printed on Alternative's 100% organic cotton tee) a green AlternativeEarth blank tee, a signed copy of Bayou Farewell (special thanks to author Mike Tidwell, a dvd of Walter William's coastal documentaries, some Aveda beauty products (thanks Aveda) and some other great items.

A highlight of the musician's outreach came when REM lead singer Michael Stipe announced to the crowd that they should support GRN and visit our table at the festival. (Though our volunteer Liz might disagree and point to the photo below of her with NIN's Trent Reznor as the highlight).

A team of fantastic volunteers worked hard all three days to illustrate to festival goers the fate of the Gulf coast, letting people know with every song they heard at Voodoo, an area of Louisiana wetlands the size of the massive main stage turned to open water due to our national need for oil & gas and dependable shipping lanes. The message apparently sunk in with hundreds of people texting "COAST" to 77007 to support the cause, or stopping by the table to sign up as a member (and receive GRN's special limited edition CD No Coast – NO Music featuring Louisiana Voodoo artists Marc Broussard, Theresa Andersson, Galactic, the New Orleans Bingo Show and others). Head here to support the cause that the musicians were so fired up about.


On Monday we took our artist outreach to new heights (HA) by arranging a coastal flyover for Clint Maedgen (Bingo, Preservation Hall, Liquidrone, etc.), Stanton Moore (Galactic, above, rockin' the defend the coast tee), and a great last second addition, Angelo Moore from Fishbone! As a longtime Fishbone fan, I was thrilled. Special thanks to Gulf Coast Aviation for cutting us a great deal, and our pilot Leigh Smith (also known as the guy that threw javelin for the USA in Beijing). We look forward to continued collaborations with the great musicians who are helping spread the cultural value of coastal Louisiana to a national and international audience.

Aaron Viles is GRN's Campaign Director.

 


There is one thing the coal industry deserves credit for: they are persistent. Now that everyone is touting national security from every direction and trying to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, the coal industry has stepped in with the perfect solution, put coal in your gas tank! The technology is called coal-to-liquid, first developed by the Nazis and then later used by South Africa during Apartheid. Do you see a pattern? This fuel is for people who don’t care about human beings!

At a recent Energy Conference hosted by LSU, Bill Anderson, CEO of Anderson Global Innovation Group, offered up coal-to-liquids as the right solution to our transportation and electricity problems. Here are a few gems from his presentation:

Bill Anderson: We can become energy independent if we switch coal from the electricity sector and use it to supply our nation’s transportation fuel needs. Nuclear power can fill the gap for our electrical demands.
Reality Check: Over half of our electricity comes from burning coal (315,000 megawatts). We would have to build a whole lot of nuclear power plants to meet that kind of demand which would take billions of dollars, many years to achieve, and the construction would greatly increase global warming pollution. Furthermore, switching to nuclear power does nothing to decrease our dependence on foreign sources of energy since we import most of the uranium we currently use (Canada, Australia, and Kazakhstan are the largest producers).

BA: Coal-to-liquids is clean.
RC: Coal is full of impurities which are released at both the extraction and manufacturing processes. While these impurities were once safely stored inside a scenic mountain, the extracted coal releases toxic mercury, sulfur, carbon, and other dangerous pollutants into our surrounding environment that contribute to acid rain, childhood asthma, and global warming. The EPA states that replacing petroleum with liquid coal would increase global warming pollution 119%. If you catch the emissions, global warming pollution still increases by 4%. Then, the captured global warming pollution must be permanently stored, which is expensive.

BA: Coal-to-liquids is efficient.
RC: This process creates 2 waste streams – 1st the coal must be turned into a liquid which creates waste and takes energy and 2nd the waste that is created from burning fuel in the vehicle. According to the Department of Energy’s 2006 report “Emerging Issues for Fossil Energy and Water: Investigation of Water Issues Related to Coal Mining, Coal to Liquids, Oil Shale, and Carbon Capture and Sequestration” a coal-to-liquid plant needs approximately seven gallons of water for every gallon of diesel fuel produced from eastern coal. How much available fresh, cool water will be on hand as the planet warms is anybody’s guess. It seems logical though that as air temperatures rise and rain patterns shift, coal-to-liquid plants might face water shortages that put them at odds with residential and agricultural consumers.

BA: We can perfect the technology and then export it to China and India.
RC: We should be putting our research dollars into harnessing local, clean, and limitless resources, like solar and wind power. We can export that technology. Energy from coal is inherently limited because the supply of coal is finite. It is a waste of money to fund research into utilizing a resource that will run out.

There is a coal-to-liquid plant coming soon to Natchez, Mississippi. I sincerely hope that the federal and state regulatory agencies in charge will carefully consider the availability of current and future surface and groundwater sources, agricultural and residential water consumers, and the environmental impact of the plant’s wastewater discharge and global warming pollution before permitting this experimental coal-to-liquid plant!

Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network.

 

Alabama Governor Bob Riley put the final stake in the heart of open-loop LNG in the Gulf of Mexico. When he signaled he would veto the project, the foreign energy company sponsoring it pulled their permit application. This is big news for the marine fish populations out around the Pinnacles Reef area, and shows once again, that when fisherman line up with environmentalists, big things can happen. Special credit goes to Casi Calloway at Mobile Baykeeper and the great folks in the Gulf Fisheries Alliance. Check it out here.

Aaron Viles is GRN's Campaign Director.

 

Back in July, I blogged that the second largest Dead Zone ever measured had developed in the Gulf. Though the Dead Zone was almost 8,000 square miles, you might be surprised to know that Louisiana does not officially acknowledge that this polluted area exists! The New Jersey-sized Dead Zone is a real problem that threatens Louisiana's fishing economy and the health of the Gulf every year.  Admitting that there is a problem is always thefirst step in solving it.

The Clean Water Act requires States to list all waters that are polluted - the first step in prioritizing them for clean-up.  Currently, most of the coastal waters and the Mississippi River are not listed by Louisiana as being polluted and needing a real cleanup plan, despite the fact that they are loaded with the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that causes the Dead Zone. 

Please take a moment to send a letter to EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and tell them to make sure that Louisiana admits there is a problem and works with the EPA to clean-up the Dead Zone and the Mississippi River!

http://action.healthygulf.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=26072

Matt Rota is GRN's Water Resources Program Director
Blog updated for clarity on July 22, 2010

 

I still remember the first time I saw oil and gas rigs from the beach. I’m a native and life-long Floridian, used to open vistas and sunsets not marred by industrial facilities offshore. I was on a road trip in college and visited Dauphin Island, Alabama and Grand Isle, Louisiana and was both amazed and disheartened to see rigs offshore. It’s a sobering experience, and one that I have never forgotten.

This year, in the “silly season” of elections, the issue of expanding offshore oil and gas drilling along the OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) has been given renewed life as the oil industry realizes the Bush Administration gravy train may be ending. A bad economy, high gas prices, and election year posturing have combined to create a political window for the oil industry to seek eliminations of the moratoriums and restrictions that protect most of the OCS around the United States. Candidates seem all too willing to sacrifice the public interest to keep big oil happy, and as you read this Congressional moratoriums that have been in place for years to protect the OCS from drilling have been allowed to expire.

Perhaps folks supportive of the oil industry in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas wonder why Florida seems so concerned about offshore drilling. And, in fairness it should be noted that even a slight majority of Floridians now seem to support some expansion of drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The multi-million dollar campaign of lies from Big Oil connecting drilling to lower gas prices has worked, and people who are scared as our economy worsens (understandably so) want some sort of solution now. The reality is, spin and falsehoods aside, there is almost no connection between expanding drilling in the OCS and gas prices going down.

The Presidential, Congressional, and other legislative moratoriums and restrictions on drilling in the OCS go back 20 years in some cases. For years, Democrats and Republicans came together to agree that protecting our oceans, our nation’s fisheries, critical state tourist economies, and military training areas was more important than drilling. Billions of dollars were spent to buy back oil drilling leases in environmentally sensitive areas. The common ground found was underscored by the idea that we need to protect our coastal ecosystems, communities, and economies.

Now, with a race for the White House and the fear of high energy prices being used to scare Congress into some action (Drill Baby, Drill anyone?), decades of good policy is being thrown out the window. What is best for America is secondary to what is best for Big Oil. If we can’t get it right on an issue like this, how will we ever confront and address climate change?

Despite the lapsing moratoriums, Big Oil won’t be drilling off the Gulf Coast of Florida anytime soon. Legislation passed in 2006 (a compromise between Democrats and Republicans, and between coastal communities and the oil industry) both opened more of Lease Area 181 to drilling and created a 125 to 230 mile buffer zone off the Gulf Coast of Florida. Lease Area 181 is a large lease area on the border between the MMS eastern planning area and central planning area. In this compromise protections were put in place for Florida’s coastal ecosystems and economies, as well as protections for military training areas in the eastern Gulf. In exchange for that Big Oil got access to large areas of Lease Area 181 previously off limits to them. Whether or not that legislation will hold remains to be seen.

Perhaps after the November elections some common sense will return to Congress (if only fleetingly) and we’ll see energy legislation that solves the real problems and promotes a sustainable energy future for America. I drove out to Cedar Key, Florida the other day (I like to consider it the unofficial capitol of the Nature Coast) to ponder the future of the Gulf Coast of Florida.

At sunset I gazed out across the intact and healthy open coastal marsh and the Gulf of Mexico and rejoiced that the only lights I saw were stars as day faded to night. Gulf Restoration Network is committed to the idea, and the reality, that Florida’s Gulf Coast should stay rig free. The risk to our economy and environment is too great. Shifts in the political winds aside, the right thing remains the right thing and that is the standard by which future generations will judge us as we chart the energy future they will inherit.

Joe Murphy is GRN's Florida Programs Director

 

Green Jobs NowI'm sure with all the challenges this overactive hurricane season has presented, the New Orleans race for Congress is probably the last thing you have been thinking about. But that doesn't change the fact that election day is fast approaching. October 4th is the primary - do you know who you'll be supporting?

GRN is excited to invite you to come out Saturday to hear directly from the candidates on issues related to responding to global warming, building a green energy economy, and creating green jobs now! Given New Orleans vulnerability to the effects of climate change such as rising sea level and stronger storms, as well as the opportunity that our recovery represents, we think the next member of Congress from Louisiana's Second District (your district) should be a leader in advocating for the transition toward a cleaner, greener New Orleans.

Please come out and hear from the candidates yourself!

Saturday, September 27th 7-9pm. Loyola's Roussel Hall (click for map)

The forum will be moderated by WWL News Anchor Dennis Woltering, and we have confirmation from 6 of the 7 candidates (unfortunately, Representative Jefferson will be unavailable).

The forum is the capstone event in a day of New Orleans activities for the National Day of Action for Green Jobs Now, so please go to www.greenjobsnow.com to find out details for all the other great events being planned. For questions about the forum, please contact Jonathan Henderson.

Hope to see you at the forum,

Aaron Viles
Campaign Director
 

Protect Gulf WildlifeWith just a few months left in office, it looks like the Bush Administration is angling for a big legacy: a legacy of increased extinctions! We need your help to get Congress to prevent the Bush extinction plan from becoming law.

The Administration is proposing drastic changes to the Endangered Species Act that threaten to undermine our nation's commitment to endangered fish, plants and wildlife. The changes would massively weaken one of the most important measures of the Endangered Species Act-the responsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure that federal agencies, like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, do no harm to endangered species such as the Louisiana Black Bear, Florida Panther, West Indian Manatee and other endangered species throughout the Gulf states and the nation.

Using backdoor, regulatory changes, the Bush administration is working to implement their extinction plan, despite the fact that Congress and the American public have already rejected these proposals in the past!

Please take a moment right now to click here and help preserve our nation's commitment to protecting our wildlife and wild places: http://action.healthygulf.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=25996

United for a Healthy Gulf,

Cyn Sarthou
Exective Director

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