Wine & Wetlands event brings together coastal residents, advocates

January 28, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Community Resiliency, Economy, Meetings/Events

Guest post by Mike Mariana, Belle Chasse, LA

Full Room Standing

Wine & Wetlands event at the Woodland Plantation

On January 15, my wife and I attended the Wine & Wetlands event organized by the Restore the Mississippi River Delta coalition and their outreach coordinator for Plaquemines Parish, Philip Russo. More than 50 people from across our parish attended and had the opportunity to hear from several concerned citizens, business owners and governmental representatives, all working in their own way to restore our coast.

Thanks to the sponsorship of several of Plaquemines Parish’s concerned business leaders, all who attended the Wine & Wetlands event at the Woodland Plantation also enjoyed excellent hospitality. The food and spirits helped create a relaxed atmosphere where friends, both old and new, could discuss coastal restoration and the future of our parish.

One thing was clear: Unless we develop significant federal, state and local resources, and follow a solid plan, our parish and our way of life will be literally washed away.

I look forward to many future community activities as we continue to make more people aware of the need for coastal restoration. This is a broad geographical and multi-generational fight, and we have been passed the baton. It is now our jobs to educate the activists of the future and hold government and private-sector organizations accountable for coastal restoration projects on the books now. Please join us.

Regards,

Mike Mariana

Belle Chasse, LA

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Group Photo

MRD Coalition members at Wine & Wetlands

Mike at Bayou Dupont

Mike at Bayou Dupont

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Coalition Responds to Jerome Zeringue’s Resignation from Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority

January 26, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA)

Coalition Responds to Jerome Zeringue’s Resignation from Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority

Chip Kline, current deputy director of Governor’s Office of Coastal Affairs, named successor

(NEW ORLEANS – January 26, 2015) Last week, Governor Bobby Jindal announced that Chip Kline would replace Jerome “Zee” Zeringue as chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Kline is currently the deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities.

National and local conservation organizations committed to coastal Louisiana restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation issued the following statement in response:

“Louisiana is suffering a coastal erosion crisis, and in recent years the state has made strong advancement toward the goals of stopping land loss and rebuilding land along the Mississippi River Delta. Zee’s leadership was key in keeping the implementation of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan moving forward this past year. He has been a tireless advocate and champion for Louisiana and the people who live and work on the coast. We thank him for all of the progress made toward restoring and protecting the delta – and the people, wildlife and jobs that call coastal Louisiana home. We wish Zee well in his future endeavors and hope he will remain engaged in coastal restoration efforts.

“We welcome Chip Kline as the new CPRA chairman and look forward to working with him and his team as they continue to implement the state’s master plan. His experience and knowledge will be an asset to our coast as he transitions in this new position. We have confidence he will keep the Coastal Restoration and Protection program on track and will uphold the commitments made by his predecessors. We look forward to building on past achievements and advancing coastal restoration efforts even more in the future.”

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NEWS RELEASE: Louisiana Governor Cuts Coastal Funds, Jeopardizing Coast

January 22, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Economy, Media Resources

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Lauren Bourg, National Audubon Society, 225.776.9838, lbourg@audubon.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.767.4181, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org

Louisiana Governor Cuts Coastal Funds, Jeopardizing Coast

Budget cuts will impact restoration programs and raises question of how state will pay for Coastal Plan

(New Orleans – January 21, 2015) On Wednesday, January 21, 2015, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced budget cuts including cuts to Louisiana coastal programs and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Agency (CPRA).

National and local conservation organizations committed to coastal Louisiana restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana  issued the following statement in response to announced budget cuts:

“In 2012 the Governor and legislature of the State of Louisiana embarked upon a fifty-year, $50 billion effort to avert a disaster for more than two million of our coastal citizens.  To date the state has managed to shield the agency leading that effort, CPRA, from budgetary politics. CPRA manages hundreds of millions of dollars in levee and restoration construction projects each year and is run on a small budget entirely supported by mineral revenues—nothing from the taxpayer-supported general fund.

“Clearly, Louisiana is facing a short term budgetary crisis, but CPRA is tackling a much more serious long- term crisis. If we lose the fight against the forces of coastal erosion, we lose our homes, our coastal towns and cities, our jobs, and we devastate our local and national economy. We are in the very early stages of developing the long-term strategies we’ll need to fund the plan—and we have a long way to go. In the meantime, cutting CPRA’s restoration and protection program support is short-sighted and ill-advised.

“Louisiana’s coastal region is an economic driver for the state and the front lines in protecting our state from storms and the encroaching Gulf of Mexico. Today’s budget cuts diminish the CPRA’s ability to do its job, putting communities at risk and slowing down restoration efforts.  These cuts are an unfortunate attempt to hastily balance a budget while potentially having lasting impacts on our coastal economy and safety of coastal residents.

“As the state begins to implement a fifty-year, $50 billion coastal master plan, now is not the time to be cutting funds from the coastal program. On the contrary, the governor and legislature should instead be laying out a vision for what new sources of funding will pay for this critical plan.

We look forward to working with this governor and future governors to protect our coast and develop new, long-term funding sources that can be used to implement the state’s coastal master plan.”

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Interview Opportunities: Interview opportunities are available with experts in coastal restoration and budget issues from our national and local conservation organizations.

Mississippi River Delta Restoration Experts:
David Muth, Director for Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation
Douglas J. Meffert, D. Env., MBA, Executive Director, National Audubon Society (Audubon Louisiana)
Kimberly Reyher, Executive Director, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
Steve Cochran, Director for Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund

 

 

 

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What is Phase III of the BP Trial?

January 20, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Federal Policy, RESTORE Act

Phase III of the BP Trial started this week. But what does this mean? Why are there “phases”, and when will this trial end? All good questions.

The BP trial underway is a civil (not criminal) litigation between the U.S. Department of Justice and BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 Gulf oil spill. BP and others are being held accountable for violations of the Clean Water Act for spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the RESTORE Act, 80 percent of all fines and penalties resulting from this trial will return to the Gulf Coast for restoration.

Before specifically getting to Phase III, let’s recap the earlier phases. The first two phases of the trial dealt with a) who was at fault for the oil spill and to what extent, and b) how much oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. In dividing up who was at fault for the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the resulting oil spill, Judge Carl Barbier found that BP was 67 percent responsible, Transocean Ltd. (the owner of the rig) was 30 percent responsible and Halliburton (the cement contractor) was 3 percent responsible.oilslick

In September 2014, Judge Barbier ruled that BP was guilty of “gross negligence” for its actions leading to the blowout, saying BP was making “profit-driven decisions” that led to the rig explosion. In his ruling, he reiterated, “these instances of negligence, taken together, evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks.” Being found guilty of gross negligence means BP could have to pay a fine of up to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled. Most recently, Judge Barbier ruled that the amount of oil that spilled into the Gulf was 3.19 million barrels. Do the math (3.19 million barrels x $4,300 per barrel), and that means BP could face Clean Water Act fines up to $13.7 billion.

So, what is Phase III? Phase III is about how much BP will actually have to pay. Note that the fine amounts are “up to” $13.7 billion – this phase of the trial essentially determines the “up to.” Specifically, there are eight penalty factors set out in the Clean Water Act that help determine liability. These are judgments of mitigating circumstances that could impact the overall dollar figure that BP owes.

Ok, what’s next after this? Phase III is the final scheduled phase of the trial. At some point following this phase of the trial (and it could be months later), Judge Barbier will rule on how much BP must pay. BP continues to fight every decision, and it has already said it will appeal the ruling of gross negligence, so the courtroom battle could continue. However many observers hope that with all three phases complete, BP will be more inclined to agree to a settlement with the Department of Justice.

With billions of dollars at stake, and the timing of this money potentially coming as soon as this spring or, unfortunately, not for years if BP is able to continue appealing legal decisions, the current BP trial is critical to the fate of coastal restoration.

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Final Phase of BP Oil Spill Trial to Begin Next Week

January 15, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Birds, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Media Resources, RESTORE Act, Science, Seafood, Wildlife

Press Statement + Interview Opportunities Available

Contact:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Lauren Bourg, National Audubon Society, 225.776.9838, lbourg@audubon.org

Final Phase of BP Oil Spill Trial to Begin Next Week

BP must be held fully accountable for its role in nation’s largest oil disaster

(New Orleans – January 15, 2015) On Tuesday, January 20, 2015, the third and final phase of the BP oil spill civil trial will begin in New Orleans. This concluding portion of the trial will determine how much BP will be required to pay in Clean Water Act fines for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.

National and local conservation organizations committed to Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – issued the following statement in advance of Tuesday’s proceedings:

“Nearly five years after the oil disaster, the people and wildlife of the Gulf Coast still wait for justice. For 87 days, BP dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into our Gulf, contaminating our marshes and beaches and jeopardizing wildlife ranging from brown pelicans to sperm whales. But the oil giant has yet to take full responsibility. BP has dragged out litigation in the courts, challenging every decision only to have each decision against them confirmed by higher courts.

“Despite claims that it would ‘make it right’ in the Gulf, BP has, for the past five years, waged a public relations war focused on blaming everyone else and denying sound scientific research showing ongoing impacts from the oil disaster. The effects of the oil spill are far from over and may not be fully known for years, or even decades, to come.

“Now the court has the opportunity and responsibility to make it right, to hold BP fully accountable for the damage done to the Gulf and to assign the maximum penalty to BP for its gross negligence. The outcome from this decision must send a clear and powerful signal to every other operator in the Gulf: deep-sea drilling is risky business, and they must protect their employees, our communities and our ecosystems. BP chose not to do that, so they deserve to pay the maximum fines allowed by law.

“Through the RESTORE Act of 2012, Congress paved the way for the Gulf’s recovery by ensuring that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines BP will pay will be reinvested into Gulf Coast restoration. But that restoration can’t begin until this case is resolved and the legal wrangling ends – and BP remains the principle barrier to much-needed funding going to vital restoration projects.

“Holding BP fully accountable for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster is the fair and right thing to do for the Gulf’s ecosystems and economies. We are hoping, after five long years, that justice is close. The Gulf has waited long enough.”

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Interview Opportunities: Interview opportunities are available with experts in science, policy, wildlife and restoration issues from our national and local conservation organizations.

Mississippi River Delta Restoration Experts:
David Muth, Director for Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation
Douglas J. Meffert, D. Env., MBA, Executive Director, National Audubon Society (Audubon Louisiana)
Steve Cochran, Director for Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund

Science:
John A. Lopez, Ph.D., Coastal Scientist, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
Alisha Renfro, Ph.D., Coastal Scientist, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation
Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund

Policy:
Courtney Taylor, Policy Director, Ecosystems Program, Environmental Defense Fund

Background:
Since the BP oil disaster began nearly five years ago, ongoing findings deliver truths omitted by BP’s ads: the oil disaster’s negative effects are increasingly clear, present and far from resolved. Over the past year alone, new research has surfaced:

  • An October 2014 study showed that the Gulf oil disaster left an “oily bathtub ring” the size of Rhode Island on the sea floor.
  • A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) detailed how exposure to BP oil can lead to abnormalities including irregular heartbeats and heart attacks in Atlantic bluefin tuna and amberjack.
  • A NOAA study revealed that dolphins exposed to BP oil had increased health problems, including adrenal problems, severe lung disease and reproductive issues.
  • A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences definitively linked a community of damaged deep water corals near the Macondo well to the BP oil spill.
  • A Louisiana State University researcher found that the BP oil spill is still killing Louisiana coastal insects.
  • Visible tar balls and tar mats continue to surface, including a 40,000-pound tar mat discovered off the coast of a Louisiana barrier island in June 2013, three years after the start of the oil spill.
  • An infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster.
Deepwater Horizon rig explosion

2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

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