Environment

Friday, March 28, 2014

Debunking Big Oil’s Big Lie

Posted by on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 2:01 PM

In the ongoing political battle over whether to allow the local levee board to sue oil and gas companies for accelerating wetland loss and increasing the risk of flooding in southeast Louisiana, one of the energy industry’s favorite memes is that the lawsuit will chase jobs out of our state.

Such a statement is preposterous on its face. So much so that even the president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA), who is among the loudest proponents of Big Oil’s Big Lie, was utterly unable, when questioned under oath, to cite a single oil well that shut down or did not get drilled, or a single energy company that moved away or refused to drill in Louisiana, because of environmental lawsuits. Not one.

The reason, of course, is simple: this is where the oil is. The energy industry has to be here to take the oil and gas out of the ground or from beneath our waters.

But the Big Lie persists, because the energy industry’s political toadies, like Gov. Bobby Jindal and some lawmakers, know that if they keep saying it over and over some folks will believe it.

As people learn the facts, however, the Big Lie loses its impact.

Last week, the lie was dealt another blow. Dr. Tim Ryan, former UNO chancellor and an economist with decades of expertise in the field of economic analysis, released a study showing that the total economic impact of implementing the Master Plan for restoring Louisiana’s coast would be somewhere between $12.5 billion and $24.3 billion a year for 50 years.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Bobby and Big Oil squash Mr. Bill

Posted by on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 8:24 PM

Walter Williams, the New Orleans-born creator of Saturday Night Live's "Mr. Bill" and a tireless advocate for restoring coastal Louisiana, has created another Mr. Bill episode — this one focusing on the effort to stop lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal from killing the levee board lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies.

Williams, who also served as the king of Krewe du Vieux in 2006, emailed the 30-second video to friends with the tagline, "Governor Jindal Squashes Mr. Bill." The vimeo opens with Mr. Bill going to the Louisiana Legislature with a sign reading "Fix the Coast" and, well, he meets his usual fate.

Mr. Bill Goes To The Legislature from Walter Williams on Vimeo.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Briggs’ pathetic performance

Posted by on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Legendary bank robber Willie Sutton reportedly was once asked why he robbed banks, to which he allegedly replied: “Because that’s where the money is.”

If Sutton had been an oilman, he no doubt would have plied his craft in south Louisiana. Because that’s where the oil is. And the gas.

Sutton also would have felt right at home in the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA). Mind you, there’s nothing criminal about prudently extracting oil and gas from the marshes of south Louisiana and piping it through miles of man-made canals, as long as you have the drilling rights and valid permits.

But there is something inherently wrong, and possibly illegal, about ruining the environment in the process, particularly when state permits require restoring the marshes afterward — or at least maintaining the canals so that they don’t degrade the marshes around them.

That’s the central question in the landmark environmental lawsuit filed last July by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies. The suit claims the defendants failed to honor obligations imposed by their state permits and, as a result, contributed significantly to coastal land loss and the increased risk of flooding in southeast Louisiana.

The energy industry and LOGA are scared to death of this lawsuit. They, along with Gov. Bobby Jindal and others, have called it a money grab by greedy trial lawyers, said it was based on “bad science,” and predicted it would chase oil and gas companies out of Louisiana.

LOGA took it a step further and filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of SLFPA-E’s contract with its legal counsel. The contract includes a handsome contingency fee. LOGA’s lawsuit specifically claims the SLFPA-E suit would cause “irreparable injury” to LOGA members and have a “chilling
effect on the exploration, production, development and transportation” of oil and gas in Louisiana.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Bidness as usual

Posted by on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 2:32 PM

There’s nothing subtle about Big Oil. Nuances are a foreign concept, like pearls before swine. So it makes perfect sense that one of the state lawmakers leading the charge to derail the local flood protection authority’s environmental lawsuit against 97 energy companies is in the awl-n-gas bidness.

In fact, state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, is a big dog in the bidness. He’s a principal in Pelican Gas Management Co., based in his hometown. He also serves on the United States Energy Council and the Southern States Energy Board.

Adley also chairs the Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee, which has dominion over levee boards, flood and drainage projects, waterways and more. His opinion on things like the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) lawsuit against Big Oil matters a lot.

Not long after SLFPA-E filed its lawsuit in July, Adley sprang into action. He summoned authority members and their attorney, Glad Jones, to Baton Rouge for a joint meeting of the House and Senate transportation committees and read them the riot act. No doubt his compatriots in the awl-n-gas bidness were pleased.

But Adley was just getting started. Since then, he has filed Senate Bill 79, which would help Gov. Bobby Jindal fulfill his promise to fire as many SLFPA-E members as possible, as quickly as possible, to pull down the suit before it ever gets heard. Adley promises to file more legislation going directly at the suit.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Curbside recycling pickup will resume in French Quarter and CBD

Posted by on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 12:15 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and city officials today announced the return of curbside recycling pickup in the French Quarter and CBD, beginning Tuesday, Jan. 28. Progressive Waste Solutions will perform pickups weekly. The service will reach more than 4,000 locations, according to Landrieu.

The New Orleans Sanitation Department will host two bin pickups, where residents and business owners can pickup their free 18-gallon blue bins. People participating must bring proof of residence, such as a driver's license or utility bill. (Residents can also use existing or purchased 18-gallon blue bins with the recycling logo.) The locations and times for bin pickup are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 at Armstrong Park's Basin Street entrance, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 at City Hall.

Recyclable materials include paper products and cardboard and plastic and small metal containers. The program does not include glass recycling (or pizza boxes). For more information, visit the city's sanitation website.

Glass recycling is available through Phoenix Recycling, and you can bring glass to Target stores.

Residents outside the French Quarter and CBD are eligible for curbside recycling pickup through Metro Disposal and Richard's Disposal. Landrieu announced recycling would return to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina at his April 2011 state of the city address, and more than 20,000 people signed up for bins in the program's first week the following month.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Recycle your Christmas tree this week

Posted by on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 4:36 PM

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We’re officially into Carnival season, so it’s time to get rid of the trappings of the Christmas season — namely the tree. Local parishes that offer curbside Christmas tree recycling have scheduled pickups for this week.


Jefferson Parish residents should put their trees out Wednesday, Jan. 8, and they’ll be picked up Thursday through Saturday (Jan. 9-11), and Orleans Parish residents’ trees will be picked up by the curb on regular garbage collection days, Thursday through Saturday, (Jan 9-11), this week only.


Many of the trees picked up in Jefferson Parish will be placed along shoreline fences in Goose Bayou near Lafitte, while others will be ground into mulch for composting.


To be accepted for recycling, trees should be undecorated and not have any remnants of tinsel, lights or ornaments on them. Do not place trees in plastic bags. Flocked trees are not acceptable for recycling. The trees are mostly placed along Louisiana's coastline to help rebuild land.


Recycling schedules in nearby towns include:

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

John Barry to reign as king of Krewe du Vieux

Posted by on Tue, Dec 31, 2013 at 1:48 PM

In fall 2013, historian John Barry lost his seat on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) board, a victory for Gov. Bobby Jindal, and a setback for coastal restoration and flood protection for south Louisiana. But as Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos noted, it set him free to speak his mind.

It's probably not the first platform many would have guessed, but Barry was named 2014 king of Krewe Du Vieux. Barry will lead the krewe on its procession through Faubourg Marigny and the French Quarter Feb. 15. Artist Dawn DeDeaux was named royal consort.

Barry is the author of the best-selling Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America and The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Greatest Plague in History.

Barry was vice-chairman of SFLPA-E, which in July filed suit against oil companies seeking compensation for the oil and gas industry damages to coastal wetlands. Barry's summary of the suit and the politics surrounding his removal from the board are here.

Krewe du Vieux typically choses satirical themes, and past royalty have included Dr. John, Women With a Vision Director Deon Haywood, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation (and past Contemporary Arts Center) Director Don Marshall, R&B legends Ernie K-Doe, Frankie Ford and Irma Thomas, former Times-Picayune cartoonist Walt Handelsman, writer and bon vivant Andre Codrescu and others.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Recycle your Christmas tree to slow down coastal erosion

Posted by on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 4:57 PM

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  • Courtesy of U.S. Corps of Engineers

Louisiana loses about one football field worth of wetlands every 45 minutes. By the way, what are you doing with your old Christmas tree this year?

Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced today that the city will once again be collecting Christmas trees after the holidays to help protect the Louisiana coastline. Naked Christmas trees, without tinsel or other trimmings, will be picked up curbside on regularly scheduled recycling days Jan. 9, 10, and 11. The city won't take flocked or artificial trees, and nothing in plastic bags.

According to Tyler Gamble, a spokesperson for the mayor, more than 9,000 Christmas trees were collected in Orleans Parish last year and airlifted into the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge as part of program to create new marsh. The trees trap silt and help encourage the growth of marsh grasses.

"The Louisiana National Guard dropped the trees in pre-selected coastal zones as determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," Gamble said via email. "The strategic placement of trees in wetland habitats will stimulate the formation of new marsh, providing vital habitat to wintering waterfowl, wading birds and other wildlife. Over the past few years, this project has reestablished approximately 100 acres of marsh in Bayou Sauvage."

“New Orleans is earning a great reputation as an eco-friendly city, and this service is one of the ways our citizens can help protect and restore our environment," Landrieu said in a statement. "Together, we can save thousands of trees from being thrown out to waste and also provide critical support to help preserve our wetlands."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

‘Neck-deep in politics’

Posted by on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 5:43 PM

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s efforts to scuttle the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s (SLFPA-E) lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies gained traction today (Thursday, Nov. 21) from the SLFPA-E board itself, thanks to new members appointed by Jindal — and to board president Tim Doody.

Board members deferred a motion to affirm their commitment to the suit. The board also voted to submit the contract to the Legislative Auditor for review, but that’s no big deal. The auditor cannot render legal opinions anyway.

The vote to defer affirmation of the lawsuit came after Doody did not even invite the board’s own lawyer in the case, Glad Jones, into executive session to discuss the suit. That’s a sure sign that Doody has shifted sides and now opposes the suit — an interesting development considering how quickly Doody’s native St. Bernard Parish is going to wash away in coming years.

The SLFPA-E suit seeks to make energy companies pay their share for restoring southeast Louisiana’s vanishing coastal wetlands — which have disappeared largely though not exclusively because of Big Oil’s many miles of pipeline canals — as well as the higher costs of flood protection in metro New Orleans.

Attorney Joe Hassinger, whom Jindal recently named to the SLFPA-E board to replace historian John Barry, had planned to push a motion to suspend the lawsuit for 90 days. Barry has been the suit’s most vocal supporter. After reports that Hassinger may have a conflict of interest, he deferred his motion pending an opinion from the state Ethics Board. Hassinger is a “director” at the firm of Galloway Johnson, which has a robust energy law practice and an even bigger insurance defense practice. Hassinger did not let questions about his potential conflict stop him from voting on the two critical motions, however.

Team Jindal, hoping to fend off questions about Hassinger’s potential conflict, noted that Galloway Johnson does not represent any of the suit’s 97 named defendants. That does not address the equally sticky issue of whether the firm represents any of the defendants’ many insurers.

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Levee board suit survives, for now

Posted by on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s efforts to scuttle the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority-East’s (SLFPA-E) lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies fizzled today (Thursday, Nov. 21) when the authority’s board deferred a motion to suspend the suit.

The SLFPA-E suit seeks to make energy companies pay their share of the cost of restoring southeast Louisiana’s vanishing coastal wetlands — which have disappeared largely though not exclusively because of the industry’s many miles of pipeline canals — as well as the higher costs of flood protection in metro New Orleans. The suit claims that coastal land loss makes local hurricane protection levees significantly more expensive — and vulnerable.

Attorney Joe Hassinger, whom Jindal recently named to the SLFPA-E board to replace historian John Barry, who has been the suit’s most vocal supporter, had planned to push a motion to suspend the lawsuit for 90 days. However, after reports that he may have a conflict of interest, Hassinger deferred his motion pending an opinion from the state Ethics Board. Hassinger is a “director” (read: partner) at the firm of Galloway Johnson, which has a robust energy law practice — and an even bigger insurance defense practice.

Team Jindal, hoping to fend off questions about Hassinger’s potential conflict of interest, issued a statement that Galloway Johnson does not represent any of the suit’s 97 named defendants. That does not address the equally sticky issue of whether the firm represents any of the defendants’ many insurers. If the firm does represent any of those insurers, state law should disqualify Hassinger from even discussing the suit, let alone making or voting on a motion to suspend it.

A formal ethics opinion could take several months, if the Ethics Commission does a thorough job of investigating all of Hassinger’s potential conflicts. Meanwhile, Hassinger’s attempt to derail the suit, which clearly is inspired by Jindal, will become moot if the board votes later today (the board was still meeting as this was being written) to affirm the litigation.

The SLFPA-E filed its suit in July after a unanimous vote of support from its nine-member board, whose members serve staggered terms to minimize political interference. At today's meeting, actor, social commentator and frequent New Orleans resident Harry Shearer blasted attempts to sidetrack the suit, calling them a “grotesque” example of the kind of political interference the board was created to avoid.

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