Gulf Oil Disaster

Friday, October 3, 2014

New York Times on "the most ambitious environmental lawsuit ever"

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 2:39 PM

  • John Barry.
In this week's New York Times Magazine, Nathaniel Rich explores Louisiana's march into the sea, and "the most ambitious environmental lawsuit ever" filed by "the most unlikely of antagonists," John Barry. Barry — Gambit's 2013 New Orleanian of the Year and the 2014 King of Krewe du Vieux — is an expert on flood control policy and formerly sat on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) board. He led the lawsuit in question against 97 oil and gas companies to hold them accountable for their role in the pipeline-scarred coastal land loss over the last century.

Rich pitches Louisiana's coastal land loss in a way the magazine's namesake might take notice.
Were this rate of land loss applied to New York, Central Park would disappear in a month. Manhattan would vanish within a year and a half. The last of Brooklyn would dissolve four years later. New Yorkers would notice this kind of land loss. The world would notice this kind of land loss. But the hemorrhaging of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has gone largely unremarked upon beyond state borders
Following the suit, Barry was not nominated for another term on the board, and Gov. Bobby Jindal led legislation to kill the lawsuit. Jindal declined comment on the New York Times story. Barry — as Clancy DuBos had predicted — spoke freely with Rich about the genesis of the lawsuit during his time on the board and Jindal's plan to ensure the lawsuit's (and Barry's) failure:
During [the 2014 Louisiana Legislative session], about 70 lobbyists from the oil and gas industry were in the legislative chambers. They worked in concert with the governor’s staff to secure support for a bill that would void the lawsuit. “They turned on the fire hose,” one veteran energy lobbyist said. “It was the best organized effort I have ever seen,” another said.
Rich also asked state Sen. Robert Adley, a longtime oil and gas employee who opposed the lawsuit, whether his position was a conflict of interest, and Adley put that on his voters: "They know what industry I’m in. They choose to send me there." He later added that the lawsuit and Barry's fight are merely for Barry's upcoming book.

Rich also wrote about Louisiana's disappearing self for The New Republic published earlier this week.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Legislature’s Godzilla

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 9:35 PM

In a New York Times op-ed published late last month about Senate Bill 469, retired Lt. General Russel Honore wrote, “The oil and gas industries and pipeline companies aren’t responsible for all of Louisiana’s coastal loss. Nobody claims that they are. It’s important, though, that the industry be held to account for the damage it has done.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal clearly disagrees with Honore. Jindal, who was absent from much of the recently concluded 2014 legislative session in Baton Rouge, staunchly supported SB 469. The bill’s aim is clear: it’s designed to kill a Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies whose energy-related activities in southeast Louisiana have contributed to coastal land loss, an increased risk of hurricane-related flooding and higher costs of flood protection.

Jindal was all set to sign SB 469 into law at a June 2 press conference. Then, in a move that surprised both sides, the governor instead postponed his signature at the request of Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who asked for time to review the bill.

Caldwell was right to ask the governor to delay signing the measure. Shortly after SB 469 passed, a group of legal scholars opined that its retroactive provisions could actually undercut dozens — possibly hundreds — of pending lawsuits brought by parishes and state agencies against oil giant BP for damages related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. (As of the evening of June 5, more than 80 scholars had signed the legal opinion.) The experts, along with a growing number of local officials, say SB 469 is so overly broad that it could scuttle countless other legal claims that have nothing to do with the SLFPA-E lawsuit.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Oil money fuels Jindal's opposition to lawsuit, groups say

Posted By on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 4:11 PM

Environmental groups illustrated Gov. Bobby Jindal as a puppet to the oil and gas industry.
  • Environmental groups illustrated Gov. Bobby Jindal as a "puppet" to the oil and gas industry.

Environmental groups slammed "Million Dollar Man" Gov. Bobby Jindal for what they call his "aggressive stance" against the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East lawsuit, which targets 97 oil and gas companies for their role in wetlands loss. The groups — Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Global Green, League of Women Voters,, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Sierra Club and Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans — revealed on Aug. 28 more than $1 million in campaign contributions that Jindal received from oil and gas companies.

The groups showed a list of contributors to his gubernatorial campaigns beginning in 2003 with his first push for governor. The list did not include contributions to his congressional campaign. It's no secret that the oil and gas industry — among the state's largest — backs Louisiana political campaigns. The issue here, according to the groups, is Jindal's contributions fuel his opposition to the lawsuit.

"There is absolutely no other reason why Bobby Jindal refuses to make the oil industry pay for the coast it acknowledges it destroyed," said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. "There's no other explanation other than the fact he has received over $1 million in contributions."

Among the 230 contributions the group showed, Jindal received an average of $4,000 beginning in 2003, according to campaign filings with the state Board of Ethics. Helis Oil and Gas contributed $25,000 alone.

What the group didn't show: based on filings with the Federal Election Commission, in his 2004 campaign for Louisiana's first congressional district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jindal received thousands of dollars from oil and gas companies, including $16,000 from Magnum Producing and $13,000 from Oil & Gas Rental Services Inc. His contributions from oil and gas in his tenure total $251,000. (Oil and gas comes in second only to the health industry, which contributed $324,794 to his campaigns.)

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Y@ Speak: problem solvers

Posted By on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 12:45 PM

We're an industrious people, New Orleans. We won't let a water boil order disrupt our morning, or let oil get in the way of our wetlands. Or maybe we do. OK, sometimes we do. But we try really hard, right? We are all God's barf, after all. In this week's Y@ Speak we reflect on trying times and how many shots Craig Robinson will buy for us to get through them.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Judge rules against BP in settlement dispute

Posted By on Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 12:20 PM

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier this morning reaffirmed his prior rulings that Pat Juneau, claims administrator for the Deepwater Horizon Economic Settlement, is correctly interpreting how the multi-billion settlement is paid out to business claimants who suffered losses related to the 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster. Barbier dismissed a lawsuit BP filed against Juneau and denying the company's motion for a preliminary injunction on certain types of claim payments.

Today's hearing took place before a courtroom filled to capacity. Court officials opened up an overflow room (where I was) which itself was about half-filled.

The disagreement involves only business economic loss (BEL) claimants. BEL claimants have so far received the largest damage amounts. BP initially anticipated that the entire settlement would cost about $7.8 billion, but its potential exposure on BELs alone — one claim category of 12 — could surpass that.

Yesterday, the company appealed Barbier's earlier ruling siding with Juneau's interpretation.

(More after the jump)

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Transocean to pay $1.4 billion in fines for 2010 oil disaster

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Transocean Deepwater Inc. has agreed to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties and, within the terms of a proposed partial consent decree, $1 billion for Clean Water Act violations for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.


The order mandates $150 million of the $400 million will be dedicated to "acquiring, restoring, preserving and conserving" marine and coastal environments and wildlife habitat along the Gulf of Mexico, and a portion will also benefit barrier island restoration and wetland restoration along Louisiana. An additional $150 million will be directed to training for and implementing proper drilling procedures. The unprecedented $1 billion from Clean Water Act violations will be subject to the recently approved RESTORE Act, which will funnel 80 percent to Gulf Coast states

Under the settlement, Transocean also must implement federally mandated improvements to rig conditions, rig safety and emergency response. With its guilty plea, Transocean admits that its crewmembers aboard the Deepwater Horizon failed to fully investigate whether the well was secure, and that oil and gas were flowing into the well before its explosion and months-long leak in 2010.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, "This resolution of criminal allegations and civil claims against Transocean brings us one significant step closer to justice for the human, environmental and economic devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon disaster."

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Updates: fire on Gulf oil platform

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Updated 12:05 p.m., following Coast Guard press conference.

Here's a quick summary of some of the updates from this morning's news of an oil platform (not a rig) that caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico at about 9:15 a.m.:

The U.S. Coast Guard announced that an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico was on fire — Facebook photos shared with KLFY-TV confirmed.

Houston station KHOU-TV reported two deaths on the platform, with two missing (presumed dead) and four with serious injuries, who were airlifted from the platform.

Update (12:05 p.m.): U.S. Coast Guard reports there no confirmed deaths, though there are two missing platform workers.

From WWL-TV: The platform is about 20 miles from Grand Isle and is owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy (which also has offices in Louisiana). The platform workers arrived at West Jefferson Medical Center, then transported to Baton Rouge Burn Center, where they are in critical condition.

KLFY also reported that the fire likely started after platform maintenance workers cut into a pipe from which oil may have escaped. WWL reported that the platform was not producing any oil.

According to WWNO
, Black Elk Energy owns, operates or has a financial interest in more than 854 wells on 155 platforms across 430,000 acres offshore.

The Coast Guard reported that there were 26 workers on the platform (though initial reports said there were 28), and a total of nine people were air-lifted. Grand Isle EMS met other workers as they arrived on shore.

According to WWL, Plaquemines Parish officials contained the fire by 10:30 a.m., and Jefferson Parish officials later reported the fire was out.

Follow the Twitter hashtag #platformfire for breaking updates.

Update (12:05): Ed Cubanski, incident management branch chief for the 8th Coast Guard district said the fire likely started from a torch used to cut a 75-feet-long line on the platform. There may have been 28 gallons of oil in the pipe, and a one half-mile-long oil sheen has been spotted in the area. Eleven people were Medevaced to four area hospitals, and Coast Guard crew from Venice, Grand Isle and New Orleans are looking for two crewmembers. Four crewmembers are being treated for burns in Baton Rouge.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Video and summary: Attorney General Eric Holder's press conference on BP criminal plea

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 3:31 PM

BP has agreed to plead guilty to 14 federal criminal counts related to the 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster — including 11 counts of felony manslaughter for the workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced at a New Orleans press conference today.

"BP has agreed to plead guilty to all 14 criminal charges including responsibility for the deaths of 11 people and the events that led to an environmental catastrophe," Holder said. "The company has also agreed to pay $4 billion in fines and in penalties. This marks both the largest single criminal fine — more than $1.25 billion — and the largest total criminal resolution — $4 billion — in the history of the United States."

The U.S. Department of Justice has also indicted two former supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon — Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine — for manslaughter. Kaluza and Vidrine are scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 28.

"After nearly three years and tens of millions of dollars in investigation, the Government needs a scapegoat. Bob was not an executive or high-level BP official. He was a dedicated rig worker who mourns his fallen co-workers every day.m No one should take any satisfaction in this indictment of an innocent man. This is not justice," reads an emailed statement from Kaluza's attorneys Shaun Clarke and David Gerger.

(More after the jump)

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Long-term oil disaster study still seeks participants

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Since it began its data collection in March 2011, the Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up (GuLF) study — a $25 million, 10-year project under the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — has gathered more than 29,000 participants to study the health implications of handling (and exposure to) oil, dispersants and other chemicals in the cleanup operations following the BP oil disaster.

The study closes its enrollment period at the end of year, on Dec. 31, and cleanup workers, rig workers, or people who received cleanup training or were assigned to the Gulf following the disaster are all encouraged to participate to help "get a full picture of what happened during oil spill and understand how it affected people’s health," said Dr. Dale Sandler, who heads the study. It aims to recruit 55,000 participants, but Sandler said, "If we can get to 35,000 or 40,000, we’d be a tremendous success." The study already is the largest of its kind.

As Sandler told Gambit last year as the study was underway, the scope of the project could include "looking at respiratory effects and nonspecific complaints — dizziness and headaches," but it's also interested in the long-term issues like chronic diseases and cancer. During a Tuesday phone conference, Sandler said she hopes the findings "will provide information on how oil spills impact physical and mental health," including depression, stress and anxiety.

The study begins with a telephone interview with detailed questions about work performed during the disaster, health at that time and health now, and lifestyle factors and other job history. The call is followed by a home visit from a trained medical examiner, who takes biological samples and tests lung function. Participants are given a $50 gift card. If necessary, participants are referred to a free or low-cost physician.

So far, Sandler said, 450 people were told to go see a doctor for elevated blood pressure or for poor lung function. Most participants with referrals are sent to a general medical practice, an urgent care facility or community clinic. Some have had consultations with practices that specialize in dealing with chemical exposure, she said.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Y@ Speak: Dark-sided edition

Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Satan the horse, Transylvania, La., the French Quarter meth lab, 9/11 conspiracy theories, Saints and Sinners, Paul Ryan — lots of dark-sided stuff happening here this week. And the Saints were defeated once again, but I'd like to give a special Y@ Speak shout-out to local tweeter Chris Boudy, whose histrionic, profanity-filled game tweets soften the blow of any loss.

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