Tuesday, April 12, 2016

NOLA Bike to Work Day rescheduled for April 20

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 1:54 PM


With rain in the forecast for the next several days, the Bike Easy organization has issued a media alert rescheduling NOLA Bike to Work Day. The event was originally set for Wednesday, April 13; it's been moved to Wednesday, April 20. On that day, riders can join groups departing from their neighborhoods and meet in Lafayette Square from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. to celebrate bike commuting. 

More information about NOLA Bike to Work Week activities can be found on the Bike Easy website.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Anba Dlo festival and symposium is Oct. 17

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 3:30 PM

Tank and the Bangas perform at the Anba Dlo festival at the New Orleans Healing Center.
  • Tank and the Bangas perform at the Anba Dlo festival at the New Orleans Healing Center.

Anba Dlo includes a symposium focused on water issues and a Halloween festival featuring live music, a costume parade, a midnight Voodoo ritual and more. The free event is Saturday Oct. 17 at the New Orleans Healing Center.

The festival takes its name for the Haitian creole term meaning "beneath the waters." The event starts with its annual Water Symposium (noon - 4 p.m.), which examines New Orleans' relationship with water from scientific, civic, artistic and spiritual perspectives. Travers Mackel moderates the event, and Propeller's mentoring program will hold a pitch contest at the symposium. 

A Halloween costume parade will include the Radical Faeries, Cherry Bombs, Star-Stepping Cosmonaughties, Roux La-La, Pussyfooters, Icons for Peace, Otter and the Pony Girls, Skinz N Bonez, Muff-A-Lottas, BateBunda and Gang Flag Vern. It begins at 6 p.m. at Franklin Avenue and Royal Street, heads to Frenchmen Street and ends at the Healing Center. 

The festival features music by Tank and the Bangas, Sweet Crude, 101 Runners, BateBunda and others and burlesque performances by the Primrose Dolls. There also are art installations, psychic readings, crafts, food, acrobats, interactive experiences and water altars.

A portion of festival proceeds benefits A Studio in the Woods and Tulane University's Environmental Law Clinic.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Severance tax exemption cost La. $1.15 billion

Posted By on Mon, Aug 24, 2015 at 4:52 PM


Louisiana’s severance tax suspension for horizontal gas wells cost the state nearly $1.15 billion in fiscal years 2010 through 2014. During that time, higher education and health care suffered massive cuts in state general funding, which means students, families and the poorest citizens of the state suffered so that energy companies could reap larger profits.

That is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the latest report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office. A report released Monday, August 24, by the auditor’s office cites the Louisiana Department of Revenue’s (LDR) annual Tax Exemption Budget to back up its figures.

Worst of all, the severance tax exemption on horizontal gas wells cost the state money that it will never recoup, even if lawmakers were to suddenly repeal the exemption, according to the auditor’s report. That’s because the exemption applies to the most productive period of a well’s life — the first two years. Production from horizontal gas wells declines significantly during the two-year suspension period and does not bounce back afterward.

“Approximately 98% of the revenue loss from fiscal years 2010 through 2014 was from horizontal wells drilled for natural gas,” the report stated. “Most of these wells are located in the Haynesville Shale in northwest Louisiana. According to [the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, which keeps tabs on oil and gas production in the state], all of the Haynesville Shale horizontal wells’ best production is in the first two years. Because production dwindles significantly after the first two years, some operators may never pay severance taxes.”

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A New Orleans City Park tree-sitting protestor speaks out

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 2:54 PM

A partially killed live oak within the construction zone. - JULES BENTLEY
  • A partially killed live oak within the construction zone.
As a longtime, dues-paying Friend of City Park, it took me a while to get on board with the effort to save the wild public land that City Park CEO Bob Becker and the Bayou District Foundation nonprofit want to turn into a high-end golf course. The campaign seemed too little too late, or worse, an example of people who didn't live through the trauma of the flood but romanticized a wrecked version of the city.

The arguments against rebuilding the golf course accreted gradually— learning just how much that wild stretch meant to so many New Orleanians from all walks of life, learning how dire the economics of golf are in 2015, and learning about the sinister neoliberal elements of the "East Lake model" that the Bayou District Foundation, chaired by George H.W. Bush, seeks to emulate. When it was shown to me that, despite originally promising to only restore land that had previously been golf course, several far older cypress and live oaks and a fat slice of the Couturie Forest were being consigned to the ax, I was swayed.

The tree-sit protest ongoing in one of the now fenced-off public area's threatened cypress is, as far as I know, without local precedent. In the mid-'90s, a group of Loyola faculty and students sat at the base of a cypress tree that the University's then-president wanted to cut down. "We lasted for weeks, but then the end of the semester came," said Dr. John Clark. "We were sitting, and it was a tree, but I'm not sure that made it a tree-sit." Now, Dr. Clark is among many New Orleanians who've begun spending free time at Harrison Circle to show support for the young people in one of the threatened trees. Yesterday, after four days in the tree, one of the sitters came down. I spoke to her the evening of her descent.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Good People Go to Hell: An interview with filmmaker Holly Hardman

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 11:32 PM


Holly Hardman's new documentary film Good People Go to Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven takes as its subject the everyday lives of Louisianans coping with the impending end of the world. Without commentary or an obvious agenda, Hardman gives us blue-collar, mostly white, mostly West- and North-Louisiana folks trying to rebuild their own lives between disasters (Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac) while spreading the word of an impending, scripturally guaranteed mega-disaster that only the souls of the saved can survive.

The overall approach is impressionistic, a pastiche of moments and interactions. With the exception of a few glimpses of megachurch executives, the people in this movie don't have money or power. They're fighting to keep their families housed and their marriages from collapsing, struggling to overcome very familiar varieties of post-flood depression and chemical dependency.

Making someone the subject of a documentary inherently exoticizes him or her. Hardman's film is refreshingly free of classism or Yankee snobbery; her subjects come across on their own terms, and besides a few doctrinal quirks — believing almost every human ever born deserves eternal torture at the hands of a sadistically deranged demiurge — they seem sympathetic and likable.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Endangered crocs hatched at Audubon Zoo

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM

  • Courtesy Audubon Zoo

Two brown false gharials, endangered freshwater reptiles that look similar to crocodiles, have been born at the Audubon Zoo Reptile Encounter — marking the first time the species has been bred in captivity in America in five years. It’s the first false gharial births at Audubon Zoo, although the species has lived at the zoo since the 1980s.

The zoo’s staff says the gharials, part of the crocodilian group that also includes alligators, crocodiles and caimans, hatched several weeks ago and are only a few inches long. The zoo announced the births Wednesday. 

Gharials are native to southeast Asia and typically inhabit freshwater swamps with lots of vegetation, as well as lakes and rivers. They have a narrower snout than a crocodile and consume a varied diet, including fish, small animals, insects and crustaceans. Unlike crocodiles and alligators, gharials slide on their bellies on land instead of raising up their bodies to walk.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has placed false gharials on its Red List of Threatened Species (version 3.1) and attributes much of the population decline to habitat destruction. It estimates there are fewer than 2,500 mature adult gharials in the world, with most living along tributaries of the Ganges River.

Adult gharials average 350 to 400 pounds, with males growing from 13 to 19.7 feet long and weighing as much as 1,500 pounds, according to the San Diego Zoo website. Females tend to be shorter, averaging 11 to 13 feet long.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

UPDATE: Two oil companies and levee board settle for $50,000

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 9:06 PM

Shell Beach, as seen from the air. - CREATIVE COMMONS/RAY DEVLIN
  • Shell Beach, as seen from the air.

Two privately held Texas oil companies that were among nearly 90 defendants named in the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s (SLFPA-E) landmark environmental lawsuit have settled with the flood authority for a combined total of $50,000 in damages, according to documents filed in federal court and statements by the attorneys involved.

The terms of the settlement were announced a few hours after attorneys for SLFPA-E, White Oak Operating Co., L.L.C. and Chroma Operating, Inc. filed a “Joint Motion for Order of Dismissal With Prejudice” in federal court on Thursday. Parties typically file joint motions to dismiss when they have reached an out-of-court settlement. Because the SLFPA-E is a public entity, the terms of the settlement had to be made public.

While the dollar amount of the settlement seems small at first glance, the fact that two oil companies have agreed to pay damages for increased public exposure to hurricane-related flooding due to their operations in coastal wetlands is huge, even if they don't expressly admit responsibility. The settlement marks the first time an admission of this kind, along with payment of damages, has ever been made by energy companies.

White Oak and Chroma, a pair of related companies based in Houston, are among the smallest operators in the area that is the subject of the lawsuit. Their operations were limited to less than 100 linear feet of a single spoil bank, among nearly 700 miles of pipeline and access canals that are the subject of the litigation, and they operated there for only two years, according to documents attached to the original lawsuit. That makes them among the smallest players involved in the suit, not only financially but also in terms of actual damages caused by their activities.

Continue reading »

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Two energy companies settle with levee board

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 2:15 PM

An egret flies through the Louisiana marsh at Cypremort Point State Park. - CREATIVE COMMONS/PAMELA SCHRECKENGOST
  • An egret flies through the Louisiana marsh at Cypremort Point State Park.

Two energy companies that were among 97 defendants named in the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s (SLFPA-E) landmark environmental lawsuit have settled with the flood authority, according to documents filed in federal court. Terms of the settlement were not immediately disclosed, but they will be disclosed soon, according to one attorney on the case. (This story previously stated, erroneously, that a confidentiality provision applied.)

Attorneys for the levee authority and for the two settling defendants filed a “Joint Motion for Order of Dismissal With Prejudice,” which parties typically file when they have reached an out-of-court settlement.

Continue reading »

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Friday, October 10, 2014

The tide has turned: time for Big Oil to settle

Posted By on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Only a few weeks ago, supporters of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s (SLFPA-E) environmental lawsuit against 97 energy companies were mired in despair. Gov. Bobby Jindal and SLFPA-E nominating committee chair Jay Lapeyre were poised to tip the balance on the authority’s board against the lawsuit and kill it.

Then, to the surprise of many — and over the objections of Jindal and Lapeyre — the nominating committee up and did the right thing by re-nominating coastal scientist Paul Kemp for another term on the board. Kemp supports the lawsuit, and his reappointment preserves a 5-4 majority on the board in favor of the suit. For now.

That was just the beginning of an amazing turn of events against Big Oil.

On Monday, Oct. 6, state District Court Judge Janice Clark of Baton Rouge ruled that Act 544 of 2014 (filed as Senate Bill 469) does not apply to the SLFPA-E lawsuit. SB 469 was specifically (though not very artfully) crafted to kill the lawsuit retroactively. The suit is currently pending in federal court in New Orleans.

SB 469 was literally thrown together overnight when the original anti-lawsuit bill was poised to die in a Senate committee. Through a ham-fisted bit of legislative legerdemain, lawsuit opponents hijacked a bill in a friendlier committee, completely gutted and rewrote it, and then passed it with relatively little opportunity for debate — and, Judge Clark ruled, other fatal defects.

Continue reading »

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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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