I wasn’t living in New Orleans when the levees failed, I was one year in on my first time in San Francisco, watching it all unfold on television just like most people not in New Orleans…the anger is still clear, as is the disbelief.
Respect and remembering those who lost and those who struggled…still struggle. And a recognition of those who still have been unable to get home. I know someone out here in SF constantly torn between going back to a place that triggers so much trauma versus staying in a place that has never been home, no matter how much he tries to make it one…
Best to him, best to all, and may those still seeking resolution nine years later, find it.
Despite the continued insistence of public relations hacks employed by the oil company hell known as British Petroleum that all in the Gulf is either well, or quickly on the mend, troubles persist:
“Researchers are trying to determine whether more than 100 dolphins stranded on the Texas coast, most of them in Galveston, died because of the BP oil spill, a deadly algal bloom or some undetermined cause.
The strandings also come after a NOAA study found that dolphins in Barataria Bay on the Louisiana coast were in poor health because of exposure to oil. Dolphins in the bay, severely affected by the spill, had low weight and liver and lung ailments.”
“Gloom infects the hard-working shrimp and crab docks of this gritty fishing town as the second full year of fishing since BP’s catastrophic oil spill kicks into high gear.
Usually folks are upbeat and busy in May, when shrimpers get back to work in Louisiana’s rich waters. This spring, though, catches are down, docks are idle and anxiety is growing that the ill effects of the massive BP oil spill may be far from over.
An Associated Press examination of catch data from last year’s commercial harvest along the gulf — the first full year of fishing since the 2010 spill — reveals merit in the fishermen’s complaints. According to the analysis of figures obtained through public-records requests, seafood crops hit rock bottom in the Barataria estuary, the same place where some of the thickest waves of oil washed in when a BP well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.”
So color my less cynical side surprised to read this:
“BP is pushing for a $15bn (£9.7bn) settlement with the American authorities to resolve all civil and criminal claims relating to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, substantially less than the $25bn demanded by the US department of justice.”
Okay, so an immediate question springs to mind:
What the fuck is there to even be negotiating about?
This damned company, by way of error kills eleven people and screws an ecosystem, then goes about obscuring flow rates during the response…is in negotiations to lower the dollar amount on penalties they’ll incur as a result of their very costly shenanigans…nice. This is the company taking responsibility. This is the company with all them fancy television commercials. This is the company whose smiling (dick)head Bob Dudley looks on warmly to reassure everyone not living on the Gulf Coast just how righteous, humble and truly sorry he and his corporation truly are…while on the Gulf, where people continue to pay attention, the facts do not bear this out…this guy…I tell ya.
He’s in negotiations with the justice department and reports are these talks are “accelerating.”
Yeah, but accelerating to what?
One more screw-job for the Gulf? One more in a really long list of shenanigans shoved onto a region, poisoning its environment for decades and almost destroying New Orleans, one of this nation’s great cities?
Unlike the Corps, BP must be held accountable, completely.
Maybe for the first time in what, who knows how long anymore, it’s time for the government to stop listening to what’s good for a company and pay closer attention to the people said company screwed.
But after watching these GOP fucks this past year…it would seem idealism is the only thing they want us to have anymore.
Some of you out there are aware the moving days are upon me…just completed one move, literally down the street which helped pave the way for the big move, five weeks from today to New Orleans San Francisco. Originally, I wanted it to be New Orleans, but alas…you got yourself one fucked up governor down there and the only thing he likes better than giving no bid contracts to his campaign donors is to cut education and social services so…long story short…you got no jobs down there man! Not for a person like me…so I go to the one other place I enjoy so much and that would be San Francisco…
So, what does this mean for the Citizen…well…there gonna be somewhat of a pivot going on round here…
Now…never you fear, I got enough hatred of oil companies like BP and frankly any company who run roughshod over a populace with complicit politicians, government agencies, the courts…Looking at you Barbier and a bunch of asshole lawyers like Feinberg and the Plaintiff Steering Committee…
For example, if you haven’t seen this article yet, man…really, check it out:
Wait, what? You mean to tell me the people of the Gulf Coast got screwed again?
No way, say it ain’t so…
However…like I mentioned, there will be a pivot where I’ll also now be writing about some Bay Area stuff…like the coming fiscal and environmental tragedy called the America’s Cup…where you just know the city of San Francisco in general, and the people who can least afford it in specifics are all about to get financially hosed by a bunch of wealthy bastards on racing yachts…oh yeah, and then of course there’s San Francisco’s newly elected Sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi who is about to go to court on domestic violence charges…
Yeah, and I’ll be attempting to keep writing while I move cross-country, find a job, find an apartment..etc… Hell, I even had to go buy me a new smart phone for the task…
Oh, and by the way…want to know a huge similarity between California and New Orleans?
One big fucked up levee system courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers with a long legacy of mismanagement and shortcuts.
Anyways, wish me luck and I’ll see you back here tomorrow afternoon…
Anyways, so as I read on the New Orleans Ladder, Sandy Rosenthal from Levees.org goes to the Louisiana State Review Board to give her presentation regarding why the levee breaches should be placed on the National Register of Historic Places (uh…duh’) and they vote three yes’s, and six…no’s?
How could this be?
Sure sounds like these professional academics suffered a brain breach. Throughout our lives, very few historical events resonate with such magnitude where collectively, as a nation, the vast majority can point to a particular incident and tell you where they were: the Kennedy assassination, maybe the Space Shuttle Explosion, 9-11, the first time environmentalists sabotaged construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (wait, what?) and of course, Katrina.
Who the hell doesn’t remember the images from Katrina?
Myself, I was standing in my sixth floor apartment at Turk and Leavenworth in San Francisco, staring open mouthed at a television, horrified, sad and furious.
And anybody who’s paying attention to the story at all understands the flooding was caused by the Corps of Engineers faulty planning and construction, so then why in the hell would the Review Board say no?
Apparently, they would prefer their applications done in disaster shorthand…uncomplicated, and politically palatable…you know that kind of history. Hell, too often our country sustains itself with it…
9-11 happened because radical Islam envied our freedoms and way of life. Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy and he did it all by himself. Ronald Reagan never raised taxes. Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and of course there was a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Corexit is as safe as dish soap. That Gulf Coast cancer cluster – that could have been caused by anything!
And yes…the flooding of New Orleans happened because of Katrina.
Bullshit shorthand…politically expedient and culturally comfortable, and truth ain’t got nothing to do with any of it.
So when Levees.org presents an application filled with data, fact, soil types…etc, rather than being applauded for the thoroughness of the job they did, throughout the transcript of the presentation and meeting with the Review Board, one instead reads criticisms of how their application was too complicated, too confusing, too long…oh, and the application also might have suggested the Corps of Engineers were somehow at fault when the levees they built, uh…broke.
But, as reported by Levees.org, even though the board refused to approve the application, on December 29th…
“Ms. Breaux (the State Historic Preservation Officer) confirmed to Levees.org that she has sent the 39-page nomination – along with her letter of support and other documents pertinent to the breach sites’ eligibility – to the Corps of Engineer’s Federal Preservation Officer in Washington, DC.”
So at least the idea continues to move forward, just without the benefit of an endorsement by the Review Board.
And academically speaking, it’s got to be hard to be Board Chairwoman, Glenna Kramer, so I have taken it upon myself to offer up the text of a marker, text I think she would certainly approve of, and I doubt will offend anyone, unless they were to care at all about what happened in Louisiana at the breach site of the 17th Street Canal and the East side North breach site of the Industrial Canal, but anyways, here goes:
“At this site, on some date, something happened, which caused a lot of other things to happen, bad things, though none of these bad things came as a result of anyone’s fault because tragedies are sometimes like that, blameless. And so we remember the loss of life, of homes, of community and confidence we once shared that bad things such as the kind that happened here, wouldn’t ever actually happen, and will hopefully never happen again.”
I’m guessing the Corps of Engineers would also approve.
Ken Feinberg, British Petroleum employee and steward of the BP claims fund wrote himself a little editorial the other day in Bloomberg Businessweek titled: How to Give Away $5 Billion. The article came complete with an illustration of a man, presumably Ken, holding a money bag while outstretched, demanding hands come in from outside the border of the drawing and there, in a nutshell, is everything that’s wrong with the GCCF and Ken’s dismissive attitudes.
The people of the Gulf Coast are not looking for a hand out.
They are looking to be compensated for damages from the worst environmental disaster to ever hit this country.
In his rather self-congratulatory editorial, Ken writes the best way to give out $5 billion dollars is with “speed and fairness and consistency,” which not coincidentally are three of the biggest complaints about the claims process: questions about its fairness and consistency concealed behind an utter lack of transparency and the slow allocation of payments while people suffer untold financial hardships.
Really Ken…people aren’t clamoring for the GCCF to be audited because they are satisfied with the process, at ease with what you’ve done and are doing, many in fact are rather angry, which is why it’s no wonder you’ve learned to live with “the potshots and the criticism.” You’d have to be used to it by now. They’re coming and have come from the US Justice Department, politicians both local and federal, various attorneys general and claimants across four states.
Ken writes, “You try to err on the side of being generous without being Santa Claus. Anyone can give money away,” and that would be quite correct, anybody can. Anyone can also claim to be the second coming of Christ when they came down to the Gulf in June of last year making all kinds of promises about speed and fairness and generosity only to see these promises disintegrate into the reality that you were getting more than you bargained for. It was and is a big job, Ken and a difficult one, but when you set people up to fail with causality in health claims, when you make people wait for interim claims while completing the easier, less lucrative quick claims, when you force people to gamble with their future by signing legal waiver forms and when people become so fed up with your claims process they just want to take the money and run, not from a sense of satisfaction and being made whole, but from a sense of disgust with another corporation and their henchmen who screwed an entire region…Ken, you’re not Santa Claus, you’re not even a lowly elf, you’re a wealthy, self-satisfied Boston attorney whose making quite a tidy profit for himself in the claims business.
Finally, Ken adds:
“These programs should be the exception rather than the rule. Bad things happen to good people every day, but I didn’t see a program after Katrina or Joplin. Policymakers need to be wary about doing an end run around the traditional way of resolving disputes in this country.”
What the hell does that even mean?
Here’s a thought, maybe the reason you didn’t see a claims process after Joplin and Katrina is 1. its pretty fucking hard to take a tornado to court and 2. Taking the Army Corps of Engineers to court for the failure of the levees has been near impossible and if going after Katrina itself, well, see #1 again, only replace tornado with hurricane. British Petroleum’s poor management and the resulting explosion of the Deepwater Horizon was not a natural disaster, it was man-made, and came as a result of time-saving and profit-seeking by an oil company that was already making money hand over fist.
Greed, Ken…simple greed…that’s why there is a claims process.
Rather than trying to publish your bullshit at Bloomberg where maybe you hoped people wouldn’t see it, why don’t you hold another town hall in the Gulf so you can tell the people to their face what a great job you’ve done.
Hell, you can even bring your security team, again.
Have a nice day.
Especially to Mark Moseley at The Lens for pointing out to yours truly Feinberg’s lovely gem of an article.
Don’t worry, this letter won’t be too long but before I get into a couple of things, I feel it is important to tell you a couple of things about myself as they will become pertinent a bit later on. First of all, I’m on the high side of my thirties and I don’t have any children. It’s not a genetic thing if that matters to you, it’s a choice, one I made at about nineteen or twenty and a choice I am quite content with. Second of all, I fit pretty well into a personality disorder type called Schizoid and what that means is I have a distinct lack of interest in personal relationships, oftentimes don’t see the point of spending time with others. This may seem odd for a social worker. I agree, but just because I don’t care personally doesn’t mean I can’t effectively help people. My second choice in careers was to be a minister despite being an atheist. Why not? I’m good with people, public speaking isn’t a problem and I can write a decent narrative so sermons? No worries, I imagined people would have just presumed a belief in God…but I became a social worker, so instead people presume I’m social, anyways…
I’ve been reading your mission.
Especially the part about climate change.
I am assuming that since you are the Tea Party of Louisiana that most of you live in Louisiana, right? I mean, even if you don’t live in Baton Rouge or New Orleans…Louisiana, right?
In your platform I’ve noticed a couple of inconsistencies. You seem to start off by suggesting there is a climate change problem when you say the “purpose of the cap-and-trade legislation to reduce global CO2 emissions may appear to be for the greater good,” and then you go on a little later to suggest cap and trade isn’t actually for the greater good, not because there isn’t a climate change problem, but because other big polluters may not buy in to cap and trade.
So I don’t understand, is there a problem or not?
Oh, okay…not much of a problem, if at all, and certainly not caused by man.
All right, and you state that at the UN Climate Change conference in Poland, over 650 scientists were on hand to state it was not a man-made deal and might not even be harmful at all.
650 scientists, I agree, that might sound like a lot…but c’mon, it’s not, not really, not when you glance towards the other side to see the number of scientists who belive man is involved. From this vantage point, you get the official government scientific organizations of 32 countries, and this other ridiculous number of non-governmental scientific organizations worldwide who would have no qualms about taking those 650 men and women down in a street fight, a quick street fight…yeah, a horribly outmatched streetfight.
So relatively speaking, 650 people ain’t shit, you can find a handfull of so-called experts who will testify to anything. There are still people who believe the earth is flat, too.
Your platform also talks a lot about cost, but neglects to mention a more recent, larger cost estimate: $350 billion in economic losses along the Gulf Coast due to hurricanes and rising sea levels, two phenomena made much worse by climate change according to most scientists, well, most besides those 650 guys you mentioned so again, relative costs my friends and that $350 billion is a tiny percentage of the costs worldwide once food and water shortages become more serious.
I’ve also read a bit about how a lot of you guys are religious and that’s cool. I never fault anyone their spiritual side even if I am an atheist. I’ve seen a person’s faith do a lot of good in my social work world so bully for you, seriously, but I’ve also read that some of you feel you can do whatever you want environmentally because it says in the bible that God made you all stewards of the land. Okay, maybe so. But if that’s true, don’t you think people in general have to be pissing him off by now? Daddy gives you a new car and you never get the oil changed, the car’s engine locks up destroyed, well…daddy’s gonna be annoyed. If we are stewards, I don’t really wanna get fired because you guys suck at your job.
And in Louisiana, seriously…you guys really need the land and the water to be clean, productive and solvent because a larger majority of your economy kinda depends on it…and man, if those sea levels start to rise, you really want to put that in the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers?
Remember, you can’t sue them…
Oh, and I get it..the cynical amongst you snickering to each other about who cares what happens to New Orleans? They vote Democratic anyway…mebbe so, but just try to get your state to function without their revenue, and what the hell would you guys do on Sunday afternoon? Watch the boring-ass Texans?
Long story short…I’m thinking you might want to be more supportive of efforts to do something about climate change, you got a lot riding on it whether you want to ignore it or not, and we are at a rather crucial time…the tipping point, or pretty close to it and if we wait much longer…then it won’t really matter…we’ll all be sitting in that useless, dead car.
And this gets me back to my lifestyle, and my personality disorder.
Between me and you…I really don’t care that much about people.
Oh sure, I play a caring person on TV, but no…not really, not that much…I don’t have any kids to be concerned about, never been all that close to anyone in my family beyond my parents and I’m old enough that short of climate change altering the ecology enough that one of those unstoppable virus’s can flourish in our climate, I don’t have a lot to worry about. If the world does fall apart before I kick off, I’ll just hole up with some food, some booze, some guns and good books and ride it out. That’s okay by me, ultimately…I mean in the grand scheme, but you guys and gals…I would imagine you got kids, grandkids? Are you really so selfish that you’d just throw them to the dogs like that? You guys all hate big government, but when the effects of climate change hit and hit hard, who do you think your kids are going to depend on or need? Yeah, how’d that work out for you during Katrina, the oil spill?
I understand that many of you, like me, will die before it gets really bad. So okay, but I do wish I could be there when you’re on your deathbed at home or hospital, and when it’s all pretty much too late and you think your granddaughter is coming to say goodbye before you die, and just as you reach out your arms for that last hug…
I know it’s been awhile since I said hello. My bad, but things have been going pretty good so, thanks. I do have a request though and I’ve been thinking about it for a while now.
So, here goes:
Please, I’m begging you, please…can you back away from politics?
I don’t understand the choices you are making. I was raised in a Christian household by Christian parents, but they never let me in on your political predilections. They say that we are judged by the company we keep, well, do you really understand the political hues your friends are painting you with?
I wasn’t raised to perceive you in such terms; you were supposed to be compassionate, concerned for the poor, loving, but your political friends make you look like a mean-spirited, wealthy dick. I don’t think this is your intention, but I was also told you were infallible.
So, I’m confused.
Please help, and I understand the temptation to say, “I work in mysterious ways.” But please don’t do that. This is serious and people are starting to get the wrong idea: Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Christine Bachman, David Vitter, Glenn Beck…just to name a few, really, a few…there are a lot more, God. Some of them are even saying you told them to run.
These people seem to blame all the problems of our country on the same people your son seemed to represent, remember the allegory about the rich man, the camel and the needle?
Did you change your mind?
When did you start to hate Mexicans, Muslims and poor people so much, or is that just your political friends…see? That’s why I worry, it’s getting harder to separate you from them cause they keep talking about you all the time, like you talk only to them now.
What’s going on?
And even if you don’t answer, or let me know or give me a sign or something, thanks for the Super Bowl last year. Sincerely, that was really cool, and could you make the Army Corps of Engineers do New Orleans right this time? There’s a lot of people in that town who count on them and you…so, thanks.
Over the past five months, Gulf Coast residents have been treated to a number of decisions with direct impact on their lives. They weren’t asked to give input at the time these decisions were made. They weren’t asked how they thought it might affect their future. The decisions occurred above their heads and most times, without their knowledge, but they are the ones now paying the price. This post is the second of three parts having to do with these decisions. Part one addressed British Petroleum’s use of the dispersant, Corexit while two and three will be concerned with Bobby Jindal’s sand berms and the federal government’s response, including the amount of control ceded to British Petroleum. All three will address the issue of the courage necessary to change course in the Gulf, the importance of doing so and who will be affected. All three decisions to be looked at had to do with money and politics, and changing course now will affect the back accounts and political standing of the people in charge, but change must happen.
What is going on in the Gulf of Mexico is not working.
“We need the Federal Government to get in this war to win it.” – Bobby Jindal
And thus began the Louisiana governors charade that is the sand berm project. In this simple sentence Jindal set himself up as the man at odds with an inept response, as the individual who was being pro-active, the man of common sense doing something tangible while everyone dawdled. When the Deepwater Horizon exploded and it became readily apparent oil was gushing into the Gulf, the ideas of how to mitigate the damage began in earnest. Some were tried and true, skimmers and boom with all their benefits and faults, and some were not, like the use of dispersants on a level nobody had ever before attempted. Bobby Jindal then injected into the public dialogue his idea: the construction of a hundred miles of sand berms.
This idea seemed simple enough, build walls of sand off the coast which will catch the oil and keep it from the coast, but then as the details, and the environmental impact of the project were looked at, it gave most everybody pause, everybody but Jindal and the dredging companies. Scientists said berms would be too fragile, the overall environmental impact would be too harmful, removing sand from the very coast that already needed to be rebuilt was a bad idea and besides, the contractors predicted a nine month time frame to complete construction. It would simply take too long, but Jindal pounced; he had an issue he could work. When the Army Corps of Engineers, the Obama administration and the Coast Guard hesitated to give Jindal the permits required, the Louisiana governor who never met a regulation he liked and had long been an advocate of small government, skipped the science and seized the microphone, speaking forcefully to any reporter who would listen, “We don’t have time for red tape and bureaucracy,” Jindal said, “We’re literally in a war to save our coast.”
Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves, a Jindal appointee, angrily defended the berm project against environmentalists, scientists and federal officials, saying the state plan carefully balanced the negatives raised with the ever-growing threat of oil reaching the coast and, he pointed out, none of the federal agencies that raised objections required BP to prepare detailed environmental assessments for dealing with a worst case oil spill. He neglected to mention the part of the state’s plan dealing with a worst case scenario was simply blank, labeled, “to be developed,” and that this lack of a federal plan was signed off on by Louisiana state officials.
These details were not politically convenient.
The sand berms were, however, and so was all the shouting against government red tape; they kept the focus off Jindal’s lack of a response plan. The sand berms put Jindal on the offensive.
It was dramatic stuff.
And the feds relented. An emergency proclamation was declared, giving Jindal the right to begin construction, funded by $350 million dollars of BP’s money.
And so in June, The Shaw group began construction of Bobby Jindal’s sand berms.
And by early July we were treated to such narratives as this:
Governor Bobby Jindal gives a crisp salute to the Louisiana National Guard soldiers standing outside the Governor’s Mansion as he climbs aboard a Blackhawk helicopter for another trip to the Gulf of Mexico. Today’s mission: a tour of the E-4 sand berm under construction in the Chandeleur Islands, one of six artificial barriers authorized by the Army Corps of Engineers and a linchpin in the governor’s strategy for containing the oil from the ruptured Macondo well, but first, the governor makes a stop at Lakefront Airport to pick up the national news media — camera crews from ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and CNN and a reporter for The Washington Post — who quickly climb aboard for a noisy 30-minute ride to a narrow strip of sand where a 24-hour dredging operation is under way.
And with every trip to the berms, those narrow strips of sand have increasingly come to symbolize his proactive, common sense, buck the feds response to the oil spill. With each mention by the press, and with every shot he takes at scientists who questioned his plan, Bobby Jindal’s image has become further linked to this project until we get to where we are today where the berms have become part of his political identity, and this is troubling, for as the science continues to roll in the sand berms are being shown time and time again to be simply, a bad idea.
Among those criticisms are the idea that the berms will potentially worsen the impact of the spill on the marshes by trapping oil behind and/or increasing the speed of oil flowing through the remaining openings in their artificial shield and with the time it has taken to build the first few miles of these berms, significant oil has already entered the marshes, everywhere. And what of the habitats? The contractors have assured that every caution is being undertaken not to harm habitats, but when the amount of sand needed to create the berms is eleven times the volume of the Superdome, scientists simply don’t see how this is possible, even if all goes well, meaning a hurricane or storm surge doesn’t hit the fragile berms scattering their flimsy constructs far and wide where they will hold back nothing. “In 18 years in the governor’s office,” one scientist said, “I’ve never seen an administration where science is such an alien concept,” but not only science…also, transparency, for what went on behind closed doors in deciding to construct these berms may never be known. Jindal, despite all campaign claims of opening up the governor’s office has done anything but, and he sealed all of the state’s oil spill records. He states he wouldn’t want BP to know what Louisiana knows, a dubious legal argument due to terms of disclosure in any trial. For whatever his reason, it would seem it is the people of Louisiana he wants kept out of the loop. We do not, and quite possibly will not ever know how much the dredging companies, the construction companies influenced the idea of constructing sand berms in the face of virtually all science and simple logistics.
Jindal would rather keep Louisiana in the dark, unaware of the politics behind most any of his decisions, including these sand berms.
So instead, let’s take a look at who is completing their construction: the Shaw Group.
This company, whose office are located in Baton Rouge made a great deal of money after Katrina. They pocketed close to $350 million dollars in contracts from the Army and FEMA and are most famous for the subcontracting involved therein, especially with their contract for covering roofs with blue tarp. According to an essay by William Quigley, the Shaw Group got $175 dollars a square foot to do the job. They subcontracted this work out to another company, paying them $75 dollars a square foot, who then subcontracted to another company for $30 dollars, who finally subcontracted to another company that actually did the work, and were paid a total per square foot of $2 dollars. This is only one example of price gouging which can occur during no-bid contracts, the same kind of contracts the Shaw Group was awarded to construct these sand berms. Also, and perhaps more importantly, it should be noted the Shaw Group has donated the third highest amount to Jindal’s political campaigns, and should Jindal decide to run for President in 2012, which despite his protestations seems a very real possibility, it is the Shaw Group that will be in place to reap continued benefit and to continue opening those funding doors for his campaign.
Despite being politically dead in the water before this oil spill, the times have changed for the governor, making his run much more likely. Bobby Jindal recently scheduled an appearance at a fundraiser in Minnesota for the Republican Party. He has also been making regular appearances on Fox News. As the oil spill continued to dominate the news cycle, Jindal found his star power rising, oftentimes as a result of his stance in favor of the sand berms and critical of BP and the Obama Administration. As mentioned before, the sand berms have become a powerful symbol and a part of his identity. They are something he can point to, give tours of, something tangible he can show to conservative thinkers and the moneyed backers as evidence of his actions in times of crisis, of his strong states rights record and his beliefs in the limited role of federal government. In order to wholly maintain his reputation as a serious presidential contender, the sand berms must be completed. To the Louisiana governor, their construction can be seen as a partial construction of his legitimacy for national office.
So now, Jindal has made his request to expand his berm plan beyond the scope of the emergency permit he already received, and this has opened up the process to official comments from environmental groups and federal agencies. Many of the comments have not been released from the Army Corps of Engineers process per policy, but Garret Graves has stated he feels many of these people are against the berms because they don’t have the information necessary to adequately determine their effectiveness and/or they are just biased against the idea from the start. Despite this argument, the Jindal administration doesn’t put forth any effort to explain the workings of the plan, beyond releasing some financial information, and this information has not been good. It shows that of the $350 million dollars given by BP for the entire project, they have already spent 30% of the money and only constructed 10% of the berms. Despite the closed commenting, several agencies are speaking out and just about all are against the completion of the project. The EPA, who actually has veto power over the berms, weighed in via a letter written to the US Army Corps where they questioned whether the 6-foot high sand bars are indeed blocking the oil, “Specifically, we question the timeliness of berm construction and the ability of the berm to substantially reduce the amount of oil reaching wetlands, barrier islands, and interior waters, especially in light of the capping of the wellhead…given the questionable effectiveness of this proposed project and the potential of significant adverse environmental impacts, we recommend that the Corps not permit construction activities in areas beyond the six reaches already authorized.”
This opinion hasn’t affected Jindal’s unwavering stance in favor of his project’s completion.
Graves responded to the EPA by saying the permit process could take another 12 months for the Corps to complete and by then the work on the six berms under the “emergency use authorization” will be complete, and Jindal still wants authorization to finish his 100 miles despite the environmental science, the EPA, and the lack of funds to finish the project. It only stands to reason that the Shaw Group would also like to see the berms go on, and as far as Jindal’s aspirations to national office? He’s been flying high on the press from the oil spill, a man of determination and decision; it would certainly be the blackest of black eyes to walk away from his one big bold idea.
And that is precisely what should happen.
British Petroleum gave $350 million dollars for coastal protection efforts, of which this berm idea has consumed over $100 million dollars already, and this in a time when money is very scarce. Wouldn’t this money be better invested in rebuilding barrier islands under a comprehensive plan? Barrier islands don’t wash away in a storm. Barrier islands have the strength to last and slow down hurricanes. Lately, Jindal has said the water behind his sand berms should be filled in to create marshes, possibly in an attempt to mitigate the coming damage if he is forced to walk away from his grand idea, but this piecemeal approach will not work. A comprehensive plan must be followed, and I would argue this comprehensive plan should be created by environmentalists and Gulf Coast scientists, not an administration that has done nothing but show hostility towards science all along.
To put it in perspective, the Army Corps of Engineers have a plan years in the making to build or rebuild seven of these barrier islands which will last for up to ten years or more. The islands will support mangroves, marshes, rookeries and become part of a healthy ecosystem. Congress has allocated only $124 million to this project, enough to partially rebuild one. Jindal has spent over a$100 million dollars building his fragile berms that will be a part of nothing, quickly by natural erosion, or all at once by way of one serious storm.
BP’s money would be better allocated elsewhere.
The sand berms were a bad idea from the beginning, as fragile as any presidential campaign built on tragedy. Giuliani found that out and I suspect Jindal will too, so to change course he should do what’s right for the state, and not what’s right for his own political ambitions.
Long after he is gone, Louisianans will still be here. Even though changing course now will cause his aspirations to take a hit, one further compounded by the Shaw Group’s loss of financial profit should construction stop, it is the right thing to do. It is the courageous thing to do.
Unlike he did with Louisiana’s universities, the state’s unemployment insurance, and health insurance for those most in need, it is time…this time, for Jindal to put his constituents first.
Build barrier islands, not sand berms.
For the good of the state and the good of its people, for a change.
Look man, we all realize that your Presidential aspirations are drowning in oil and you have a strong urge, a need to do something, now, right now. I get it and when you first brought up the whole sand berm approach I was all for it and all for you telling the government to piss off, you were going to do it no matter what they said because you care about the Gulf Coast. I was totally in your corner…
But then something happened.
I read the details and read why the Army Corps of Engineers and all the scientists didn’t want you building the sand berms, namely they will take far too long to build to be of any effect, that they could actually funnel more oil into the marshes and it will lead to even further erosion of the already eroding coast.
But you’re going to do it anyway…asshole.
Jarvis DeBerry in another great column in the Times Picayune goes on to discuss Bobby’s cherry-picking of scientific evidence; he writes of how he uses science to support his disagreement with Obama about drilling moratoriums, but then completely ignores it when it comes to the sand berms.
As Jarvis comments, Bobby…your need to appear to be doing something is getting in the way of doing the right thing. Louisiana public officials have been ignoring science for years and it’s how you all got into this coastal mess in the first place, not just the British Petroleum Catastraphuk in the Gulf, but the flooding during Katrina, the massive coastal erosion, the MR-GO. Bobby, don’t make the same mistakes of everybody who came before you.
Use your head, not your ambition.
If you want to be seen as doing something, how about activating the 6000 National Guard troops you have at your disposal to help fight the oil?
Read another excellent column from Jarvis Deberry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
You mean to tell me that the short-sightedness was not the sole property of British Petroleum, that all the oil companies have been making shortsighted decision for the past 100 years, and they’ve been enabled in these endeavors by the state’s politicians?
Say it ain’t so Landrieu, say it ain’t so.
8000 miles of canals were dug through the wetlands for easier and cheaper access to oil rigs and pipes while the Army Corps of Engineers dug even larger navigation canals, requested by the industry – canals like the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, yeah, the same one that let in the storm surge and flooded New Orleans during Katrina. Twenty-five square miles of Louisiana coast disappear every year, largely from the erosion caused by these slashes through the marsh. Hey Mr. Oil Company, you broke it, you bought it…so why, asks Oliver Houck, shouldn’t the oil industry kick in their fair share to fix this mess and restore the wetlands?
Never fear, an organization called “America’s Wetlands” is on this case, pitching the idea to Congress that these wetlands must be restored, no matter the price tag, no matter the time required, and it must start as soon as humanly possible. Course, “America’s Wetlands” is made up mostly of oil companies, and according to their plan, the people who’ll pay for this restoration will be the tax-payers…not the companies who profited from this degradation, reaping incredible quarterly profits year after year.
Ever been pimped, America?
Shell oil’s trying to turn you out, and after she’s used you up, all of you Americans out there – especially in Louisiana…well, she’ll be heading off for greener pastures just north of Alaska, seeking the brightest and the best to work the cold, cold streets of ANWAR. Yeah baby – drill, baby drill!