The iWitness Pollution Map allows concerned citizens or other eyewitnesses to report accidents at oil refineries and chemical plants. The map also displays National Response Center (NRC) reports of chemical accidents in the state of Louisiana and the surrounding Gulf of Mexico waters.
New Orleans is constantly offering lagniappes to her guests and residents, not the least of which are regular surprises (which cease to be so surprising) about what a small town this really is. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is putting on the 5th annual New Orleans Earth Day Festival and Green Business Expo this month; this year the festival hopes to open eyes about some of the hidden petrochemicals in daily life under the theme “Rethinking Petrochemicals.”
When I walked in the office last Thursday afternoon, little did I know I would be deploying to LaFitte, LA as part of the Rapid Response Team (RRT), a group of volunteers trained in talking with residents of an affected area that are ready should the unfortunate experience of an accident occur. The team left the office equipped with health surveys and flyers for our iWitness Pollution Map, ready to speak with communities who may be affected. Our first stop was a briefing with the Coast Guard.
My first two weeks with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) have been filled with lessons from history and current events. Following current events that are not necessarily reported by the media has provided me with a new understanding of the effects from industrial pollution. Some injustices that added to the inequities are buried deep in Louisiana’s history, although these events are eventually brought to the public as well.
On Tuesday night, March 12, something unusual happened. LDEQ held a public hearing for a permit about to be issued to Exxon to expand their chemical plant another eight acres. LDEQ was forced to hold that hearing because of the public outcry against the 8.3 acre expansion to become one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the world. The problem, of course, is the largest petrochemical complex in the world is in the middle of the metropolitan downtown of Baton Rouge; over 59,000 people live within two miles of that complex.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality says that pollution from industrial accidents is decreasing. They even have a number for it – 41% since 2008. Yet last week the agency created theInformation Exchange Workgroup to address the problem of accidents at Louisiana’s petrochemical plants. Is our LDEQ an overachieving, ambitious agency determined to eliminate accidents? Or is it the agency that the EPA Inspector General described as having “a culture in which the state agency is expected to protect industry?” (p. 21)
On the morning of Monday, February 25, NGO members, sportsmen, fishermen, students, and community leaders gathered outside the Hale Boggs U.S. Courthouse in New Orleans to remind everyone of the need to hold BP accountable for the nation’s largest environmental disaster. Inside the courthouse, the first phase of the BP trial began.
The 18th annual Tulane summit on environmental law & policy granted attendees the opportunity to participate in a diverse array of sessions debating issues from mountaintop removal in Appalachia, natural gas fracking, the newly purposed coal terminal in Plaquemines Parish, uranium coal mining along the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, green economics and its role in addressing global demand on natural resources, the Bayou Corne sinkhole, and many more. I walk away from the experience with a better in-depth understanding of the issues we currently face and the necessity of multiple approaches to addressing them. Ironically but not surprisingly, the law summit illustrated that, at times, our judicial system fails and we must take to the streets and turn to additional approaches. Take note that I say additional and not alternative because each goes hand in hand and reinforces the other. It may be law that keeps Walmart out of our Marshes but it is the masses speaking out in unison that engenders a revolution of change.
The iWitness Pollution Map is produced by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB). This map was created in 2010 so that fenceline communities, workers and concerned citizens can speak out about how petrochemical pollution is threatening your livelihood, your health and the ecosystems you rely on.
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