State of the Union/State of the Gulf

January 27th, 2011 | Uncategorized |

(originally posted on the RACblog)

(photo courtesy UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg)

Clean energy was a primary focus of Tuesday’s State of the Union, but the President failed to mention the oil spill disaster (Aaron Viles at Gulf Restoration Network does a great job explaining why this is omission was a mistake). Still, it’s been a big week in Washington for Gulf Coast advocates, as the co-chairs of the Oil Spill Commission came to Congress calling for key reforms to the offshore oil industry and protections for the future of the Gulf Coast.

Former Senator Bob Graham and former EPA Commissioner Bill Reilly forcefully defended the Commission’s report, released earlier this month, to key House and Senate committees. Their report slams both industry and government for the failures that enabled the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but also asserts that, with reforms, fossil fuel production can continue safely.

Graham and Reilly summarized their testimony in an op-ed, “Due diligence for offshore drilling,” recommending creation of an independent agency to oversee offshore drilling safety, separating safety and oversight from the royalties collection process that has deeply corrupted this agency in the past; increasing the liability cap on oil companies so taxpayers are never on the hook for a driller’s mistakes; dedicated funding for Gulf Coast restoration; and more attention and funding for oil spill response planning. (more…)

New Video…and Old Oil

January 21st, 2011 | Uncategorized |

(Photo Credit: Markus Huettel)

The latest installment of Gulf Tides, a video documentary series on the BP oil spill disaster from our friends at Gulf Restoration Network, is up today. The news isn’t good, as complaints about transparency and equality in distribution (or lack thereof) continue to plague the BP claims process. Check out the video to see what these flaws in the claims process might mean for Gulf Coast communities and ecosystems, both immediately and months and years down the road.

Just as the economic impacts of the spill continue to plague the Gulf Coast, so does the oil itself. An update from the National Wildlife Fund finds that oil remains – just feet beneath the surface – across the Coast. As the Wildlife Promise blog explains, despite the cleaned up surface, one need only “dig two feet below the pristine surface and a tarry, brown surprise awaits you – you’ve struck oil.”

Their studies find that both crude and dispersed oil have been washed ashore and trapped just below the sand, complicating the clean-up process and threatening clean water supplies. Nine months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, one thing is clear: much work remains to clean up the oil spill mess and continue the long work of restoring the Gulf.

Gulf Coast Fund Grantees and Advisors Site Urgent Need for Health Care

January 19th, 2011 | Uncategorized |

(originally posted on BPSlick)

Communities Report Growing Health Crisis Among Residents

January 13, 2011 (New Orleans) -  On Wednesday, January 12, community leaders from across the Gulf Coast attended a public hearing on the National Oil Spill Commission’s final report. The meeting was led by report Commissioners Frances Beinecke and Donald Boesch.

(photo from Bridge the Gulf)

“The key concern expressed by the community in response to the report is the overwhelming need for access to health care. Over and over, people exposed to crude and dispersants from the drilling disaster told stories of serious health issues–from high levels of ethylbenzene in their blood, to respiratory ailments and internal bleeding—and expressed an urgent need for access to doctors who have experience treating chemical exposure,” states LaTosha Brown, Director, Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health. The Gulf Coast Fund provides grants and support to over 250 community organizations in order to create a healthy and sustainable Gulf Coast. (more…)

Oil Spill Report Demands Action

January 11th, 2011 | Uncategorized |

(Originally posted on the RAC blog)

Today, nearly nine months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the Presidentially-appointed National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released a comprehensive analysis on the causes and lessons learned from the BP oil disaster. The Commission report – over 300 pages based on months of investigation into an event that killed 11 men and set off the worst environmental justice disaster of our time – tells a powerful tale of an under-regulated industry run amok, the catastrophic consequences of a failed safety and regulatory system, and the overwhelming need to learn and act on the lessons of this disaster.

The report encompasses recommendations and insights from a wide variety of voices, and the message is undeniable: the oil industry is simply not equipped to self-regulate to prevent disaster or adequately respond when mistakes happen, and it’s time for Congress and the Administration to act to protect workers, the environment and the livelihood of the Gulf Coast. (more…)

Housing Action Tomorrow!

January 7th, 2011 | Uncategorized |

by Denise Graves, MICAH Project Organizer

On Saturday, January 8, the MICAH Project – the New Orleans chapter of the national interfaith community organizing effort PICO – joins with the New St. Mark Baptist Church in New Orleans for a Community Action on affordable housing, blight elimination and securing Community Benefits Agreements from area development projects.

The action focuses attention on families in central city and throughout New Orleans who are rendered house-poor because the majority of their money goes toward rent and mortgage costs. The grassroots leadership at New St. Mark have met with rental advocacy groups, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), planners, housing counselors, and the city, and a meeting with the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) is pending.  We have conducted congregational surveys and face to face conversations that we call one-to-ones.  Our learnings have produced three desired outcomes:

  1. bring resolution to 15 blighted properties around the church
  2. provide grassroots education, counseling and economic relief to families
  3. encourage and hold developers accountable for including the project community in employment, vendor usage and surrounding community beautification. (more…)

New Year, Same Commitment

January 6th, 2011 | Uncategorized |

It’s a new year with new challenges and a new Congress, but the faith community’s commitment to the restoration and renewal of the economic and environmental systems of the Gulf Coast is not over. That’s why Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ), with support from the Union for Reform Judaism, recently announced the disbursement of $40,000 in grants to grassroots Gulf Coast organizations assisting those who are out of work, retraining people for new jobs and working on coastal restoration.

Through years of work across the Gulf Coast, JFSJ has developed a multi-pronged approach to restoration that includes grant-making to organizations that advocate and build power for marginalized communities, investing in community development corporations to strengthen local businesses and build affordable housing, leadership development for those working on the ground, and service learning programs that connect young people to the region. (more…)