Sunday, December 12, 2010
By Justin Guay
Sierra Club Cancun Team
With a 36 member delegation, and thanks to volunteer participation and leadership, the Sierra Club has enjoyed a strong showing in Cancun that has helped to elevate our presence with colleagues, negotiators, and institutions on the global level. The Sierra Club delegation has met every other day to coordinate our efforts and inform staff and volunteers by bringing in speakers on critical issues. Notable speakers have included John Lynchberry from Birdlife International, Elizabeth May from the Green Party of Canada, as well as staff from WWF Mexico, and the Many Strong Voices Project. The Sierra Club International team would like to extend a special thanks to Fred Heutte, Glen Besa, Tyla Matteson, Allison Chin, Joseph Manning, Jim Dougherty and many others for their help in coordinating these meetings and overall Sierra Club efforts.
Heads in the Sand
The Sierra Club delegation has been busy building the momentum, and pressure needed to ensure that our politicians and leaders live up to international responsibilities and infuse positive momentum into the climate change negotiations here in Cancun. This past Friday led by Jim Dougherty, the Sierra Club and the Sierra Student Coalition teamed up with Bill McKibben of 350.org, and the Center on Biological Diversity to call on world leaders to get their heads out of the sand. An event aimed at calling attention to the danger climate change poses and the need for concerted global action. The event enjoyed worldwide coverage.
· Reuters, LA Times, BBC, NPR, Washington Post, The Australian, The Hindu, Edmonton Journal, Euro news, Straights Times, SF Gate, Signon San Deigo News, Herald Online, and many more…
SSC Work & China-US Youth Climate Exchange
When our delegation wasn’t calling the world’s attention to the talks, the Sierra Student Coalition was busy pulling together rapid response calls back to US politicians, writing post cards to delegates, and organizing media events on the US/Chinese energy race. Perhaps the most impressive was the international bridges the SSC built through the China-US Youth Climate Exchange. The spirit of cooperation and understanding the event engendered between students from China and the U.S. was summed up well by Chen Yingao, a graduate student from Peking University, "Before Cancun, I didn't have a lot of experience communicating with American youth. The past five days have provided me a totally new view of the United States."
· A Reuters video segment on China-US Youth Climate Exchange
As the talks moved into the second week Sierra Club staff ramped up efforts to break the death grip fossil fuel interests have on international climate politics by exposing coal for the dirty 19th century fuel that it is. We have focused most heavily on a strong push for the World Bank to clean up its energy lending including holding a side event, placing numerous articles, and making sure the Bank staff in Cancun knew we were watching them with the help of “Bank trackers”. We have supplemented these efforts with a strong administrative advocacy push to ensure the United States plays a constructive role in moving the ball forward on key issues such as Adaptation, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), Technology Transfer, Transparency, and Climate Finance.
Sierra Club United Nations Side Event: World Bank Climate and Energy Finance
The Sierra Club side event shone a much needed light on the World Bank’s coal lending at the global stage. The all star panel mediated by Stephen Kretzman of Oil Change International was made up of Sierra Club international allies from a broad swath of important emerging economies. Siziwe Khanyile from the South African NGO groundwork - who played an instrumental role in fighting the recent Medupi coal loan - spoke of the terrible impact Medupi has had on the health and livelihoods of affected communities. Srinivas Krishnaswamy from Vasudha Foundation India spoke about the importance of ensuring energy access for the poor – something large scale coal plants fail to deliver time and again. And Yoke Ling Chee from Third World Network spoke about the Bank’s destructive legacy, the need for it to clean up its act, and how future climate finance should be structured to ensure a positive outcome for developing countries. The event represented a strong step forward for our international work as it solidifies ties with South African and Indian colleagues which we have been building over the past year. We plan to continue working with and supporting our allies in their fight to protect communities facing destructive fossil fuel projects.
When staff wasn’t organizing public events for policy makers we were teaming up with the Bank Information Center, Oil Change International and various other NGOs to “track the bank”. This initiative was meant to keep up much needed pressure and make sure the Bank knew civil society was watching them. The highlight of these efforts came with Sierra Club Staff member Nicole Ghio posing as an employee handing out documents for a side event on World Bank lending and Climate Finance. She personally handed the World Bank Director of Environment Warren Evans a copy of our factsheet highlighting the Bank’s destructive coal lending and detailing our demands for revised energy lending (read all about it in her bank tracking blog below).
U.S. Administration Advocacy
Finally, our international climate program director and policy staff are pushing hard for progress on a climate fund that can help build a 21st century economy. This has included direct and frequent discussions with top U.S. negotiators and State Department officials to push them to agree to progress in critical areas – not block efforts in search of a “balanced outcome. In addition, we have contributed to coordinated efforts with other US NGOs through USCAN as well as international colleagues through CAN international to publicly pressure them with ECO articles and Fossil nominations.
ECO NGO Newsletter and Bunkers
Last but certainly not least we enjoyed a strong presence in the Climate Action Network International. CAN-I is a very influential grouping of NGOs which publishes a daily NGO newsletter – ECO - widely read by delegates and coordinates working groups on key issues as well as advocacy and media efforts at these negotiations. Fred Heutte led the Sierra Club charge as ECO editor helping us to get timely articles printed on key topics, working with a variety of working groups including the notorious LULUCF, as well as serving as an ambassador for the Club. At the same time Art Williams lead the very important work of the Bunkers Working Group (Aviation and Maritime Fuel). Art was instrumental in setting up meetings with delegates, coordinating advocacy, and pushing hard for a positive outcome on the Bunkers issue in Cancun.
Coverage · Sierra Club Cancun World Bank Side Event
· Coal articles: Coal’s low carbon pitch, World Bank and Coal
· ECO articles: coal in the CDM, The World Bank’s addiction to coal, the problematic role the US is playing in negotiations *to be posted (thanks to the tireless efforts of ECO editor and Sierra Club lead volunteer Fred Heutte)
· Blog’s: Evolution in Cancun, Bank Tracking Blog, Tree Hugger summary of Sierra Club activities in Cancun by Sarah Hodgdon, and many many more on the Sierra Club Delegation Blog
· World Bank Climate Finance Coal Action Alert
Status of the Negotiations
All of this brings us to an update on the talks themselves. Despite leading efforts to call out the US on their high risk strategy of a “balanced outcome” the administration continues to refuse to allow progress in areas ripe for agreement including reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), Technology Transfer, and the creation of a Global Climate Fund. Top U.S. negotiator Todd Stern has continually reiterated the fact that a deal is to be had here in Cancun, yet despite positive overtures from the Chinese and the Indians on the all important transparency issue, the US continues to hold up progress. With only one day left it is impossible to say what the outcome of the negotiations will be but we will continue to push for steps forward - particularly on REDD and a global climate fund - that will shore up the fragile state of the talks and help the world to move forward in the fight against climate change.
The other key dynamic at play in Cancun is the fate of the Kyoto Protocol (KP). At the beginning of the talks the Japanese made official statements that they would not be seeking a second commitment period which has opened the door for other bad actors (including Canada and Russia) to join in the killing of this legally binding international protocol. As of now the fate of the KP is highly uncertain with many developing countries lobbying hard for its extension and many developed countries seeking an early exit.
Ultimately, Cancun could very well determine the fate of international negotiations. Without clear progress the talks may drift for years to come with key parties seeking other venues for cooperation. It is important that we understand that even without a new binding treaty or continuation of the KP the United Nations plays a critically important role as a global platform that brings the world together in the fight against climate change. The tough decisions we must face going forward are the nature of its role and how we can leverage the UNFCCC to ensure that we are fighting climate change and fossil fuel interests as aggressively as the science demands.
International Climate Program, Sierra Club
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Saturday, December 04, 2010
We have been participating in exciting things such as “Hello, Nihao & the Future,” a workshop where Chinese Youth Delegation, Sierra Student Coalition, SustainUS, and Cascade Climate Network shared their cultures and climate concerns to demonstrate cooperation and creativity to our world leaders, who should be doing the same to solve climate change. It was so exciting to see how cultural differences are what make us unique and not enemies. Everyone had a great time sharing their experiences and talking about the U.S. and China can do to agree on a binding climate treaty. This was the first of three workshops, and there will also be a shared action to get our leaders attention.
We also took part of a closed-door briefing with Jonathan Pershing, and between the Sierra Club and SSC we asked more than half of the questions. It was really interesting to hear the U.S. perspective on the whole negotiations, especially regarding relations between the U.S. and China.
Another big thing was our involvement at the Young and Future Generations Day. Thursday was the fourth day of the convention and the Young & Future Generations Day. International youth from 198 countries celebrated this date with different actions and workshops held at Cancun, Mexico and other places across the globe.
The day for the Student Sierra Coalition started at 8:30 a.m. with a Youth NGO (YOUNGO) meeting, where delegates got a taste of how complex it is to negotiate at an international level. From choosing a main language to convey the meetings to discuss intergenerational equity and strong climate solutions at the United Nations talks, young adults experienced some of the heat that negotiators must feel when dealing with serious decisions about the future of coming generations.
Half of the “YOUNGOS” stepped out of the meeting to participate in the first of several actions taken to celebrate this day. To make a statement of how young and future generations have been excluded from giving substantial input to the talks, we wore t-shirts that said “You have been negotiating all my life. You cannot tell me you need more time” and received the negotiators entering the Cancunmesse.
After that, our delegation got together to have our daily meeting to check-in with one another and prioritize our activities for the day. Since there is so much going on, we need to be clear on our goals to be as effective as possible.
At 12 p.m., simultaneously at the Moon Palace and the Cancunmesse (both locations where the convention is being held) a climate action dance for solutions led by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts was organized. This is a tradition that started at a convention in Canada in 2005, and ever since, YOUNGOs dance “It’s hot in here” at every COP. Members of our delegation danced in front of dozens of cameras at both locations.
Following the dance, we all split to attend different plenary sessions and side events. I attended the Intergenerational Inquiry event, where the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, IPCC scientists, representatives of UN agencies and other key negotiators discussed their actions to address climate change. It is very interesting to observe how international policy is shaped and the challenges that nations have to overcome to have mutual understandings.
After that, we all met again to enjoy of exquisite Mexican food, and then prepare key questions for a Q&A sessions with Jonathan Pershing, lead U.S. negotiator at COP16. Chinese youth joined us at the meeting and we openly discussed China and U.S. relations and their roles in the climate change issue.
While this was happening, a Youth Market, held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Young and Future Generations Zone in Hall C at Cancunmesse, young people “traded” cultural goods and natural heritage products to highlight the diversity that’s being threatened by inaction on climate change. This was a fascinating experience that taught everyone a little bit more about all of our cultures and how with respect, we can all get to a mutual understanding.
We then gathered at the “Blogging Loft” to work on our projects and blogs, and then, we left to a YOUNGO reception at the Klimaforum, another climate event sponsored by the Mexican government during the talks. The reception was really fun, we were in the middle of the jungle listening to music and talking to each other about our days at the convention. Before we head back to the hotel, we got lost in the jungle on our way back, but we finally made it safely.
Friday, we help organize “Heads in the Sand” action. Sierra Club, Bill McKibben and the 350.org staff and SSC got to the beach early this morning to have a creative action that would get the media and the negotiators attention. We had different flags in our backs from certain countries that aren’t committed to sign a binding climate treaty, and then put our heads in the sand to send the message that leaders are not taking bold action to move forward with a climate treaty. We took pictures and recorded a video with Bill McKibben asking out leaders to take their heads out of the sand and save our future. We even had a “dead polar bear” in the picture. The event was a success; we got tons of media coverage and had a lot of fun. Here is a link to an article that BBC published about our action.
This is how our days have passed so far, we run from one place to another learning and experiencing invaluable things about our world and ourselves. I’m excited for what is coming in the next few days that we have left at the convention, and I hope I can keep sharing all of our adventures with Sierra Club back home.
Sierra Club "Heads in the Sand" video
A climate action dance for solutions led by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, where members of our delegation participated.http://www.wagggsworld.org/en/Cop16
Friday, December 03, 2010
Mary was chosen by the plaintiff attorneys to test more than five thousand FEMA trailers for the lawsuits by former FEMA trailer occupants against FEMA and the trailer manufacturers. Mary’s testing found very high levels of formaldehyde in the trailers in Hope, AR, Hattiesburg, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and other locations throughout the Gulf.
Englehardt has been extremely pro FEMA, pro trailer manufacturers, and pro formaldehyde (which should be no surprise as he is “very, very good friends” with the formaldehyde Senator, David Vitter). Englehardt summarily dismissed all the FEMA mobile home occupants from the lawsuits saying the mobile homes’ formaldehyde was regulated by HUD. This was after hundreds of tests had proven the high formaldehyde levels (and probably lack of compliance with the HUD rules) in the FEMA mobile homes. The judge also dismissed FEMA as a defendant, despite the proof that FEMA knew about the high formaldehyde levels early on, and conspired to cover it up.
Then the judge went after Mary, and gave her a censure for making a statement in a totally unrelated workman’s comp case in Washington State in which she made an error in describing the multi district FEMA cases. It was really bizarre that the defendant attorneys dug so deep into Mary’s background and this was the only thing they could find—something that really had no bearing whatsoever on the case.
When the judge gave the censure he knocked Mary out as a witness in the cases, saying if the plaintiff attorneys put her on, he would state that jurors should not trust her testimony. This action impacted not just these thousands of cases, but Mary’s career.
Mary fought back, filed an appeal, and the Fifth Circuit recently vacated the censure. Functionally (and legally), it is as though the order never happened. It is really, really wrong that Mary had to spend a large amount of money to fight off a federal judge appointed to the bench on the recommendation of the formaldehyde senator.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
community, local, regional, national and international environmental,
social justice, and fishermen’s groups met at the Beckwith Camp and
Conference Center on Weeks Bay, Alabama. Together, we drafted the
following set of goals and principles that we believe must guide the
recovery and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico, our coast and our
communities in the wake of the BP drilling disaster.
Our Collective Goal
Six months after the BP oil disaster began, the diverse communities that
live, work, and derive benefit from the Gulf call on government to take
• Make coastal communities whole again;
• Commit to cleaning up and restoring the Gulf;
• Hold BP accountable;
• Ensure local participation in decision-making;
• Conduct short and long-term monitoring; and
• Invest in economic opportunities to support locally-driven, sustainable
recovery that restores and enhances America’s Gulf coast.
The oil is still here and so are we.
In all of our work together we will be guided by the following axioms:
• Build confidence and trust
• Be inclusive
• Act and communicate with full transparency
• Ground decisions in science
1. Growing and diverse constituencies of Gulf residents and organizations
recognize that the future of their livelihoods depends on Gulf
restoration. Seventy-three percent of voters in Gulf coast states
support comprehensive coastal restoration*.
2. The people of the Gulf coast whose way of life and livelihood has been
most affected by the BP disaster must have a seat at the decisionmaking
3. Recovery and restoration efforts must create tens of thousands of
new jobs and provide economic opportunities to local communities,
particularly disadvantaged and distressed communities.
4. Recovery must put our communities to work restoring the Gulf and
building a healthy economy – leading America into a renewable
1. Tens of thousands of response workers, community members and
tourists have been exposed to oil and dispersants. There is a lack of
health care providers who are trained to identify and treat chemical
illnesses. We need the Center for Disease Control and National Institute
of Health to provide our local health care departments with the
training and resources to provide the needed health care.
2. There are still millions of gallons of oil and dispersants in the environment
– while officials tell us that the water and air are fine, people
continue to be concerned and report health symptoms. We need federal
funding for independent, ongoing and long-term monitoring of
our water, soil and air across all affected areas so we can be assured
if and when the environment is clean.
3. The Gulf Coast provides 86% of the U.S. shrimp harvest, and 56% of
the U.S. oyster harvest* – and we need better evidence that it’s safe.
Current monitoring is inadequate and does not test for toxic heavy
metals or dispersants. It does not protect our children or our most
vulnerable populations. We need the Food and Drug Administration to
set monitoring standards that can guarantee the safety of the food we
harvest and eat.
1. The BP disaster is only the latest, most visible evidence of
environmental destruction that has been ongoing in the Gulf for
2. The government must act now to restore our coastal wetlands. A
healthy Gulf is a prosperous Gulf crucial to storm protection, fishing,
recreation, seafood and tourism – the cornerstones of the Gulf culture
3. Eighty percent of the coastal wetlands lost in our country are lost in
the Gulf coast*. For example, Louisiana loses a football field of wetlands
every 45 minutes**, and 40% to 60% of that is attributed to oil
and gas activity***. BP and the oil and gas industry must pay their
fair share for coastal restoration.
Marine Recovery and Resiliency
1. The first step to recovery of the Gulf marine ecosystem is to identify
all sources of past, present and future environmental degradation, including
fully understanding the long-term impacts of the BP oil disaster.
Specific restoration initiatives, both short and long-term, must be
implemented to address all sources of marine injury.
2. Robust monitoring programs that fully disclose process and results, as
well as access to impacted areas, are critical for ensuring effective
3. In order to restore the entire Gulf ecosystem, it is essential that the
off-shore environment receive its fair share of attention and funding
for recovery. Specific funding sources for this work must be provided
4. Everything possible must be done to prevent offshore drilling disasters.
Reforms in policy, regulations, oversight, and enforcement are
urgently needed to prevent more drilling disasters and to guarantee
rapid, non-toxic and non-destructive response and cleanup when accidents
do occur. Policies must be implemented that transition the
Gulf region to a clean, renewable energy economy.
* Turner, R.E. 1997. Wetland loss in the Northern Gulf of Mexico: Multiple working hypotheses. Estuaries. 20:1-13
** Dahl, T.E. 2006. Status and trends of wetlands in the conterminous United States 1998 to 2004. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p 54, Table 4.
*** Ko, Jae-Young, Impacts of Oil and Gas Activities on Coastal Wetlands Loss in the Mississippi Delta, Harter Research Institute. Also Penland, Shea, et al., Process Classification of Coastal Land Loss Between 1932 and 1990 in the Mississippi River Delta Plain, Southeastern Louisiana. (1990). U.S. Geological Survey, Open File Report 00-418.
The Weeks Bay Principles for Gulf Recovery present a unified vision that will
guide our work towards restored and healthy natural resources in the Gulf
of Mexico region that support Gulf communities and wildlife, the region’s
unique cultures, and the nation.
Alabama Chapter, Sierra Club
Asian Americans for Change—
Gulf Coast Angels
Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO)
Delta Chapter (Louisiana), Sierra Club
Equity and Inclusion Campaign
Grand Bayou Community United
Guardians of the Gulf
Gulf Islands Conservancy
Gulf Restoration Network
Joe Yerkes, Florida Fisherman
Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
Louisiana Association of Family Fishermen
Louisiana Environmental Action Network
Louisiana Shrimpers Association
Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper
Mississippi Center for Justice
Mississippi Chapter, Sierra Club
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club Environmental Justice
and Community Partnership Program
South Bay Communities Alliance
South Walton Community Council
Turkey Creek Community Initiative
Waterkeeper Alliance / Save Our Gulf
The Weeks Bay Principles for Gulf Recovery
Document prepared by:
Gulf Restoration Network
338 Baronne St, Suite 200
New Orleans, LA 70112
For more information, contact Gulf Restoration Network
at 504-525-1528 or email@example.com.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
On Wednesday, July 21 a group consisting of representatives from Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Sierra Club Delta Chapter, National Public Radio and the American Birding Association set out from eastern Grand Isle north into
On Saturday, July 24 another group consisting of eight volunteers set out in four canoes down Freshwater Bayou which is west of
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
It is high time to evaluate the risks and our legal, regulatory and technical mechanisms for controlling that risk. The negative impact on local jobs is an unfortunate but unavoidable outcome to the necessary reassessment of the escalating risks of offshore oil development in deep water. Assumption by the oil industry of full financial responsibility in all cases would help to limit risk taking behavior and would encourage industry investment in safety technology. That is not the current situation. Currently the oil industry enjoys limits to its financial risk through a congressionally authorized $75 million cap on liability. So the taxpayers can be left holding the bag for substantial cleanup costs from large incidents. The taxpayers certainly have a right to regulatory control if they are expected to pay numerous and substantial tax subsidies for oil exploration and development as well as assume risk for cleanup costs. Indeed the failure of BP to invest in adequate technical capability to immediately stop the flow of oil from a deepwater incident clearly shows the need for more thorough government oversight and for greatly increased industry investment in safety.
This does not mean that we shouldn’t seek a timely conclusion or adjustment to the drilling moratorium.
Haywood (Woody) Martin, Chair, Sierra Club Delta Chapter
Sunday, June 20, 2010
The Sierra Club Delta Chapter Water Sentinals and Acadian Group conducted another of our series of coastal monitoring trips on June 12, 2010. We had a contingent of 13 volunteers combined from our groups and troop 503 of the Boy Scouts under Harold Schoeffler. We put Harold’s 21 ft. boat in at Intercoastal City and motored south through southwest pass and then east to coastal beaches on Marsh Island. A group of four volunteers disembarked to patrol the beaches there while the remaining volunteers went on to disembark and patrol beaches near Chenier au Tigre.
Our sightings and loggings included normal background numbers of dead fish, no dead turtles or dead birds. It appears that significant damage from oil has not occurred in areas around Atchafalaya Bay but we have observed that light oiling has occurred on Marsh Island and west of Freshwater Bayou. Light oiling consisted of fresh oil on reeds in isolated locations and some small fresh tar balls. We have not confirmed that these originated with the BP site though we have taken samples which may give us that information.
Our trip concluded with an informative presentation by Erin Wilsoni of the Beehive Collective about several of their murals depicting earth environmental and health effects of fossil fuel consumption. We plan to continue our southwestern coastal monitoring and we continue to look for volunteers and friends of Sierra Club who would be interested in participating. If you are interested in volunteering please send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org and to Devin Martin at email@example.com. For more information about the Beehive Collective you can go to http://www.beehivecollective.org/
Thursday, June 10, 2010
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) are leading the field rescue effort. The land transport is handled by LDWF, SPCA, and Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART), and facilitated by volunteers from Audubon. The bird stabilization, washing, and rehabilitation are managed by Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research (http://www.tristatebird.org) and International Bird Rescue Research Center (http://www.ibrrc.org).
I have known many of the USFWS and LDWF field team members for years. They are dedicated professionals working up to two-week shifts, and are on planning calls on their couple of days off before they head out to the field again. Some are leaving family members who are ill or have other needs. The Tri-State and IBRRC staff left their homes and families for what they hoped would be one month. They have just doubled their staff to handle the increasing numbers of rescued birds, and the first people on the ground have no idea when they may return to normal lives or their homes. Your hearts may be breaking when you see the pictures, but please remember that the front-line responders have to handle oiled, stressed, and sometimes dying birds every day. They are always professional, always caring, and their hearts are breaking too. Their dedication and work deserve our respect and our gratitude.
I know there have been a lot of reports from people who see oiled birds and are distressed that those birds have not yet been rescued. (You can help by calling the oiled wildlife hotline EVERY time you see oiled wildlife: 1-866-557-1401.) There are many reasons you may see or hear of oiled birds in habitat. First, many of the lightly oiled birds cannot be captured safely, and some are even gone from their reported locations before rescue personnel arrive. Rescue personnel and agencies are also in the unenviable position of having to leave some oiled birds in colonies in order to not harm the colony success to rescue some individuals. Going into an active colony to capture oiled birds leaves eggs and young exposed to intense heat, increased risk of predation, and may even push healthy adults out into oiled habitats. The 120-plus miles of habitat estimated to be impacted by oil is a measurement across the coastline – as if that were a linear feature. Given the many delta lobes and the fringed marshes and islands full of cuts, canals, and channels, there are many more miles of coastline to actually search for birds. This is a massive operation, and there is not adequate way to saturate the habitat to look for birds without causing more harm through the impact of boat traffic and human disturbance. Finally, if you are out looking for oiled birds during an oil spill, you should expect that you will see them. It is upsetting, but you are providing a helpful service to searchers and the birds themselves if you promptly and accurately report their location. Stay nearby until rescue teams arrive, if you can. When a report comes in, a team follows up on it very quickly, and each report is checked out. If you are doing surveys or see oiled wildlife, please report it immediately, carefully describing your location. That is one valuable way that citizens can help the birds.
Many people want to help rescue the birds, but bird rescue is dangerous for birds and for the rescuers. Many of these birds are large and have large bills, some with hooks or serrations on them. As much as people want to help, the birds perceive humans as a threat. They may strike out to defend themselves, injuring people. Also, many birds are already under severe physical stress, and inexpert capture attempts or handling may directly cause their death. The cleaning is also very stressful for birds – more for some than for others. Any group or individual that attempts to clean birds without the research and knowledge of how to do so appropriately risks killing any birds that are handled. The vets and wildlife rehabilitators working at the Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers across the coast are the best people to clean and rehabilitate the birds.
Paraprofessionals, such as vet techs and people with at least 3 months of wildlife rehabilitation experience, are encouraged to sign up through the LSART website (www.lsart.org) to help at the Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. More than 30 people per day are now needed to clean cages and to prepare food for birds.
The response is continuously shifting to adapt to the actual conditions. When birds were being brought to Grand Isle and having to undergo a long ground transport to the rehabilitation center, a stabilization trailer was set up to hydrate, feed and stabilize the birds to improve their odds of surviving the trip. Shorter boat transport was also arranged. As birds are brought in more frequently to new areas, new ground transportation is arranged, and Audubon volunteers are brought in to facilitate communication and transport needs. As more oil hits shores, more staff are added to the rescue and rehabilitation effort. New techniques have been developed to capture birds with less stress to them. Audubon and many local partners are ready to help as requests come from USFWS and the Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers.
Audubon (www.audubon.org) and the Gulf Response Involvement Team (GRIT) (www.lagulfresponse.org) have well over 20,000 volunteers registered to help with these efforts. As needs increase, more of these volunteers are being deployed. Audubon is also working with high-level USFWS personnel to help integrate the oiled bird monitoring data into the official Natural Resources Damage Assessment – the official process by which overall damage from the spill will be calculated. We are also working with partners to develop and staff other monitoring efforts, and will work with agencies to help ensure that bird monitoring will be done across the Gulf Coast for years to come to monitor the impact and recovery of bird populations.
There is a report on oiled wildlife numbers every day on the Deepwater Horizon Incident website: http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/doctype/2931/55963 . There are several useful things to note in the actual files. First, the numbers will always lag behind the captures by a day or sometimes a little more. Birds are brought in, then must be stabilized and evaluated before they can be assigned to a category. The counts are compiled at the end of a day or the beginning of the next day. Also, it is valuable to note that, of the birds collected dead, many show no signs of oiling at all. This reflects several realities. Many birds die annually and would never be found without such extensive effort to rescue oiled birds – more people looking means more dead birds are found. There may be indirect ways, though, that the oil spill contributes to those numbers. Increased activity in the habitat for protection, rescue, and cleaning efforts could displace, stress, or kill some birds. Also, the release lags behind the cleaning – there is not currently a number in the report that indicates how many of the oiled live birds have been cleaned or how many have survived cleaning. The lags in information make it more difficult to evaluate the success of the efforts overall.
Director of Bird Conservation
Louisiana Coastal Initiative
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Sierra Club Delta Chapter and Water Sentinals volunteers have started a program to make regular on site observations of the Louisiana gulf coast in response to the approach of oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Our first trip out was on May 16. We put Harold Schoeffler’s 21 ft boat in the water at Intercoastal City and went out through southwest pass just west of Marsh Island to walk the beach at Chenier au Tigre. We then returned to Marsh Island to walk the beach on the southwest side of the island. On May 30 an expanded expedition of volunteers returned to walk Marsh Island, Chenier au Tigre, and the gulf beach east of Freshwater Bayou. Observations reported from those visits include one localized occurrence of fresh oil on shoreline vegetation at Chenier au Tigre.
Our objective is to go to coastal areas accessible by automobile or by boat and conduct walking observations of beach and coastal areas that may be affected by the BP oil disaster. We will not be cleaning birds or animals, or deliberately contacting oil. Presence of oil and/or distressed animals will be photographed and reported for treatment by appropriate authorities. Background numbers of normally beached dead animals and birds will be recorded during surveys conducted before the oil reaches these shorelines. When it occurs we will report presence of oil sheen on water, black oil, weathered oil, or tar balls on water, shoreline or in the marsh using GPS or known location coordinates. Our outings will be conducted once every two weeks or more often as the situation develops. A two mile section of shoreline is walked at each location.
We have established a water and/or oil sampling protocol on the advice of the LSU Energy Coast and Environment Laboratory. Information on how to take samples is reviewed for each outing. Containers will be provided by the Delta Chapter. Samples of oil can be analyzed by GC/MS to establish identity with oil from the BP well. Sampling is restricted to circumstances which can yield the highest information value. All appropriate personal protective and safety measures will be employed.
The Delta Chapter hopes to expand the volunteer coastal monitoring network to other areas of the coast that are being affected or that may be affected by the oil disaster. Persons interested in going out with us can send an email with “Gulf coast walking survey” in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking for experienced boaters and many volunteers to help sustain and extend the program.
Woody Martin, Chair
Sierra Club Delta Chapter
June 1, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The fact of the huge oil disaster in the gulf hung over the hearing and made it difficult for industry complaints about lawsuits to carry much weight. It also helped that there was a prominent editorial the same morning in the Baton Rouge Advocate saying the SB 549 is a bad idea. That newspaper is on every desk in the state capital. After 2 hours of the hearing and some tough questions from the committee, Senator Ann Duplessis, Committee Chair moved to defer the bill and there was no objection. In effect it was a unanimous vote to stop the bill.
Sierra Club Delta Chapter has been actively following this bill and working through Darrell Hunt, our Delta Chapter legislative lobbyist, our Club members and allied groups, particularly LEAN, to stop this bill in its first hearing. LEAN worked very hard on the politics of opposing the bill and did a great job of getting people from communities who have been helped by TELC legal actions to attend the hearing. All of our efforts have proved successful. So overwhelming was the sentiment against this bill that I think it will be a long time before they try this again. But the industry groups have other possible tactics. They could try to slip an amendment into an unrelated bill or a funding bill any time during the session. So with help of our legislative lobbyist we will be watching carefully for that. Also we know that the Louisiana Chemical Association and Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (the principal proponents of the bill) are requesting that big donors stop supporting Tulane University. I hope that has the opposite effect of encouraging big donors to support Tulane and the Law Clinic specifically in order to help hold big Louisiana polluters and negligent administrative agencies accountable to the law.
So they are not done yet and neither are we. But we can congratulate ourselves and our allied groups for what I think is the most significant and complete legislative victory for the environment in years. Thanks for whatever letters, emails you sent or phone calls you made. You can now help again by sending email, phone call or letter to members of the Senate Commerce Committee thanking them for supporting the motion to defer Senate Bill 549. You can find them at the state legislature web site. http://senate.legis.state.la.us/Commerce/Assignments.asp
Thanks again for everyone’s attention and cooperation in stopping this really bad bill.
Woody Martin, Chair
Sierra Club Delta Chapter.
Saturday, May 01, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
by Woody Martin, Delta Chapter Chair
A major source of the wealth in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast now once again shows its dark side. Along with the oil industry canals, pipelines and access locations that have slashed Louisiana’s fragile coastal wetlands to ribbons we now have impending environmental and economic disaster in the form of a 100 x 40 mile oil slick in the Gulf riding winds out of the southeast toward the Louisiana coast. Arrival of our black oil guest is projected for late on Friday, April 30.
British Petroleum, the company responsible for the oil rig disaster and spill was slow to alert us to the seriousness of the threat, saying for too long that it was something they could handle. Flyovers by Gulf Restoration Network showed us a huge oil slick with very few boats out there trying to do anything. Finally yesterday BP asked for federal help and the coast guard started trying to burn off some of the oil. Experts tell us that even if such efforts are successful the most that can be removed is about 20 percent of the oil. So there is no stopping this oil slick monster now.
Your Sierra Club Delta Chapter has been involved in numerous conference calls and planning around what our response should be. The coordinated response of our group of environmental advocacy organizations will now focus on the following: 1) Wildlife rescue and habitat preservation, 2) calls for criminal investigation of BP and increased regulation of the industry, and 3) call for a moratorium on expansion of drilling off our coasts.
We are issuing an invitation for President Barack Obama to visit the coast and fly with us over the damage (not in Airforce 1 as Bush did in Katrina) so the president can see for himself. The invitation will also go to EPA Administrator and former New Orleans resident Lisa Jackson. Our message is that this disaster should be a top federal priority. Our message also is that the Easy Oil Is Gone. As our fossil fuel addicted economy goes farther and deeper for coal and oil the risks of environmental devastation and loss of human life will increase. This country needs a comprehensive energy policy and legislation that puts a price on carbon and moves us away from dirty coal and oil toward clean energy solutions. We already have the technology, but we have been lacking the political will to establish an energy economy that provides a level playing field on which renewable and clean energy can compete. It is unfortunate that once again it takes a disaster to focus attention on an issue which demands corrective action.
The Delta Chapter will be in ongoing communication with other environmental groups, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. We will be advising on how you can help to work on the cleanup and how you can help us to pass clean energy legislation. You can always contact me at email@example.com to let me know you are interested in helping or to obtain further information.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
What: Water Sampling Introductory Training
When: Friday, May 7, 2010
Where: LSU Agriculture Research and Extension Building - 114 Courthouse St. Breaux Bridge, La 70517
The purpose of program is to inform people about water quality in Bayou Teche by providing an opportunity to do hands-on sampling and monitoring. Cajuns for Bayou Teche and Sierra Club will provide water sampling test kits and training on May 7, 2010. There is no charge for this session. We invite persons who are interested in Bayou Teche water quality and who would like to continue in the role of volunteer water sampling technician. No commitment is necessary to attend the training. All interested persons are invited.
9:00 am Coffee and snacks will be available provided by Acadiana RC&D
9:30 am Video presentation – The Missouri Stream Team
10:00 am Tim Guilfoile, Water Sentinels trainer, explains the water quality parameters that we will be sampling and their significance to surface water quality. We will start with Dissolved Oxygen, pH, Conductivity, Turbidity, Temperature
12:00 am Lunch – Pot of gumbo at the Breaux Bridge pavilion on Bayou Teche provided by Acadiana RC&D
1:00 pm Discussion of water quality parameters and hands on practice with sampling equipment at the pavilion on Bayou Teche
3:00 pm Session ends
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Devin is the new Conservation Coordinator for the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club. He is a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and has a degree in sociology with special focus on environmental issues. While there he was involved in the campus group Society for Peace, Environment, Action, and Knowledge (SPEAK) and worked to improve recycling on campus. He is an alumnus of the UL AmeriCorps program, having worked on several community service projects including construction with Habitat for Humanity, recycling at local festivals, and planting marshgrass in Vermilion Bay. Devin also has experience in grassroots environmental organizing. He worked as a field manager and canvassed on coastal restoration for the Gulf Restoration Network in New Orleans in the summer of 2009. Devin's role with the Delta Chapter will focus on recruiting and developing new volunteers and members and activating current members for chapter and group projects. He will also take the lead on developing a Louisiana Water Sentinels program. Devin's interests are varied and include environmental and social activism, poetry and music, spirituality, and organic gardening and agriculture. He can be reached at Devin.Martin@sierraclub.org.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Sierra Club, Delta (Louisiana) Chapter
February 26, 2010
The Sierra Club is the oldest environmental organization in the country and justly deserves its reputation for being willing to advocate and fight on issues of global, national and regional importance. Here in Louisiana the Sierra Club Delta Chapter stands up for the health and natural environment of our state and the gulf region by combining our Club’s national resources for information and organization with the efforts of our local volunteers to make a real difference where we live.
Our list of actions this year is extensive. The Delta Chapter and its regional groups have been actively involved on many fronts doing fun things like outings, tree plantings and socials as well as more campaign oriented actions like tabling at events, advocacy in meetings and hearings, letters to the editor and press releases timed to respond to news stories and events. A major effort continues to focus on the climate change issue. Significant victories have been achieved nationally and locally in the campaign to stop construction of new coal fired power plants. In Louisiana plans for new construction or conversion of natural gas to coal fired power were stopped or put on hold at Big Cajun I and II and Little Gypsy.
In other campaign areas an Earthjustice lawsuit on behalf of LEAN and Sierra Club achieved victory in forcing USEPA to promulgate new more restrictive rules for emissions into the air from PVC manufacturing facilities. A settlement was reached in the Enervest case in which Audubon and the Delta Chapter forced a major oilfield pipeline operator to remove mercury flow meters and clean up mercury leakage to the ground and surface water in the northeast part of the state.
After years of effort by the Sierra Club Environmental Justice Program and the Delta Chapter in coalition with adjacent communities and other groups we achieved closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). The MRGO is credited with bringing the Katrina storm surge into the heart of New Orleans, and with causing the destruction of thousands of acres of natural wetlands. In another effort New Orleans group member Barry Kohl and others worked very effectively to achieve an addition of 1,000 acres of cypress swamp to Jean Lafitte Park near New Orleans, advocating for it to be included in congressional legislation despite strong political resistance.
On the legislative front the Delta Chapter is represented by an experienced lobbyist and local volunteers who advocate for good bills in the state legislature and help us to slow down or stop the bad ones. Examples of some of the good bills were the addition of Bayou Manchac to the State Scenic Rivers System and tax credits for residential solar installations. This year we will advocate for legislation to require energy efficiency in operation of state government buildings and motor vehicles and for a comprehensive look at statewide recycling. In April this past year the Delta Chapter coordinated an environmental voter day in Baton Rouge and distributed a revised Louisiana Environmental Briefing Book. We will hold the event again this year on April 21 and all members and interested persons are invited.
Delta Chapter just recently completed the hiring of a Conservation Coordinator, Devin Martin, who will be working on programs that invite membership and volunteer involvement. One such program will be the Water Sentinels citizen volunteer water sampling project on the Bayou Teche. We are planning a citizen water sampler training in Breaux Bridge on April 16 and we are hoping to expand the program to other parts of the state.
These are just a few examples of what we are doing. You can find out more by watching for our quarterly printed newsletters and by visiting the Chapter web site at http://www.louisiana.sierraclub.org/. We also request that you make sure that we have your email address so that you can receive occasional postings on what we are up to. If you are not sure, just send your name and email address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will check it for you. As always we invite your help and participation in any of our conservation or advocacy programs.
This letter is an appeal to you, our Delta Chapter members to make a contribution that goes directly to the work being done by the Delta Chapter in our state. The funding we receive from the national organization has greatly decreased over the past two years, and is projected to decrease again this year. Once a year, the chapters are authorized by national to make a direct appeal to our members. Your support is extremely important to the work of the Delta Chapter on your behalf. Without your financial support and vote of confidence we would not be able to function.
If you contributed to our March Appeal last year you have our most heartfelt appreciation. A contribution this year will help us to weather the storm of funding cutbacks, and to continue to represent you and your families in protecting the health of our communities and the natural landscape in Louisiana.
Thanks so much for your support, and please feel free to contact me any time at email@example.com.
Haywood R. Martin, Chair
Sierra Club Delta Chapter