Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Delta Chapter 2012 Legislative Report, July 2, 2012

Sierra Club Delta Chapter started engaging with the 2012 legislature back in the Nov 2011 elections with active support for election of several state legislators including campaign work for Stephen Ortego, active support for Jack Montoucet, and formal endorsement of J.P. Morrell of New Orleans. This year we put on two social events for legislators, one in New Orleans on March 1, and one in Baton Rouge on March 21. We received great feedback and recognition among legislators for these events. The purpose of these events was to get ourselves and allied legislative advocates in the same rooms with legislators to enjoy a casual evening of food and conversation. Our legislative lobbyist Darrell Hunt deserves major credit for coming up with the idea and for doing the cooking at our event in Baton Rouge.

The 2012 regular session of the Louisiana legislature adjourned on June 4. Legislation passed by both houses of the legislature has now been considered and either signed into law or vetoed by the Governor. Following are the results of legislative actions that we have been following:

Oil Industry Legacy lawsuits - A crop of bills on this issue eventually got boiled down to two that were signed into law. HB 618 Abramson (Act 754) and SB 555 Adlee (Act 779) together provide for limited liability for environmental damage such that a party elect to admission of liability for environmental damage and responsibility for implementing the most feasible plan to evaluate and or remediate damage to regulatory standards. This would be done according to a plan reviewed by Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Department of Natural Resources. The legislation contains timelines, provision for public hearing and waiver of right to indemnification against punitive damages in certain circumstances. The legislation appears to give the oil industry what it wanted at the outset, which was a limitation on liability for cleanup costs when plans are developed and approved by relevant state agencies.  Landowners still retain the right to sue for damages. The real effect of the laws will be determined in the course of litigation sure to follow.

Water Issues - SB 436 by Sen Gerald Long, signed into law by the governor as Act 784 requires the Sabine River Authority to obtain legislative committee and local government approval for out-of-state water sales. The effect of the law will be to ban out of state water sales by the Sabine River Authority and by implication all water authorities in the state. The State of Louisiana has never had a consistent plan how to deal with in state or out of state sale of water. A related bill by Sen Long is SB 495, signed into law by the governor as Act 471 It revises powers and duties of the Ground Water Resources Commission to include surface water, not just groundwater. Louisiana does not have comprehensive water law to provide guidance for water management so proposed large sales are handled on a case by case basis by Department of Natural Resources and/or the legislature.

HB 957 by Rep John Bel Edwards which provides for the disclosure of the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids was signed into law by the governor as Act 812. This legislation writes into law and strengthens requirements of rules recently promulgated by DNR Office of Conservation. The law is comparable to laws on the books in other nearby states such as Texas and Arkansas where hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is occurring.

SB 439 by A.G. Crowe authorizing certain parishes to create a conservation district never was heard in its first hearing. The purpose of the bill was to set up an authority that could receive penalty funds for settlement of the Temple Inland paper mill toxic spill to the Pearl River, and administer such funds for the benefit of water quality on the river. The bill was opposed by the governor’s office because it would set up a local authority whose jurisdiction and powers would conflict with state agencies such as Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  

SB 450 Walsworth to prohibit dumping of electronic waste such as computers, televisions, cellular phones and other electronic devices into landfills became Senate Resolution 83 which urges the Department of Environmental Quality to study the establishment of a recycling and collection system for electronic waste and report its findings to the legislature.

HCR 49 by Stephen Ortego requesting the Louisiana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries to study Bayou Teche for inclusion in the State Historic and Scenic Rivers System successfully passed both house and senate as a concurrent resolution. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will hold public hearings and make a determination as to whether inclusion of Bayou Teche should be formally proposed in legislation next year. Delta Chapter is working with local groups to build support in communities along Bayou Teche.

Other legislative actions of interest:

HCR 89 was a proposed concurrent resolution by Rep Stuart Bishop stating that United Nations Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control that was initiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, and resolving that the Legislature of Louisiana recognizes the destructive and insidious nature of the United Nations Agenda 21. Delta Chapter recognized early in the legislative process that this was an attack on the principle of sustainable development. We activated our network of legislative allies to voice our opposition and launched a phone call campaign to the office of the bill sponsor and to members of the first legislative committee that would hear this resolution. The resolution was never put on the agenda and so was stopped in its first committee.

Senator J. P. Morrell Dem district 3, New Orleans (formally endorsed for election by Delta Chapter) proposed three pieces of legislation to protect children from exposure to lead in buildings. The laws were SB 200, 201 and 211. They require owners of certain child-occupied facilities to conduct an inspection for the presence of lead hazards and to disclose results of testing for lead, identify lead hazards and describe lead abatement activities. One of the bills requires state and local agencies engaged in lead hazard reduction activities to publish on their Internet website the standards related to those activities. All three bills were passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor.

Representative Eddie Lambert tried again to pass a Louisiana Beverage Container Law (HB 1046) that would set up a nickel deposit for plastic bottles and aluminum cans. The bill if successful would be a huge step in de-littering Louisiana roadsides, woods and waterways. Lobbyists for grocers, liquor dealers and soft drink distributors were out in strong opposition to the legislation because they don’t want to deal with the returned bottles. The proposed law would have created a large state program which would be administratively complex but would pay for itself at projected rates of bottle redemption. The proposed legislation was killed in its first committee after extensive debate.

Contact for further information: Woody Martin, Chapter Chair at hrmartin2sc@gmail.com

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Statement before Senate Natural Resources Committee

April 19, 2012

Statement before Senate Natural Resources Committee re:
HCR 31 to Approve the 2012 Atchafalaya Basin Plan

Haywood Martin, Chair, Delta Chapter Sierra Club
Representing some of our members who have very extensive knowledge of the Atchafalaya because they are out there on the water making a living in crawfishing, frogging or any of a number of other subsistence activites  year round.

We agree with notes under Current Challenges in the Basin, p 17 - Sedimentation that Since 1932 there has been a net accretion of sediment in the Basin floodway, converting much open water and cypress swamps to bottomland forest.

And we agree that spoil banks, oil field canals and natural levees inhibit the historical sheeting pattern of water flow, causing hypoxic conditions within nearly all of the large, interior swamps.

1)     We are against the "redistribution of sediments" plan. They are using east-west canals to move water full of sediments from the Atchafalaya River into deep swamps to convert more cypress swamp to bottomland forest. Elements of this problem are contained in the proposed East Grand Lake Project, Upper Grand River Flats projects and locations such as Coon Trap, Florida pipeline, Williams Canal, Work Canal and Bayou Sorrel Shell Field). 

2)     We are concerned that some dredging projects could be taken beyond natural width and depth conditions to create large straight oilfield access canals like the well known Bayou Postilion mistake. In this regard we are concerned about the Bayou Fourche and Big Bayou Pigeon projects. 

These first two points can be summed up by saying we are in favor of opening north to south flowing waterways to their natural width and depth, no more no less.

3)     We are concerned that the Atchafalaya Basin Program (ABP) proposing to use tax payers dollars to fix problems created by illegal activities on wetlands that also supposed to be protected by environmental easements (Brown Bayou, elevated road north of I-10), and Bristow Bayou. 

Our members realize there is a technical advisory group and public hearing process but feel that their voices have not been heard in regards to these very important issues. These members have intimate knowledge of how water and sediments move through the A Basin and care deeply that the remaining cypress swamp character of the basin be preserved. Our members and Sierra Club Delta Chapter respectfully oppose this plan in its current form.

But we do not intend to take our marbles and go home. We look forward to our continued participation in the A Basin planning process.

Despite our objections the A Basin planning process is much better than it used to be. The credit for this change goes to Rep Karen St. Germaine for her work on HB 1135 and HCR 26 in the year 2008 legislature.

Thank you for the opportunity to make this statement today.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring Into Action with the Delta Chapter!

Spring is a time of regeneration, growth, and new beginnings. It’s a busy time for nature, and for many people, too. This spring is an especially busy one for the Delta Chapter. We’re as active as ever at the State Capitol as we continue to push for laws that protect the natural resources and citizens of Louisiana. We are working hard to recruit new leaders and plan new activities for our local Groups. We are planning on tabling at Earth Day events, festivals, and community events across the state. And we are trying our best to be the best grassroots environmental organization in the state. But to achieve these goals, we need your help. Help can come in a variety of ways, from volunteering to help make phone calls to supporters on important legislation, to helping to plan or lead outings and activities, to tabling at events to help spread our mission, to taking a leadership role in your Group or Chapter ExCom.

Take a minute to look through the list of upcoming events and volunteer roles and decide if there’s anything you can do to help keep the Sierra Club alive and vibrant in 2012 and beyond. You can also contact Woody Martin at 337-298-8380 or hrmartin2sc@gmail.com to ask about other roles you can fill. For our families, for our future!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Request for urgent action - St. Martin Parish School Board wants to cut cypress forest

The St. Martin Parish School Board has contracted a logger to cut cypress from 640 acres in the Atchafalaya Basin. We are campaigning to get them to reconsider. School Board members are political people and we believe they will be influenced by a letter writing campaign. We need this to happen within two to three weeks. We have Tulane University Law Clinic lawyers working on this and they requested the letter writing campaign. Please at least send letters to the School Board President and Vice President. The same letter sent to more school board members is even better.
School Board name and address information is at http://saintmartinschools.org/site293.php
Sample letter is presented below this text. Please feel free to modify the letter with your own words.
Thanks for your help, Woody Martin, Sierra Club Delta Chapter

Sample letter:

Name and address of sender


Name and address of school board member

Dear Mr.

This is to request that St. Martin Parish School Board not cut trees, especially cypress, on Section 16 land in the Atchafalaya Basin. The Atchafalaya Basin is a unique and invaluable natural resource for the State of Louisiana and for our country. I am concerned that cutting of cypress trees in the Basin is damaging forever its natural character. I am informed that when cypress trees are cut they will never grow back because of changing water levels and predation of juvenile cypress by the invasive nutria. Therefore cutting of cypress does not qualify as silviculture because there is no natural regrowth of the same trees. Furthermore the trees could be of much more value to St. Martin Parish schools if they are left standing than if they are cut in a one time logging operation, after which they are gone forever.

I believe that St. Martin Parish School Board is taking the wrong path when it jumps to the conclusion that logging is the only way to make money on this land. There are at least three other options for making money on land with standing trees including ecotourism, conservation easements, and carbon mitigation bank credits. Any of these choices has the huge additional benefits of preserving the forest for its ecosystem and economic value to persons who fish, hunt and watch birds in natural forested wetlands, and the benefit of leaving cypress trees standing for appreciation by future generations. I believe that the School Board should look more broadly at ways to benefit from the value of the standing cypress forest before sacrificing that forest for a short term and relatively small economic return. In addition I believe that the school board should consider that the dollar value of cut trees does not come anywhere close to representing the true economic, cultural and spiritual value of the natural forest.

Thank you for your consideration of this request,


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Delta Chapter Legislative Update, April 3, 2012

Sierra Club Delta Chapter state legislative strategy is getting better all the time. We are working a multi part strategy that includes ongoing discussion and working with our allies in the Louisiana environmental community. We started this legislative season with active support for election of several state legislators including campaign work for Stephen Ortego, active support for Jack Montoucet, and formal endorsement of J.P. Morrell of New Orleans. We initiated two social events for legislators, one in New Orleans on March 1, and one in Baton Rouge on March 21. The purpose of these events was to get ourselves and allied legislative advocates in the same rooms with legislators to enjoy a casual evening of food and conversation. We are receiving excellent feedback from legislators for these events. In New Orleans the Green Collaborative did the bulk of the work to organize the NO event. Our legislative lobbyist Darrell Hunt deserves major credit for coming up with the whole idea and for doing the cooking at our event in Baton Rouge.

Some legislative issues we are watching closely include legislative comment and approval of the state’s recently released Coastal Master Plan and legislative review of the state’s recently released report entitled “Managing Louisiana’s Groundwater Resources.” We are also watching the legacy oilfield battle between oil industry and landowners. There are a dozen proposed bills on this subject but the one to watch is SB 528 by Sen Gerald Long. The sponsor keeps holding it back from going to hearing because of rumored negotiations going on between industry and landowners.

Another big one to watch is SB 436 by Sen Long which would require Sabine River Authority to obtain approval for out of state water sales from each parish in its territory. This goes back to the flap a few months ago about possible sale of water from Toledo Bend Reservoir to out of state (Texas) investors. The State of Louisiana has never had a consistent plan how to deal with in state or out of state sale of water. A related  bill by Sen Long is SB 495 revises powers and duties of the Ground Water Resources Commission to include surface water, not just groundwater. Compared to other states Louisiana is just getting started on how to manage its ground and surface water resources.This bill was scheduled for hearing last week but was postponed, apparently due to ongoing discussion by interested parties.

Some other bills to watch:

HB 957 provides for the disclosure of the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids. This bill would write into law and strengthen requirements that already exist in rules recently promulgated by DNR Office of Conservation.

SB 439 by A.G. Crowe Authorizes certain parishes to create a conservation district. This would allow formation of a conservation district in Washington Parish to receive penalty monies from Temple Inland for their toxic discharge that killed the West Pearl River.

SB 450 Walsworth prohibits dumping of electronic waste such as computers, televisions, cellular phones and other electronic devices into landfills and requires DEQ to adopt by March 10, 2014 a plan and standards for the collection and recycling of all electronic waste in the state.

HCR 49 by Stephen Ortego requests the Louisiana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries to study Bayou Teche for inclusion in the State Historic and Scenic Rivers System.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sierra Club Delta Chapter Response to Governor Jindal’s Criticism of Obama Energy Policy

A Wall Street Journal March 13, 2012 op-ed signed by Governor Bobby Jindal criticizing President Obama’s energy policy was long on political propaganda and short on reference to facts. The points made by the Governor’s editorial are not substantiated by information readily available from industry reports. We address his points as follows:

The first point made by Governor Jindal’s op-ed is that President Obama is somehow responsible for currently high energy prices.  Authoritative sources ascribe the problem to global uncertainty due to talk of middle east war over Iran’s nuclear policy, domestic unrest in Nigeria and the middle east, greatly increased consumer demand in India and China, and drastically reduced nuclear energy capacity in Japan forcing a shift to fossil fuels. These events together have influenced world energy prices to an extent that no domestic energy policy could have anticipated.

Yet in order to prepare for the possibility of international incident the President’s energy policy has consistently pushed for reduced reliance on foreign sources of energy and for more development of all kinds of domestically produced energy. Recent examples include the announcement in Nov of 2011 that the President was opening up the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time. In fact US drilling activity in already leased areas has greatly increased. According to Baker Hughes March 16, 2012 report on drilling activity for the US “there are 478 more rigs targeting oil than last year, an increase of 57 percent.

As for gasoline prices there is plenty of available evidence that they are more subject to supply, demand and speculation in the world energy market than to actual domestic supply. According to a Feb 29, 2012 Bloomberg story the US exported more gasoline, diesel and other fuels than it imported in 2011. According to the UK research firm Wood Mackenzie US exports of gasoline, diesel and other fuels will more than double in the next three years as refiners take advantage of a growing supply of domestic crudes and ship more fuel to emerging markets,. We note that current excess US capacity has not driven down domestic gasoline prices. So the argument that more drilling for domestic oil means lower US gasoline prices is not supported by the evidence.

The Governor goes on to say that the president should create a more predictable environment for exploration and production, and that the average number of deep-water drilling permits approved monthly by the administration is down by nearly 30% from the historical norm prior to the BP Gulf oil disaster. We note again that overall US rig counts are up sharply and that because of the BP Gulf Oil disaster it was necessary for the President to make major improvements in regulatory oversight of deepwater drilling. The President’s mandate is much broader than just the rate of energy production. He is also responsible for worker health and safety, public health, and protection of diverse economic sectors including fisheries and tourism.

The Governor states that the President should also start opening new fields along the mid-Atlantic coast, the Eastern Gulf, and in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge. We note that on March 31, 2010, 21 days before the BP Gulf Oil  disaster, President Obama announced opening eastern gulf and east coast federal waters for exploration and development and only withdrew such large openings after the blowout and under pressure to reconsider the abuse ridden regulatory system that allowed it to happen.

Of the areas named by the Governor, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is federal land which is owned by the citizens of the United States, who have shown repeatedly that they do not want the wildlife refuge transformed into an oil field. And there is strong bipartisan opposition to expanding drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida because of the regional importance of tourism and fisheries.

The Governor says that the President could also send a clear signal that his administration will not shut down the revolutionary hydrofracking technique. The administration has never once said anything about shutting down hydrofacking. We note that the risks of hydrofracking have become more apparent as numerous incidents and downsides have come to light.  These include contaminated drinking water, deteriorated air quality in areas of drilling activity and huge conversions of high quality ground and surface water into toxic wastewater. We support the administration’s effort to require reasonable disclosure and health and safety standards for hydrofracking.

The Governor wants the President to eliminate existing clean air regulations on gasoline and on coal fired power plants. Studies have shown that the more than forty years old clean air act has been a cost effective and publicly supported mechanism for improving health and safety of people living in areas threatened with poor air quality. The costs of clean air regulations are far outweighed by the benefits in reduced health care costs particularly for minorities and the poor.

The Governor in his op-ed states we should not be singling out one industry for tax increases that would inevitably lead to higher prices for American consumers. We note that the oil industry is beneficiary to numerous and substantial tax breaks and subsidies which were put in place during and after WWII. Reduction of no longer needed tax breaks and subsidies for the immensely profitable industry would be a good first step in leveling the playing field of incentives for all sources of energy. We note again that gasoline prices respond to oil futures sold in the international marketplace. Elimination of unnecessary tax breaks and incentives for the oil industry might affect their immense profits but would not affect the US price of gasoline.

Finally, the Governor declares that the President should reverse his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline and repeats the wildly inflated claims that the project would produce 20,000 construction jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs. These claims for job numbers are discredited by US State Department numbers and by independent studies.  We note also that it was ordinary citizens who were outraged at threatened taking of family farmland and ruination of drinking water aquifers. The Republican Governor from Nebraska, Dave Heineman, was the first, in response to his constituency to call for review of the Keystone pipeline route. The cross border pipeline is designed principally to create an export market for Canadian tar sands oil and creates many environmental and public health and problems. The President was correct in postponing approval until environmental study can be completed.

The Sierra Club Delta Chapter in Louisiana believes that the President’s energy policy is a fair balance of increased energy production of all kinds with responsible regulation to protect public health and safety and to protect economic sectors such as fisheries and tourism that can be damaged by oil industry disasters. We believe that the petroleum industry should work with the administration to diversify US energy production, and that the industry can and should invest much more in protecting worker safety, public health and the environment.

Haywood (Woody) Martin, Chair
Sierra Club Delta Chapter

Friday, March 09, 2012

HB 957 John Bell Edwards - Fracking Disclosure Bill - Delta Chapter Comments

This proposed legislation provides the specific authority for DNR to promulgate rules, regulations, and orders to require the reporting of additives and ingredients of hydraulic fracturing fluid, to require reporting of concentrations of additives and ingredients, and to require reporting of the chemical family of certain ingredients with trade secret protection, and requires such reporting 30 days in advance of the fracturing operation.

Existing Louisiana DNR rule effective Oct 20, 2011 already requires operators to disclose all additives used in hydraulic fracturing fluids and the names and concentrations of chemicals which are subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication requirements (29 CFR 1910.1200) and are not deemed trade secret.  Disclosure can be made by reporting directly to the Office of Conservation or via the Frac Focus website. The Louisiana regulation has no effect on rules or laws mandating disclosure of trade secret information to health care providers. The requirements are effective for wells with drilling permits issued on or after October 20, 2011. Reporting is required only after completion of the hydraulic fracture operation.

The proposed legislation strengthens the legal basis for the current DNR rule requiring reporting of hydraulic fracturing fluids, it adds authority for a requirement to disclose additive concentrations which is not in the current rule, and it would add authority to require reporting of hydraulic fracturing fluids 30 days in advance of the hydraulic fracturing operation.

We will have to watch this bill for possible changes as it goes through legislative hearings. Its first hearing is in House Natural Resources Committee.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Sierra Club Requests Governor Jindal to Develop a New Management Plan for the West Pearl River


February 1, 2012

Today the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club sent a letter to Governor Bobby Jindal requesting his assistance by requiring the  Secretary of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to prepare a new management plan for the West Pearl River.  

Last August illegal discharges from the Bogalusa paper mill killed hundreds of thousands of fish and mussels and also impacted scenic values and water quality of the West Pearl River.  Hundreds of citizens attended legislative hearings last year expressing their concern about water quality and public health and asked for state action to clean up the River. The Secretary of LWLF has the responsibility under the Louisiana Scenic Rivers Act, to issue a management plan for each of the State’s designated Scenic Rivers. 

The Sierra Club stated, in a November 18th letter to LDWF Secretary Robert Barham that the current management plan for the West Pearl River is outdated, does not consider current water quality problems, and contains no management strategies that are specific to the river.  

Further, there is no program or plan to preserve important natural features, including the species identified by the Louisiana Natural Heritage database as threatened or endangered.  The USF&WS reports that twenty-six threatened Gulf Sturgeon were killed by Temple-Inland's illegal discharges.

Haywood Martin, Chair of Sierra Club Delta Chapter said, "The outdated plan ignores the fact that the river is classified as impaired and has a mercury-in-fish consumption advisory for pregnant women and children under 7 yrs of age.  Since Secretary Barham has not responded to our letter after three months, we have asked Governor Jindal to intercede."   Martin continued, "We hope Governor Jindal will advise the Secretary of his responsibilities to enforce provisions of the Act."

The Sierra Club reviewed the Scenic River permit and outdated management plan for the West Pearl and determined that State oversight under the Act is so seriously deficient that scenic value and quality of water in the West Pearl River are not being protected as mandated by the Scenic Rivers Act.  The current management plan does not provide for continued involvement of the public in the development, implementation and administration of the plan as required by the Act.  

 “We are appalled to find, after the recent disaster on the Pearl River, that the State of Louisiana has consistently failed its management responsibilities for the river",  stated Louie Miller, Director for the Mississippi Sierra Club Chapter.  "The Basin is an asset for both states," he added, "The Louisiana paper mill continues to discharge toxic chemicals into the Pearl river polluting both states' waters."

For further information contact:

Haywood Martin, Chair
Sierra Club Delta Chapter
Phone: 337-232-7953
Address: P.O. Box 52503
Lafayette, LA 70505

Louie Miller, Director
Mississippi Chapter
Email:     louie.miller@sierraclub.org
Phone:    601-352-1026

Hugh Penn
Law Office of George H. Penn
Phone: 985-867-9254

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Delta Chapter Legislative Updates 2012

Delta Chapter Legislative Updates 2012

The 2012 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature convenes at noon on Monday, March 12, 2012 and final adjournment is no later than 6:00 pm on Monday, June 4, 2012. 

The length of the session is 60 legislative days during an 85 calendar day period.

The subject matter of the session is general in nature; however, no measure levying or authorizing a new state tax, increasing an existing state tax, or legislating with regard to state tax exemptions, exclusions, deductions, or credits can be introduced or enacted.

See the full text of the legislative information bulletin at http://www.legis.state.la.us/archive/12rs/12rsbulletin.pdf 

Sierra Club Delta Chapter will be monitoring the 2012 Louisiana State Legislative Session for proposed legislation that may be of interest to the environmental community. We will follow the progress of legislation of interest and we will be posting our updates on this blog.

We look forward to an interesting legislative session.