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.
New LABB staff participated in a hidden history tour that followed the Slave Revolt of 1811. Our group spent the day touring sites along River Road where former plantations on the Mississippi have been replaced by chemical plants and oil refineries. The nearby communities, largely populated by descendants of former slaves, are in need of support in the fight for environmental justice. Agencies at the state level tasked with regulating these plants are unable to protect residents from the harmful health effects of nearby industry. Although the Slave Revolt of 1811 was unsuccessful, the tour taught me the historical significance of incremental change in the fight for justice.
Another of my numerous lessons learned during my first two weeks came from ongoing current events in our area following oil industry accidents. I attended an informational meeting hosted by the City of New Orleans and the National Wildlife foundation focused on “Innovative Opportunities for Advancing the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Funding Sources”. Almost three years after the disaster there are some huge victories on their way for the Gulf Coast. The RESTORE act guarantees 80% of Clean Water Act penalties that result from the ongoing trials will go to the Gulf States. In Louisiana the guidelines set in place by the Coastal Master Plan will dictate where our share of that fund goes.
Advancing the Coastal Master plan is essential for Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration as well as protecting the coastline from future natural disasters. Although funds from the RESOTRE act will be utilized to improve our resilience to future natural disasters these improvements may be rendered ineffective by endemic problems with the technological infrastructure used by the oil and gas industry. Pipelines, dredged canals, and leaking oil wells throughout Louisiana’s coast are contributing to the same issues the Coastal Master Plans actively seeks to address.
Whereas some technological disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill receive national media coverage; endemic releases and new incident reports coming from the energy industry are received with little response from officials; therefore affected residents are left unprotected. I am excited to help LABB provide the public with a solution to this issue with our Refinery Efficiency Initiative. The hidden history tour taught me that bringing events into public discourse will help us achieve justice through incremental change. To revolutionize the industrial corridor of southeast Louisiana we need to diligently fight for the small victories. I appreciate this opportunity to work with and learn from the knowledgeable and experienced LABB staff to fight environmental injustices by demanding clean and sustainable energy.