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NRDC Opens Gulf Resource Center to Help Residents Make Their Voices Heard

Peter Lehner

Posted July 12, 2010

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On Thursday, I attended the opening of the NRDC Gulf Resource Center in Buras, Louisiana—a small town not far from the "end of the road" on the Louisiana delta.  NRDC has created the center with our local partners at the Gulf Coast Fund to help communities, individuals, and journalists, come together and respond to the BP oil disaster.

The center offers a gathering space for Gulf residents and local groups and a way for NRDC to provide open-door access to our science, health, policy, advocacy, and communications expertise.  We hope other experts and media staff will use it as a place to come together. There are many stories that are real and important and need to be told honestly and directly.

NRDC wants to make sure a catastrophe like this never happens again. But change only occurs when people demand it, and in order to generate a groundswell of support, people across the country need to understand what this spill is doing to communities here in the Gulf—to their livelihoods, their local economies, family traditions, beaches, and wildlife and landscapes they depend upon.

NRDC is here to amplify those stories so they can be heard around the nation and in Washington, DC.

And we will keep the heat on until Gulf residents get answers to their questions, such as: Are crews spraying dispersants in the bay at night? How toxic are the oil fumes and how can people protect their families from the fumes? How does BP do such a good job of keeping oiled beaches and marshlands out of the news? What are the underwater plumes of oil and dispersants doing to the fisheries?  The center, we  hope, can be an incubator for investigative journalism.

At the opening on Thursday, Kindra Arensen, the wife of a fisherman from Venice, Louisiana (just a bit further down the road), said:

All of the people down here have been impacted by this disaster and we need a place where we can get real information and tell people what is really going on down here. We have all been through Katrina and now we have this.  It’s important that we all use this resource center to help us get through this crisis.

As Arensen expressed, this region was already hit hard before the Deepwater Horizon blowout occurred. Buras sits 10 miles north of Venice along Highway 11. The town used to have 15,000 residents, but after Katrina decimated it five years ago, less than 1,000 remain. Overturned cars and blown-out stores—handiwork of the hurricane—line the streets.

Now this community and so many like it must cope with the ongoing assault of the oil spill. The economic, cultural, and ecological fallout will last a long, long time. And so will the pain of seeing a beloved place destroyed.

Michel Gagnier, a Louisiana resident told the crowd that his close friend lives in Waveland, MS, where the beaches were hit by a thick black tide of oil. He said:

I’ve walked these beaches all my life and now they’re ruined. I’m really angry about this oil spill and I'm here to do something about it.

Our hope is that the Gulf Resource Center can help people like Gagnier connect with local efforts to recover from the spill. On Thursday, for instance, we were joined by our partners at the Gulf Coast Fund, as well as representatives from Bayou Grace Community Services, Grand Bayou Community United, Catholic Charities, and a handful of other community groups.

The opening of the center marks the beginning of a dialogue. NRDC wants to hear from residents, and we want to share our advocacy muscle. Together, we can help the Gulf community heal from the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.  

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Brian DonovanJul 13 2010 07:41 AM

This article discusses BP’s comprehensive strategy to limit its liability in regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

Bryan ParrasJul 13 2010 07:48 PM

It was a nice sunny day outside when we took that picture. I'm honored to be a part of this resource center and I have to hand it to local law enforcement who came out to support our efforts too!

During our meeting, approximately 15 local law enforcement vehicles were parked across the street just in case anybody tried to disrupt the meeting. Thanks boys!

We appreciate your hard work and we look forward to our continued relationship as things progress. We all need to work together as a community.


Jim Bullis, Miastrada CompanyJul 15 2010 04:25 PM

I appreciate NRDC giving this disaster a lot of attention, but I also think that more muscle needs to be given to understanding the physical reasons for this uncontrolled, daily repeating, disaster.

I am trying to point out that there is probable basis for thinking that there is an established water path that acts as a vertical water column that is driving the gushing at the well head.

Stopping the flow at the well head apparatus may only transfer the gushing to even more uncontrolled flow paths in the geological structure.

Every effort must be made to take all the oil possible out of the pipe and, obviously to capture it and haul it away for processing. (How BP got stuck on the idea that separation of fluids had to be done on site is beyond comprehension.)

Please NRDC, spare some time to get on your phones and raise the alert to this further disaster.

Jim Bullis, Miastrada CompanyJul 15 2010 04:36 PM

Adding to my previous:

I realize that we mostly get the sixth grade science explanation of what is going on, but the description of the 'relief well' operation is very troubling.

Of course, 'relief well' has nothing to do with 'well'. It is actually a repair bore hole with the stated purpose of cutting off flow in the up-leading pipe. However, for the reasons stated above, this may actually be a further exacerbating action since it will also cause oil to find alternate paths upward.

The enourmous differential pressure at the ocean floor level is due to the fact that sea water weighs 64 lb/ft^3 and oil weighs 44 lb/ft^3 so the 12,000 feet down to the oil reservoir translates into a 2000 psi differential pressure at this ocean floor level. For ongoing flow process, there are impedances to flow that reduce the actual observable pressure.

So when I read that they are going to do an integrity test and that if the pressure is high that will indicate that the apparatus can be used to close in the well, as with a hurricane situation, this action could also be greater disaster provoking action. It might be a good thing that the apparatus can handle the pressure, but this test will not show that the geological structure is capable of restricting water flow downward.

Angela SagabaenJul 16 2010 10:20 AM

Glad to have the NRDC here. I use your site as a resource all the time and try to keep with articles. Great job and thanks.

John ImpsonJul 16 2010 11:31 AM

I live in Waveland, just off the beach. Contray to what was stated by one of the respondents, there is no "thick black tide of oil" on the beaches of Waveland.

There have been tar balls and they have been picked up. The beaches are open, they are pristine, come on down and enjoy them.

We expect our town public pier to open soon for fishing.


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