Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pictures of the group in Washington DC

We met with Senator Landrieu on Nov. 8, who promised some sort of statement regarding these horrible environmental waivers next week. We will stay vigilant and make sure she removes these waivers, which put thousands of Louisianans at serious health risks.

Here are some pictures of our group. From Left to Right: Monique Harden of New Orleans, LA; Nathalie Walker of New Orleans, LA (temporarily residing in North Carolina); Beth Zilbert of Lake Charles, LA; Johanna Congleton of New Orleans, LA; Sharon Alexis of New Orleans, LA (temporarily residing in Baton Rouge); and Erca Jackson and her son Van Jackson, Jr., of Mossville, LA.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Statement of Van Jackson, Jr.

November 7, 2005

My name is Van Jackson. I am a resident of Mossville, Louisiana and a member of Mossville Environment Action Now, Inc.. I was forced out of my home due to the Hurricane Rita evacuation. After the storm moved on, I knew that I was going back to a disaster area, but not of this magnitude. This was a sight that would let you know that no man was this powerful. Only God could destroy a town like Mossville was destroyed. The streets were covered by fallen trees. Residents had to saw trees in blocks and remove them from the streets so that cars could get through. The entire town was shut down. No stores, no schools or businesses were open. Residents could only come back to town according to the curfew hours that were set.

Our work has just begun to rebuild our town. Debris and harmful waste outline our town and contaminated refrigerators are on the streets. American Red Cross, FEMA, nor the insurance companies are willing to replace the refrigerators.

Our town is full of polluted waters, debris, and dangerous waste. If the environmental law waiver is passed, every environmental law will be ignored and every human being will suffer gravely from such an inhumane decision. We all know that if such a waiver is passed, the Afro Americans will suffer the most.

We have already suffered grave devastation with the destruction of the hurricanes. Now that we are at our weakest must we suffer more?

It is with prayers and a strong urge for you to reconsider your action and to allow the environmental laws to remain as they are.

Van Jackson, Jr.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More pictures of our visit to DC

Preparing for our meetings on Capitol Hill

At the Capitol Building

Some good articles about our visit

The Baton Rouge Advocate wrote a story:
'A group of residents representing Louisiana environmental groups took over a conference room in the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., on Tuesday, refusing to leave until they met with her over hurricane recovery legislation that they said would be detrimental to the environment...."This piece of legislation is an abomination," Nathalie Walker, a lawyer and co-director of the group, said in a cell phone interview from Landrieu's office. "We are in her office, and we are not budging."'

This article is from E&E Daily, and is a paid site.
here's a quick excerpt:
'Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-La.) staff told a group of concerned New Orleans residents today that environmental waivers in the Louisiana delegation's 450-page bill to rebuild the state were added at the request of contractors, according to Monique Harden, co-director of the New Orleans law firm Advocates for Environmental Human Rights...."It's clear that she's not gung-ho about about those waivers," Harden said. "The bill is not in the best interest of the city if it is catering to companies."'

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More Environmental Protection Is Needed in the Gulf Coast!!

More Public Health and Environmental Protection Is Needed in the Gulf Coast, Not Less!

Residents returning to New Orleans must wear protective masks to avoid inhaling toxic mold and other contaminants in their homes and neighborhoods.

New Orleans residents who live in the historic Treme neighborhood that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina oppose Congressional action to waive environmental and public health laws.

Photo Credit: J. Congelton/PSR-LA

No Environmental Waivers!!

The house behind us is destroyed. Is this a good reason to waive environmental laws???

Comparison of Anti-Public Health, Anti-Environment Post-Hurricane Bills

Comparison of Anti-Public Health, Anti-Environment Provisions of
Post-Hurricane Bills in the 109th Congress

> By far the worst, most sweeping, and environmentally destructive proposal, S. 1765 was introduced by Senator Landrieu (D-LA) and others on September 22, 2005. This 450+ page bill, named the “Louisiana Katrina Reconstruction Act,” contains several provisions that automatically override or allow the President to waive numerous public health and environmental laws, as well as other laws. Specifically, in terms of waivers, the bill:
1) allows the President to issue “emergency permits” to state and local governments or private entities for 2 years for projects related to Katrina; these emergency permits can waive any law in the United States of America;
2) creates a “Pelican Commission” to work with the Army Corps to develop new flood control, navigation, and “ecosystem restoration” projects; any project approved by the Commission is automatically and permanently deemed to be in compliance with the Clean Water Act and NEPA (even if the project meets none of the terms of those laws);
3) waives Clean Water Act and FIFRA requirements as they relate to the application of pesticides to control the mosquitoes and waives laws relating to timber production for salvage purposes or to ensure a secure timber supply for the pulp and paper industry;
4) automatically waives NEPA for any project or activity relating to recovery, reconstruction, or repair in any area declared a major disaster. (No action has been taken yet on this bill).

> S. 1711, sponsored by Senator Inhofe (R-ID) and others, gives EPA the authority to waive any federal law or regulation under EPA’s jurisdiction, or any state or federal law or regulation that applies to an EPA project or activity. To invoke the law, EPA need only determine that such a waiver is “necessary to respond, in a timely and effective manner, to a situation or damage relating to Hurricane Katrina,” and is “in the public interest,” taking into account emergency conditions relating to Hurricane Katrina and consequences to public health or the environment from granting the waiver or modification. These waivers could last up to 18 months. (No action has been taken yet on this bill).

> S. 1761, introduced by Senator Thune (R-SD) and others, would put the public at greater risk of harm in post-disaster situations by removing important deterrents against irresponsible
conduct that harms public health or environmental safety by federal contractors. This bill would give federal disaster contractors unprecedented legal immunity against environmental citizens suits and, in most cases, relieve federal contractors from responsibility for personal injuries and property damage they cause. (The Senate Environment Committee has a hearing scheduled for this bill on November 9, 2005).

> H.R 3893, sponsored by Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), would undue Clean Air Act safeguards, limit the development of clean fuels, allow indefinite controls on toxic fuel contents, and weaken the enforcement provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act by limiting penalties for price gouging to $11,000 per day. This Act attempts to justify these rollbacks using the false assumption that public health protections are preventing oil companies from investing in the additional refining capacity that is needed to supply an oil-thirsty nation. (Status: This bill passed the House by 2 votes in October; it has yet to be taken up in the Senate).

Letter from Erica Jackson, Mossville, LA, resident

November 6, 2005

My name is Erica Jackson. I’m representing Mossville, LA and I’m a member of Mossville Environmental Action Now, Inc.. We were forced to evacuate during Hurricane Rita and upon returning to my home our community was devastated. Many trees were uprooted, collapsing homes and blocking streets, and hundreds of electrical wires were severed. Debris and harmful waste polluted the streets. It was easy to see that we had environmental problems. Some of the waste contained toxic mold, harmful chemicals, and petroleum products.

With your endorsement of the environmental law waiver, this harmful debris and waste will not be dumped in an area that is safe for the community. The allowance of the dumping practices will place our community in harms way.

How could anyone supposedly so concerned about the health and welfare of the American people sign such a waiver? We are asking you to reconsider your decision and withdraw this environmental law waiver.

Thank you,

Erica Jackson

Letter to Sen. Landrieu (D-LA)

Today we are going to visit Sen. Landrieu, asking she remove her name from a bill that waives environmental protections for two years for any project related to hurricane recovery. An excerpt from a letter we delivered by hand today to Sen. Landrieu in Washington, D.C.
"Your bill authorizes President Bush to waive any and all environmental laws for a period of two years for any project that he deems to be related to hurricane recovery. This includes laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, which govern flood protection and coastal restoration projects. Your proposed legislation is not only contrary to protecting the health and environment of American citizens, it also sets a terrible precedent for disregarding our right to environmental protection in future disasters."
The full copy of the letter is below.

November 8, 2005

Honorable Mary Landrieu
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C.

Dear Senator Landrieu:

As residents of New Orleans and the Lake Charles area in Louisiana, we are outraged by your sponsorship of Senate Bill No. 1765, which waives environmental laws and public health protections that are critically important to the lives of your constituents. As we return to our hurricane-damaged neighborhoods, we demand nothing less than the full protection of our health and environment.

Your bill authorizes President Bush to waive any and all environmental laws for a period of two years for any project that he deems to be related to hurricane recovery. This includes laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, which govern flood protection and coastal restoration projects. Your proposed legislation is not only contrary to protecting the health and environment of American citizens, it also sets a terrible precedent for disregarding our right to environmental protection in future disasters. Your bill contains the broadest, overreaching, and unconscionable of any of the post-Katrina legislation before the U.S. Congress that contains waivers of public health safeguards. In fact, it is far worse than the bills introduced by Senate Republicans long known for their outspoken, anti-environmental positions. You have been quoted in the press as saying that your bill is “just a suggestion” and that you did not mean to waive environmental laws. We hope that this is true, not just a specious defense to the press – and as your constituents, we “suggest” that you drop your sponsorship of this bill.

Now more than ever, environmental protection is sorely needed. Toxic mold has overtaken the interior of many buildings and homes in New Orleans, including ours, and harmful chemicals and petroleum products remain in the soil and water, and have infiltrated some water distribution systems. Our coastal areas are in shambles; restoration of our coast and improvements in flood protection must be planned carefully, with proper adherence to environmental laws, and with the full and meaningful participation of local citizens.

The thousands of Louisiana residents who have been displaced in the aftermath of the hurricanes, and who wish to return to their communities, have a right to do so at the earliest possible date. Their right of return is a fundamental human right that requires a safe and healthy environment to which they can return. This right is being denied by current activities, including Senate Bill No. 1765, which all but ensure inadequate environmental health protections for returning residents.

Instead of waiving environmental laws, we need the positive leadership of your office in compelling the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and other relevant governmental agencies to meet their responsibilities for protecting our environment and health. These agencies should be, but are not, taking appropriate action to ensure that returning residents are notified about and provided with protective equipment to avoid toxic exposures. Currently, nongovernmental organizations and volunteer citizens – not governmental agencies – are distributing accurate health and safety information, respirators, goggles, and gloves to returning residents. Further, nongovernmental organizations have been compelled to conduct independent environmental monitoring, sampling, and assessments of neighborhoods as a consequence of EPA’s flawed monitoring, sampling, and assessments, which have been compounded by EPA’s extremely poor communication with the public.

We also need the leadership of your office in compelling EPA to develop, with the full participation of local residents, a plan for managing the significant waste and debris left in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As you should know, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board recently submitted comments that are very critical of the debris management plan proposed by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”). The Science Advisory Board determined that DEQ’s plan rejects less polluting options, and instead proposes methods that will create a proliferation of airborne toxic chemicals through the burning of waste, and exacerbate environmental injustice by locating debris waste sites in poor communities.

For decades, African American and poor communities in Louisiana have been at the forefront in demanding relief from the toxic pollution that has destroyed and continues to destroy our communities. Waiving any environmental or health protections for even a day is the last thing we need now. A meaningful recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans and Gulf Coast communities can only occur if all environmental and public health laws are an intrinsic part of the process. We sincerely urge you to withdraw your sponsorship of Senate Bill 1765 and demonstrate your respect for the right of all citizens to a safe and healthy environment.


Sharon Alexis of New Orleans, LA; temporarily residing in Baton Rouge, LA

Johanna Congleton of New Orleans, LA

Monique Harden of New Orleans, LA; temporarily residing in Birmingham, AL

Erica Jackson and her son Van Jackson, Jr., of Mossville, LA

Nathalie Walker of New Orleans, LA; temporarily residing in Greensboro, NC

Beth Zilbert of Lake Charles, LA

Press Release for Today's Trip to Sen. Landrieu

Here's the press release we sent out to reporters today about our "sit-in" at Sen. Landrieu's office:

NEWS RELEASE___________________________________________________


CONTACTS: Monique Harden, 504-919-4590 (cell)
Nathalie Walker, 504-453-6791 (cell)

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

LA Hurricane Survivors demand U.S. Sen. Landrieu Withdraw from bill that Exempts Recovery Projects from Environmental Laws

Residents Plan to Stay in Senator’s Office Until She Withdraws from Anti-Environmental Bill

Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2005 (Washington, D.C.) . . . Seven Louisiana survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita traveled to the nation’s capital today to demand that U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) withdraw her name from legislation that will deny environmental and public health protections for residents working to rebuild their homes and communities. “We are outraged that Senator Landrieu is not taking action to demand better environmental protection for us. Instead, she wants to waive protective laws that will result in further pollution of our air and water, expose us to pesticides, and cut out public participation in flood control projects. Landrieu should apologize to Louisiana citizens and take her name off this appalling bill,” said Monique Harden, a resident of New Orleans who co-directs a public interest environmental law firm in the city. “I don’t know a single person suffering from the devastating affects of these hurricanes who wants the rebuilding effort to be exempt from environmental protection laws even for a single day. Why is Senator Landrieu listening to companies with construction and consulting contracts whose only concern is getting paid quickly for building somethingt fast? She owes, us, her suffering constituents, so much more,” added Nathalie Walker, a New Orleans resident and law partner of Ms. Harden.

Senator Landrieu is a sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1765, which gives the President sweeping and unprecedented authority to waive all environmental laws for any project related to hurricane recovery. This bill also waives federal pesticide laws and the Clean Water Act for any mosquito abatement programs, and waives the National Environmental Policy Act, among other laws, for flood control and coastal restoration projects. “Hurricane Mary is doing to environmental and health protection what Hurricanes Katrina and Rita did to the Gulf Coast. If Mary Landrieu’s bill passes, she will have opened the floodgates to hundreds of businesses and government agencies being exempted from protecting our air, water, and land,” said Erica Jackson, a resident of Mossville, located next to Lake Charles, where several oil refineries and petrochemical facilities responsible for severe pollution and contamination were in the pathway of Hurricane Rita.

“In New Orleans, I am daily passing out donated respirators, goggles, and gloves to returning residents, who are gutting homes covered in toxic mold, and shoveling mounds of dirt left by toxic floodwaters. No one, including Senator Landrieu, should remove important laws that protect human health,” said Johanna Congleton, a resident of New Orleans who directs a local public health organization.

Senator Landrieu’s office has not responded to repeated requests for a meeting. “It looks like Senator Landrieu wants to avoid hearing what we are going through to rebuild our homes and communities. When we arrive at her office, we plan to stay until she withdraws her name from this bill that is anti-environmental and anti-public health,” said Sharon Alexis, a New Orleans resident whose neighborhood has a shuttered pesticide facility where significant contamination remains, and may have been released into the surrounding area during Hurricane Katrina.

Beth Zilbert, a Lake Charles resident whose home was damaged by Hurricane Rita said, “Our demand to Senator Landrieu is simple: withdraw from Senate Bill No. 1765 so that you can help us, not hurt us.”


Monday, November 07, 2005

The poor handling of waste threatens the health of returning residents.

Mounds of waste removed from the New Orleans drainage system are piled haphazardly in a parking lot located in the middle of an uptown neighborhood.

Photo Credit: M. Harden/AEHR