The Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club maintains efforts throughout Louisiana on many environmental fronts to preserve and protect our environment and natural resources.
Taking the tops off mountains at the flip of a switch
by Jea Yoon Lee
Everyone knows that electricity comes from power plants. Some know
that 40% of the electricity in the U.S. comes from coal-fired plants.
Fewer know that an estimated 7-10% of the country’s total coal
production comes from mountaintop removal (MTR) mines in Appalachia.
Unfortunately, many Louisiana consumers are linked to MTR through their
utility companies which use MTR coal.
The tragedy of MTR is not just the abstract notion of “losing” mountains, forests, and streams, however. For West Virginians, Virginians, Kentuckians, and Tennesseans living near the mines, it means undrinkable, rash-inducing water full of arsenic and mercury, flying boulders and earthquakes caused by the blasting, and dramatic depreciation of property value. They also live in the shadow of impoundments -- dams which hold back the wastewater created by washing the debris off coal. Eight years ago in Kentucky, one broke and released a torrent of over 300 million gallons of thick, toxic sludge which destroyed homes, farmlands, and 100 miles of waterways.
For the rest of us, more MTR leads to burning more coal, which diverts resources away from alternative energy sources and greater reliance on coal-powered plants, which leads to even more MTR. That means dirtier air, more acid rain, and more global warming emissions.
According to some estimates, about 4.8% of the coal used in Louisiana power plants may come from MTR mines. Utilities such as Cleco Power LLC, Entergy Louisiana, and Southwestern Electric Power are all connected to MTR mining because some of their plants purchase coal from companies that operate MTR mines in Appalachia. (For more information on your community’s connection to MTR, visit www.ilovemountains.org/myconnection.)
Rising gas prices opens the prospect of a coal-to-liquid industry which would lead to an even greater reliance on coal. The coal industry is peddling the false solution of converting coal into liquid fuel, but the reality is worse than being topless in Appalachia. Not only does it take one ton of coal to produce just two barrels of fuel, but burning liquid coal also releases double the global warming emissions per gallon as regular gasoline. Replacing 10% of our nation’s transportation fuels with liquid coal would require increasing coal mining by over 40%.
Coal is not the solution! Currently there are plans for constructing 87 new coal power plants, each with an expected lifespan of 50 years. Is an additional 50 years of reliance on coal even a viable option for our planet? Let us oppose the irreversible, irremediable practice of MTR, and instead invest in solar, wind, and geothermal power.
MTR requires filling valleys with vast quantities of mining waste. Filling streams with waste was illegal under the Clean Water Act, and advocacy groups used the law to protect the mountains and streams. Rising to the defense of coal companies, the Bush Administration changed the rules, effectively legalizing the filling of streams with waste. Sierra Club and other groups are urging Congress to enact the Clean Water Protection Act, which would reverse the rule change, once again prohibiting the filling of streams with MTR waste. Please join our efforts by asking your utility company not to use MTR coal and urging your Representative to co-sponsor the bill. For more information on how you can help, visit http://www.sierraclub.org/cleanwater/mtr/.
Jea Yoon Lee is an apprentice with the national coal campaign in Washington,
It's trying to come to Louisiana. Entergy has proposed to convert its Little Gypsy plant upriver from New Orleans from a natural gas to a "Clean Coal" burning plant. Why? It's cheaper. The estimated $1.02 billion unit will utilize circulating fluidized bed technology developed under the Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Technology program and use petroleum coke as its primary fuel. Doesn't sound too "clean" to us. Learn about one of the (many) potential hazards of this technology below.
Act now to help expand Jean Lafitte National Park
Read this fact sheet and contact our U. S. Senators as well as Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts to ask them to support the expansion of Jean Lafitte National Park. Thank you.
To honor Vice-President Al Gore's Oscar® winning movie, "An Inconvenient Truth"
the Delta Chapter has put together a page of information and resources on global warming and climate change. Go to the global warming page.
WBRZ News Channel2 in Baton Rouge shows how to recycle Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFL's)
Follow this link to see a recent news article produced by WBRZ 2 in Baton Rouge about how to recycle Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs. The Sierra Club is represented by our very own Jeffery Dubinsky who discusses why we don't want to throw these bulbs into the trash.
Test your knowledge of the Louisiana environment:
The Delta Chapter has put together seven interactive online quizzes to test your knowledge of various aspects about the environment in our beautiful state of Louisiana. These are quizzes you can't fail because even if you don't know all the answers, you are sure to learn something new! Check them out:
Quick links to hot conservation issues:
Jump to conservation issues on this page:
Conservation Issue Fact Sheets:
Help stop the widening of US 167 through Kisatchie National Forest
All members and other concerned citizens who love Louisiana's natural heritage to please take action to oppose the state's planned expansion of US Highway 167 through Winn and Grant Parishes - and through Louisiana's only national forest, the Kisatchie. The plan would widen the highway from two lanes to at least 4 lanes, and possibly more. This would result in detrimental environmental effects on timber resources, scenic beauty, and wildlife habitat. Furthermore, the Catahoula National Wildlife Area is located within the Kisatchie National Forest and would be directly impacted by the widening of US Highway 167.
In addition, the Village of Dry Prong lies within the forest borders, and the townspeople there are opposed to the planned widening of the highway through their town. They rightfully fear the expanded roadway would basically destroy their town.
We would ask anyone concerned to please write to:
Greta Boley, Forest Supervisor
and ask her NOT to approve the expansion of US Highway 167 through the Kisatchie National Forest. The Forest Service also needs to perform an Environmental Impact Statement before granting their approval of this road expansion.
Also write to:
Hon. Kathleen B. Blanco
with your concerns.
The Kisatchie National Forest belongs to ALL of us. We need to get involved NOW to help save Louisiana's only national forest, before it is paved over in the name of "progress."
"Get the Mercury out of our fish" campaign
The Delta Chapter continues a campaign to hold state agencies accountable for testing fish across the state for mercury contamination, for issuing fish consumption advisories in a prompt and responsible manner, for notifying the public of fish advisories, for testing the human population for mercury poisoning due to eating fish, and for identifying sources of mercury to the environment and working to reduce emissions.
The Sierra Club worked closely with LWF and other conservation organizations to help the Louisiana Departments of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), and Health and Hospitals (LDHH) to obtain funds from the Legislature to expand their mercury testing program and provide public education on mercury. We produced a fact sheet on mercury contamination, and distributed it at the Louisiana Environmental Educators Symposium, Louisiana Hunting and Fishing Day, Earth Day events, and meetings and talks to other groups. We also participated in writing two brochures printed by the state agencies and distributed to o.b. doctors and pediatricians, public health units, fishers, and the general public.
Working with LWF and other hunting and fishing groups, the Sierra Club wrote letters requesting signs at government-operated boat landings advising fishers of fish consumption advisories, and demanded replies and justification for refusal from LDEQ, LDWF, and LDHH. The Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) passed a resolution supporting the request, as did the St. Tammany Parish Police Jury. This issue is ongoing, as the LDEQ has tentatively agreed to honor the request, but signs have yet to be placed. The Sierra Club birddogged LDHH to ensure that a survey of mercury in human blood took place and was publicized. We continue to call for the release of the LDHH report on the results of their survey.
Dr. Barry Kohl presented a talk on mercury pollution in the Pearl River at a Sierra Club-sponsored conference "Rivers of the Florida Parishes: Water Quality, Past, Present, and Future." Dr. Kohl has also begun investigating sources of mercury contamination in sediments by obtaining data from LDEQ and making a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of the Coast Guard.
The Sierra Club kept informed of LDEQ's placement of wet deposition monitors to track mercury contamination in air as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program. We also wrote to DEQ requesting that they map known possible sources of mercury. They promptly complied with this request and presented the results at the Tulane Environmental Law Conference in February 1998. Although LDWF wished to remove all information on fish consumption advisories from the Fishing Regulations rule book, Sierra Club action ensured that this important information remained in the book and available to fishers.
Sierra Club has continued to press for advisories where needed, reviewing LDEQ data and questioning LDHH advisory decisions. Sierra Club has worked successfully with other organizations to educate the public about mercury contamination in fish. The Sierra Club and LWF released two national reports, "Gone Fishing," and "Fish Without Fear", which received press and television coverage in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Save Our Swamp: Baton Rouge bypass? Just say whoa!
When a proposed interstate bypass around Baton Rouge threatened homes and natural areas such as Alligator Bayou, Spanish Lake, Bayou Manchac, and wetlands along the Amite River, the Sierra Club joined other groups and individuals in a coalition called the Alliance for Responsible Transportation (ART). In addition to resolutions passed by the Sierra Club and LWF, ART produced fact sheets, ran newspaper ads, initiated a postcard campaign and petition to public officials, issued statements, and produced The Baton Rouge Bypass: A Citizens' Report. This report, detailing why the bypass wouldn't solve traffic congestion problems, was released to government officials, media, and elected representatives. ART and the Sierra Club kept media attention focused on the issue. A press conference at the Louisiana Legislature with Rep. John "Juba" Diez, chair of the House Transportation Committee, resulted in the headline "Bypass plan declared dead."
Take a moment to protect our remaining Cypress forests:
The Delta Chapter has long taken a stand in opposition to cypress trees being cut strictly to be ground into landscape mulch. Now we all have an opportunity to do something that can really make a difference - defend the Final Draft Report to the Governor of Louisiana from the Science Working Group on Coastal Wetland Forest Conservation and Use.
The scientists found that cypress rarely regenerates on its own and the young trees that do sprout are subject to consumption by nutria, excessive flooding, salinity intrusion, invasive species taking over, etc., significantly reducing their chances of survival. Cypress forests are now in the same category as pine forests that have very different rates of regeneration! IF WE VALUE CYPRESS FORESTS WE HAVE LEFT, THEY MUST BE RE-DESIGNATED NOW! It will be too late after they've been "harvested".
Simply go online to http://www.coastalforestswg.lsu.edu/ and click on the line reading "LCA Final Report" to read the report (it's long, but please see Page 7 in particular). Click on "Public Input" on the left side of the page to send your comments by e-mail, or to get the mailing address.
Please send written comments to be included in the public record to the Gov. Advisory Panel on Coastal Forests at: Fax : (225) 342-5214 or E-mail : email@example.com It's probably best to get them in before July 25 when the Advisory Panel meets again.
If you prefer, the Sierra Club can forward your comments for you. Simply follow this link. You will be taken to an online comment form that will be forwarded upon completion. This service is brought to you courtesy of the Baton Rouge Group of the Sierra Club.
Protecting special places: Alligator Bayou
A Sierra Club sponsored Earth Day event at Alligator Bayou, K.I.S.S. the Earth Day (Keep it Scenic and Swampy) highlighted the natural beauty and public value of wetland areas and swamps. Press releases, advertising, and flyers helped publicize the event. Concurrent radio advertising highlighted the threats to the places we live and the places we love. Postcards distributed on the day of the event targeted local officials and their responsibility to help prevent wetland destruction.
Protecting water quality statewide
The Honey Island Group of the Sierra Club, along with Southeastern University, presented a conference on "Rivers of the Florida Parishes: Water Quality Past, Present, and Future." Speakers included government officials, academics, and representatives of state agencies and public interest groups. A synopsis of the conference is available on the group's web site.
The Baton Rouge Group of the Sierra Club initiated "Bayoukeepers", an ongoing water quality testing program and canoe trip at Alligator Bayou. Our kick-off canoe/sampling trip was covered by the Baton Rouge Advocate, as well as the Sierra Club Planet. Harold Schoeffler and the Acadiana Group also conducted water quality testing in the Vermillion River.
A lawsuit filed against EPA by the Sierra Club and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network resulted in a judgment that EPA and DEQ must set Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL's) on 255 water bodies in Louisiana, a requirement that should have been completed by 1979 under the 1972 Clean Water Act. TMDL's establish an overall limit to the amount of pollution that can be discharged from all sources to a particular water body, providing more comprehensive protection for water quality than individual permits.
Protecting our air: GTX = 823 Tons of toxic air pollution per year
The Sierra Club is working with the citizens of Amelia and Morgan City to publicize facts about the public health hazard of re-permitting the Marine Shale Processors hazardous waste incinerator. Communities across Louisiana who are impacted by chemical waste united at a Sierra Club press conference outside the Republican Governor's Convention in New Orleans. Our comments to DEQ on the draft permits for GTX pointed out, among other things, that GTX would emit over 2000 pounds of mercury to the air each year in an area where high levels of mercury have been detected in fish.
Threats to wild places: Urban sprawl
A national Sierra Club report, The Dark Side of the American Dream: The Costs and Consequences of Urban Sprawl, detailed the environmental impacts of uncontrolled urban growth. Nationwide and local press coverage made urban sprawl a topic of serious public discussion and helped elevate ideas for solutions such as "Smart Growth" and "New Urbanism." A resolution passed by the Baton Rouge Group and presented to the Advocate editorial board suggested transit-oriented development and transportation alternatives.
Transportation choices for a better environment
ART and the Sierra Club continue to work together to promote transportation alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles. Members attended meetings of the Capital Transportation Corporation and promoted better bus service for Baton Rouge. Mr. R. J. Goebel with the Capital Region Planning Commission spoke to the groups about the Transportation Improvement Plan.
ART and the Sierra Club also sponsored a Park n Ride to an LSU football game - to help relieve traffic congestion and to promote the use of buses. The Tiger Stadium Park n Ride was expanded to cover all LSU home games in 1999, and will be used to help build public acceptance of transportation alternatives to cars.
The two groups also cooperated to release a report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, Mean Streets 1998: Children at Risk. This report identified Louisiana as the sixth most dangerous state for child pedestrians. Press releases prior to this event resulted in newspaper and extensive television coverage of pedestrian issues.
Building a public demand for natural resource protection
Sierra Club staff and volunteers were active in many other areas of natural resource protection. Sierra Club reports released locally detailed the threat to public health of cancer-causing emissions, and the threat to water quality and drinking water of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO's). Members attended and raised questions at public meetings such those held on Governor Foster's Vision 2020 plan. The Sierra Club lobbyist and legislative program were active at the Louisiana Legislature. Local group newsletters, statewide newsletters, and national publications help to educate our members and the public about threats to Louisiana's natural resources, and what citizens can do to protect them.
Delta Chapter gives a damn to prevent a dam:
The Delta Chapter opposes a proposed recreational reservoir in Washington Parish (opens a PDF file in a new window).
Go to http://www.angelfire.com/gundam/reservoir/ for details on proposed reservoirs all over the state.
Steve Roberts: firstname.lastname@example.org 504-982-1141
Conservation issue email addresses:
FOR OUR FAMILIES, FOR OUR FUTURE!