Dumping on Louisiana’s poorest communities


It’s something of a mixed blessing working as an environmental attorney in Louisiana. On one hand, the power and prevalence of the state’s oil refineries, offshore drilling and chemical plants means that there’s no shortage of environmental cases to handle. On the other hand, it’s been simply heartbreaking to watch what the rise of locals call “Cancer Alley”...

La. is “Losing Ground,” and Big Oil is a big reason why


A lot of folks in Louisiana are talking today — the 9th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall — about a major investigation by the New Orleans-based website, The Lens, and the award-winning investigative-reporting outfit, ProPublica, looking at the dramatic loss of wetlands in my native state. Perhaps the most jaw-dropping element of the project is an interactive map that...

Feds: Drilling for oil in La. wetlands may be a dumb idea


It looks like public officials are finally wising up when it comes to the ill-advised plan to bring fracking to the environmentally sensitive lands of South Louisiana. As I’ve noted in this space previously, a locally based company called Helis Oil and Gas wants to launch the region’s first hydraulic fracturing site in St. Tammany Parish, just north of Lake Pontchartrain. Residents...

Big Oil digs deeper in La. — will it be any different this time?


When I started practicing environmental law out of New Orleans in the late 1980s, the Deep South was still scarred by the last big oil rush. The Arab oil embargo and spike in prices during the 1970s had sparked a big boom in the Gulf Coast oil patch, but a decade later the price had plummeted and many of the wells were sealed off. What the oil giants left behind would keep me busy as a lawyer for...

Please don’t frack Louisiana


I’ve traveled a lot, for work and for pleasure, and I’ve yet to see a state as beautiful as Louisiana — or as environmentally sensitive. And yet because the state is so rich with resources — not just oil and natural gas but salt and other chemical building blocks — there is always intense pressure to exploit our ecology, often with disastrous consequences. The...

Stopping fracking: The air war


As recently as five years ago, few Americans had even heard of fracking. The controversial process for freeing pockets of trapped natural gas or oil from deep shale deposits — which was not economically viable using conventional drilling — was only well known to industry insiders, who pushed special protection for fracking through Congress back in 2006. When the landmen and the first...

The world finally sees what we’ve been watching in Bayou Corne


Over the last 12-plus months, I’ve written numerous blog posts about the situation in and around the small Louisiana town of Bayou Corne, where warning signs of earth tremors and methane odors gave way to a sinkhole that eventually grew to the size of the Louisiana Superdome and has kept on growing. One subplot in all my writing about the sinkhole — the result of a salt-dome mining...

“There’s an incredible amount of oil that’s still out there”


Earlier this year, the Coast Guard and officials in three states that were heavily affected by the BP oil spill in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon — Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — suspended their active spill cleanup efforts. To the casual observer — especially to an outsider who doesn’t follow news of the Gulf Coast but who’s been bombarded by BP’s...

It’s a start: La. agency takes on Big Oil over wetlands


Much of the work that I do as an environmental attorney based in my hometown of New Orleans is animated by one thing: Big Oil has run roughshod over the Gulf Coast, and especially the state of Louisiana, for more than a century. Whether it’s oil companies dumping radioactive pipe on unsuspecting clean-up workers and pouring radium-laced water into unlined pits, or leaving behind a massive...

The Gulf oil spill that’s been going on for 9 years!


I’ve written many times about the aerial flights in the Gulf by Bonny Schumaker of the group On Wings of Care. Since the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in 2010, Bonny has spent considerable time here on the Gulf Coast, documenting the truth about the BP oil spill. It was Bonny who played a key role in alerting both federal authorities as well as the media to the presence of continuing oil...

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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