In an article by DeSmog, Julie Dermansky detailed a harrowing scene: miles and miles of oil sheen in Louisiana’s wetlands. Many don’t take into account that the area of Louisiana I live in is called “Cancer Alley” for a reason — that reason is the fossil fuel industry. There are many oil and gas plants along the banks of our rivers and waterways. Not just plants but pipelines, tanks, wells, rigs, and more. The oil and gas industry is one of the top job providers in Louisiana. I have memories of friends whose family members worked the rigs. Our state is entwined deeply with this toxic industry. This is why, when I came across Dermansky’s article, I was not surprised. Yes, I was saddened, but not shocked.
Dermansky documented the oil sheen in our waterways along the bayous from Cameron, which is the town and parish where Laura made initial landfall and wiped the town out, all the way to Lake Charles. She documented the sheen as far east as New Iberia, which is 130 miles west of New Orleans.
I can not stress enough how bad this is. These oil sheens were caused by the storm and became visible once the floodwaters receded in areas such as Grand Chenier and Cameron. In her article, she asks the question: “How much oil did Hurricane Laura’s impact cause to spill with its powerful winds, rain, and storm surge?” Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Patrick Courreges, told DeSmog that it was too early to know. “We are just 10 days out,” he said on September 8.
The storm’s surge wasn’t as high as predicted, but its coastal flooding and 150 miles per hour winds destroyed towns, cities, and our coastline. It should be stressed that there were more than 1,400 oil wells in Laura’s path — which is why Dermansky was not surprised that slicks of oil were found along the coast after the storm, nor was I.
“The vast area of coastline now shimmering with oil and crumpled metal was a reminder of what any strong storm can do when it collides with the area of the Gulf Coast dotted with oil and gas production sites,” wrote Dermansky in her article. To me, that visual description hit home and I wanted to add to it. I live just 60 miles from there. Not only do we have a humanitarian crisis that the national media is refusing to even talk about, but we have a major environmental crisis that is pretty much unknown except to those in the area, like Dermansky, who are documenting it for all to see — if we choose to open our eyes and look, that is.
— DeSmog (@DeSmog) September 9, 2020
Another issue Dermansky brings up is the thousands of orphaned oil wells that are no longer in production and have been abandoned by the fossil fuel industry. DNR’s Office of Conservation addressed the sites — it’s pretty much Louisiana’s only entity that would think to consider checking on their conditions. Courreges told DeSmog that, “Staff determined that approximately 480 orphaned well sites were located in the main path of Hurricane Laura and assigned inspectors to begin checking those sites the weekend after the storm passed. Though dealing with limitations such as remote site locations and road closures, through the first week following the storm, approximately 160 site visits have been made by inspectors.”
Why Does It Seem Like No One Is Talking About Louisiana’s Crisis?
It does seem as if we are being ignored. In light of everything that is going on, the mainstream media goes for what gets it the highest ratings. I get it — they have to make money. It’s a messed up truth, but we’ve all gotta eat, as my friend often tells me. In other words, the more horrifying a disaster or crisis is, then the more coverage the media can give it.
Unfortunately, a hurricane hitting Lake Charles, a small city, is not as important to the media as it would be if the storm had hit Houston or New Orleans. Perhaps this is why Mayor Nic of Lake Charles was dismissed — it was in favor of attention-getting headlines that would emotionally manipulate the reader into clicking a link. Thousands of people without power and water during the intense heat wasn’t bad enough, it seems.
And it also seems that no one really noticed the oil sheen floating on our waterways. When I saw the tweets from the Cajun Navy about Elon Musk donating to help with hurricane relief, I felt joy that someone was finally paying attention. However, the silence of the mainstream media despite the cries of those affected by this storm is a stark and disturbing contrast. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are too many disasters — more than the media can keep focus on for more than a day. And the scary thing is that this problem will only get worse due to global heating and climate catastrophe.
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