This panel and more will be presented on two stages at the Rising Tide 7 Conference on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
3 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Panel Discussion: Oil & Water
Dr. Thomas is the past president of the Association of Nature Center Administrators and has served on the Accreditation Commission of the American Association of Museums, and as chair of the Environmental Advisory Committee for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Thomas received his doctorate in vertebrate zoology from Texas A&M University and holds adjunct professorships at the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, and Louisiana State University. http://www.loyno.edu/lucec/
On August 29, 2012, South Louisiana underwent a sobering exercise in deja vu when Hurricane Isaac's storm surge nearly matched that of Katrina causing major damage outside of the federal levee system and catching many residents by surprise. Was Isaac an aberration or was it a "reality check" for a region whose decimated coastal wetlands no longer protect inhabited areas from even the most common storms?
When Isaac turned out traces of the recent BP Macondo oil disaster with its surge it left a calling card of one of a main contributor to the growing threat to coastal communities. According to the Times-Picayune's landmark 2002 special report, Washing Away, oil and gas exploration has been responsible for "a third to more than half of the erosion that has occurred along Louisiana's coast in the past 100 years, when more than 1 million acres of Louisiana's coast, mostly wetlands, have eroded -- an area the size of Rhode Island."
The boom rush to develop Louisiana's oil and gas wealth has taken a toll not only on the land itself but also on the people and wildlife who inhabit it. Coastal residents, fisherman, and clean up workers report chronic health impacts of exposure to oil and chemicals associated with its production. And despite the barrage of BP funded advertising from tourism promoters, many questions remain about the health of coastal fisheries as well as the consequences of consuming their product.
In 2012 a salt dome operated by a gas production company collapsed into a chemical sinkhole demonstrating once again the risks the industry poses to nearby communities do not exist only in myth. The consequences of exploiting Louisiana's vast mineral wealth in oil and gas are threatening to destroy its natural wealth in wildlife, fisheries, and the communities built around them. Can Louisiana find a way to tame the hazards of an economy that mixes oil and water? Or is it already too late?
Moderater: Robert Thomas
Robert A. Thomas is the director of the Center for Environmental Communication at Loyola. He served three years as the interim director of the School of Mass Communication. Thomas was the founding director of the Louisiana Nature Center, where he served as the liaison for the community in information pertaining to science education, environmental issues, and natural history.
- Wilma Subra - Committed to protecting the environment and the health and safety of citizens, Wilma Subra started Subra Company in 1981. Subra Company is a chemistry lab and environmental consulting firm in New Iberia, LA. Mrs. Subra provides technical assistance to citizens, across the United States and some foreign countries, concerned with their environment by combining technical research and evaluation. This information is then presented to community members so that strategies may be developed to address their local struggles.
Utilizing the information gained from community involvement, the needs identified are translated into policy changes at the State and Federal level through service on multi-stake holder committees. She has just completed a seven year term as Vice-Chair of the Environmental Protection Agency National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT), a five year term on the National Advisory Committee of the U.S. Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation and a six year term on the EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) where she served as a member of the Cumulative Risk and Impacts Working Group of the NEJAC Council, and chaired the NEJAC Gulf Coast Hurricanes Work Group.
Mrs. Subra holds degrees in Microbiology/Chemistry from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. She received the MacArthur Fellowship "Genius" Award from the MacArthur Foundation for helping ordinary citizens understand, cope with and combat environmental issues in their communities and was one of three finalist in the Environmental Category of the 2004 Volvo for Life Award. Was selected in 2011 as one of the 'Lifetime Remarkable Woman' and most recently won the 2011 Global Exchange, Human Rights Award for her ongoing work with the BP Oil Spill and the communities affected by it.
- Marylee Orr- Executive Director: Louisiana Environmental Action Network http://leanweb.org/, Orr is one of the co-founders of LEAN, which was formed in 1986. Marylee Orr has led LEAN for most of its twenty five years. Marylee didn't intend to work for the environment. In fact, her background was quite eclectic: she worked with Head Start, in real estate, and later owned an art gallery. Her life changed when her son was born with a respiratory illness that makes it incredibly hard for him to breathe. Marylee found inspiration in her son, and wanted to help people who were less prepared to advocate for themselves and the environment around them. An EPA report credits LEAN and Orr with giving a voice to the people concerned about releases of toxic chemicals from local facilities. Orr attributes her motivation to the constant positive pressure from the members, board, and staff to hold polluting facilities accountable.
- Mike Robichaux - Len Bahr of LA Coast Post writes Michael Robichaux, M.D., is a practicing physician from Raceland, Louisiana, who is known affectionately as ‘Dr. Mike’ by thousands of his patients and friends up and down the bayou. When this indefatigable and passionate 65 year-old former LSU football star, one term state senator, part time environmental evangelist and full time physician speaks, it always pays to listen.
- Aaron Viles - Deputy Director Gulf Restoration Network http://healthygulf.org/, Aaron leads GRN ’s response to the BP drilling disaster and the organization’s efforts to protect and restore coastal habitats throughout the Gulf. Aaron began his work for the environment while studying biology at the University of Washington and worked for many years as a Regional Field Director for U.S. PIRG. Aaron serves on the Executive Committee of the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Board of Advisors of the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health, and the Marine Fish Conservation Network. He is a graduate of Green Corps: The Field School for Environmental Organizing, a fellow of the Loyola Institute for Environmental Communications, and served on Governor Bobby Jindal’s environmental transition team. He has appeared on CNN, the PBS NewsHour, NBC News, CNBC, and has been quoted in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today and many other newspapers and media outlets.