October 5, 2014

"The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever/A quixotic historian tries to hold oil and gas companies responsible for Louisiana’s disappearing coast."

There's a lot of fascinating material in this NYT Magazine article by Nathaniel Rich, but I'm just going to pick out a few things that might motivate you to read the whole thing rather than to think: New York Times Environmentalism.

1. It's not about global warming or carbon emissions. Louisiana is losing land at a bizarrely fast rate, but it's because of a reversal of the process that built the land up in the first place: "As the Mississippi shifted its course over the millenniums, spraying like a loose garden hose, it deposited sand and silt in a wide arc. This sediment first settled into marsh and later thickened into solid land. But what took 7,000 years to create has been nearly destroyed in the last 85. Dams built on the tributaries of the Mississippi, as far north as Montana, have reduced the sediment load by half. Levees penned the river in place, preventing the floods that are necessary to disperse sediment across the delta. The dredging of two major shipping routes, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, invited saltwater into the wetlands’ atrophied heart." None of that is attributable to the gas and oil industry, but they did dig a lot of wells, canals, and pipelines that seem to have accelerated the inflow of the saltwater.

2. The title of the article reveals its hook: A supposedly heroic underdog, in this case a political journalist named John Barry, who spent a long time writing a book called "The Ambition and the Power" and was in the middle of writing another book — "Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul" — when he got distracted by Hurricane Katrina and concluded that "people died because of cynical decisions made by shortsighted politicians drawing on bad science." Back in those days, Bobby Jindal was a member of Congress, and Barry met with him and "left in total disgust." Is Barry contemplative and public-spirited, or is Barry a politico who hates Bobby Jindal? The fact that the second option even occurs to me while reading this article — framed on Barry's heroics — suggests that's the correct one.

3. Stray football hate:  "When discussing his public battles, he often summons football metaphors. 'Writing is pretty isolated,' he said. 'I enjoy the action. I like to fight.'" Where's the football metaphor? Action? Fighting?

4. Stray intellectualism: "For Barry, the battle for New Orleans’s survival would be fought along the Santayana-Hegel axis." Santayana is George Santayana, best known for the aphorism "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Hegel, unlike Santayana, apparently needs no first name (or, really, would require 3 more names if we weren't on a single-name basis with him)...



... Hegel — doesn't he look like he's wearing glasses when he's not? — said a lot of things. Whatever Hegel's most famous quote is, he also said — and this is the source for the concept of a Santayana-Hegel axis "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history."

5. Flare up of bad science in an article impugning the bad science of others: "The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world." (Thanks to The Drill SGT, in the comments, for pointing to that.) Connected waters — such as the Gulf of Mexico and all of the oceans of the world — rise in one big, flat unit. "The sea" may be encroaching on the land in Louisiana faster than anywhere else in the world, but that's mainly because the land isn't getting continually regenerated with mud from upstream. I read that sentence as an effort to slip in some global warming alarmism, which, as noted in #1, supra, is not what this story is about.

6. Louisiana has a Coastal Master Plan, which is supposed to cost $50 billion, with $20 billion of that coming from the BP oil spill settlement. Barry's lawsuit is based on a calculation about who should pay the remaining $30 billion: "Because the industry conceded responsibility for 36 percent of land loss, it should pay its part: $18 billion would be a start." That's a calculation of the damages. A successful lawsuit requires a basis for liability. The liability argument is premised on 100 years of violating permits. But whether that's enough to win or not, the article reveals that the lawyers "hoped, perhaps quixotically, that after filing their lawsuit, other parishes and levee boards across the state would join the effort, with the goal of achieving a larger settlement with the entire industry." Is filing a frighteningly huge and complex lawsuit with the aim of forcing your opponent to settle anything like anything that happened in "Don Quixote"?

7. Not getting the Rotary Club. Barry, on the advice of a lobbyist, gave presentations at Rotary Club meetings. The NYT writer ascribes this thought to Barry: "If he could sway hostile crowds at Rotary Clubs, shouldn’t he be able to persuade enough legislators to kill a bill?" (The bill would deprive the regional levee board, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, of power to bring the suit.) My experience with the Rotary Club is limited a single event here in Madison, but there's one thing that was outstandingly clear: These people are dedicated to principles of friendliness and goodwill. Barry encountered "hostile crowds at Rotary Clubs"? But he swayed them? I find that hard to believe. I think it's more likely that he felt — or could tell himself and others — that he swayed people because he had reason to believe they didn't like his lawsuit, but they evinced the civility and good feeling to which the club dedicates itself.

8. The meat of the article has to do with the Louisiana legislature considering a series of bills aimed at depriving the plaintiff of standing to bring the lawsuit. The NYT writer outlines a story of oil and gas company lobbyists and legislators changing their minds over small favors like "funding for a new roof for a V.F.W. hall in his district." I see a lot of compression in this sentence: "Some of the bills were seen as overly broad, raising the fear that they might endanger the incipient BP settlement; others were voted down over constitutional concerns." Were minds changed or was legislative text refined? In the end a bill passed, Governor Bobby Jindal signed it, and the last hope for the lawsuit is an argument to the federal judge that the bill is unconstitutional (or that it doesn't, on its text, deprive the levee board of standing in federal court). The judge is Nannette Jolivette Brown, who was appointed by Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Bobby Jindal is working on repopulating the board, which is currently 5-4 in favor of continuing its lawsuit.

9. There's political pressure on Jindal to fund the Coastal Master Plan, and the end of the lawsuit could focus attention on that. Having promoted the lawsuit-ending legislation, he could see a glorious self-interest in balancing his environmental image by extracting that $18 billion from the oil and gas companies. His term ends in January 2016, a presidential election year. Jindal's stalled at 3% in the polls. Impress us, Bobby!

10. Barry was a member of the levee board when the lawsuit was filed, and he'd been accused of joining the board for "ulterior motives." So he pledged not to write about the lawsuit. But now, as the last paragraph of the article tells us, he's considering breaking that pledge. So the hero of the NYT Magazine article will be the (pledge-breaking) hero of his own book? Last sentence of the article: "But John Barry, John Barry insists, would be just a minor character." Damn, a paraphrase! I'm going to infer that our hero didn't get the words out quite so elegantly.

149 comments:

tim in vermont said...

Loss is a powerful emotion, one more of our emotions from the period of our evolution when we lived in small bands, like zero sum economics, that the drives the left.

The Judeo-Christian religion is based on a story of loss, expulsion from the Garden of Eden. But don't tell the global warming "believers" that their position is religious.

It is just a stupid

KLDAVIS said...

"Levees penned the river in place, preventing the floods that are necessary..."

So, he wants floods? Which terrible corporation will he blame those on?

What about his beloved small town fisherman that are purposefully flooding some low-lying land?

Curious George said...

"It's not about global warming..."

Rookie mistake.

phx said...

"Loss is a powerful emotion; the Judeo-Christian religion is based on a story of loss.

Global warming climate change is a story of loss.

Therefore 'believers' in global warming are also religious and the theory has no more validity than religion."

Nothing stupid about this argument.

PB Reader said...

How does the historian establish standing?

Humperdink said...

Well the commie pinko lefties are losing the global warming battle and they know it.
Too many Paul Ehrlich type pronouncements/predictions are blowing up in their faces (temps rising/arctic ice melting etc..), need to move to other targets. Deep-pocketed ones at that.

Anonymous said...

"By its own estimate, the oil and gas industry concedes that it has caused 36 percent of all wetlands loss in southeastern Louisiana."

I do not have a problem with the oil industry paying a like percentage of the solution, rather than the default being the taxpayers. And, yes, I understand that the costs will be paid at the gas pump etc -- I would prefer to pay closer to the cause-and-effect than the nebulous wallet of government.

I am,however, open to the idea of a human shield of environmentalists standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the muck to prevent future storms.

RecChief said...

"None of that is attributable to the gas and oil industry, but it's impossible to sue the Army Corps of Engineers, so we will go after BIG OIL, cause that's where the money is, and no one is sympathetic to BIG OIL"

There, fixed it for him.

I scanned the article. Just your standard environmentalist bullshit. It might not be standard NYT global warming bullshit but it is pretty standard NYT environmentalist bullshit. It's a story of one lawyer's attempt to bring BIG OIL to heel (and gain a large fee) and I see that Koch Induststries!! makes an appearance. typical. I don't see where he is doing this pro bono but I may have missed it.

Wow there is quite a bit to quote in here. I don't have the time to read the whole thing let alone quote all the passages that show this is standard enviromentalist bullshit. You may not characterize it as a global warming story, Althouse, but the global warming hysteria is really just a part of the "Humans are Wrecking the Planet!!" hysteria since the environmentalists used an italian actor to cry while wearing buckskin to tell us all that we are wreckers. You should go back to Solzhenitsyn's In The First Circle and The Gulag Archipelago and then go read about the Engineer Purge where engineers and anyone involved in Industry were scapegoated for the failures of government planning boards.

The Left has no new ideas, they only recycle the old.

Michael said...

Barry' s "Rising Tide" is a great book on the Mississippi River, the great flood and the resulting diaspora of blacks from the Delta to Chicago and points north. It is a great read and gives credence to his understanding of the makeup of southern Louisiana.

Carol said...

All those dams and levees did screw up everything but the short term gains in food production were enormous.

No one eats in the long run.

Anonymous said...

I imagine enacting the solution would be a hell of a lot cheaper if we still had slavery. Pluses and minuses.

The Drill SGT said...

The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world.

Duh no. The sea isn't rising and no, the land isn't sinking.

Wisconsin is no longer doing its part in sending as much soil down to fill in the swamp holes and the ocean continues to eat away the swamp.

PS: note the article is for and against levees. Good levees are the ones that protect NOLA. Bad levees are the ones that keep the delta areas protected.

RecChief said...

I wonder what Mary Landrieu has to say about this suit?

Anonymous said...

Re: "Good levees are the ones that protect NOLA."

I am taken with the idea of New Orleans as an underwater theme park: Mardi Gras Under the Sea. Hooters with Mermaids.

Anonymous said...

The Mississippi Delta is America's Vagina. Extrapolate as you will.

RecChief said...

"Wisconsin is no longer doing its part in sending as much soil down to fill in the swamp holes and the ocean continues to eat away the swamp."

I wonder if the Left can recognize that conservation practices enacted during the FDR administration play a part? Those, in concert with levees reaching far upstream, the Missouri River for example (you should read Lewis' description of the Missouri emptying into the Mississippi and see it today to see how much silt is not going downriver). The writer, and the lawyer, seem to absolve all those public works projects. At least of financial liability.

I think it's because the lawyer wants SOMEONE that he is able to file suit against to be held responsible.

Anonymous said...

This is all part of the white man's plan to erode the earth from right beneath black people's feet. Nefarious.

Hagar said...

I have also read that it is all that silt that is causing the land to sink as the weight of it slowly puts a dimple in the mantle.

Bob Boyd said...

So many skies are falling these days. So many Chickens Little rushing about.
Where's Colonel Sanders when we need him?

Hagar said...

Sort of like the north end of the Great Lakes area is still rising after the last glaciation, and as the north end rises, the south end is slightly lowered as the rim formed by the glaciation depression subsides.
Eventually, the Red River of the North will become a long, narrow lake, and then reverse flow, and flow south.

Humperdink said...

Notice when public opinion turns against the lefties, when do they run?

Why the court system, of course.

Anonymous said...

To quote Jan from the Brady Bunch:

"Marsh-a Marsh-a Marsh-a!"

Bob Boyd said...

America is losing the ability to give a shit at a bizarrely fast rate, but it's because of a reversal of the process that built up the ability to spend money on Causes in the first place.
The greedy Alarm Industry has tapped into our natural charitable impulses so many times that the nation's reserve of concern is being dangerously depleted. Studies show that Big Alarm has extracted more than $470 billion from the US economy in the last two decades. This massive onslaught has left air pockets in our pockets while at the same time a rising tide of cynicism has flooded our fragile world view.

BDNYC said...

Another tired leftist theme touched on is the supposed corruptibiloty or conflicted nature of part-time legislators. The left wants perpetual rules makers, because having to earn money in the private sector away from the Capitol building is just plain wrong. The public interest deserves no less than constant attention and tinkering! Of course, there's no possibility that working full time on a relatively meager legislator's salary will make a person vulnerable to bribery, right?

New York assemblyman and state senators are the paragon of selfless devotion to the public interest.

tim in vermont said...

I did phrase that poorly, turns out that writing what I actually meant to say will only come down to a TL;DR.

So I will admit that my post was not of the highest quality, and will strive to do better.

rehajm said...

Move above sea level, away from the fucking water.

Problem solved.

Skeptical Voter said...

Well figures don't lie but liars can figure. Mr. Barry thinks that the oil industry should pay $18 billion of the $50 billion cost because "it's responsible for 36% of the damages".

What is BP? Chopped liver? Or is it part of the oil industry, and doesn't the $20 billion BP has already paid (against the $50 billion cost) more than cover the oil industry's tab?

From Inwood said...

Phx


What I see Tim saying is:

Religion is based more on faith than on fact.

CAGW is based more on faith than on fact.

Thus CAGW is similar to a religious belief.

There. Fixed.

Bob Boyd said...

BP is the Piers Morgan of oil companies.

Skeptical Voter said...

Ah shucks I forgot all about Gail Collins in the NYT this week worrying about walrus haul outs in Alaska. Villages were disappearing into the sea; ice floes in the Arctic Ocean were down so the walruses had to come on land in masses of as many as 35,000 walruses. Poor devils didn't have an ice floe to sit on. Gail's last cri de couer is that "We are all walruses now"!

Well Gail, when I see a walrus haul out on the Louisiana coast, I'll start to worry.

Bob Boyd said...

Its getting crazy out there. Competition is fierce.
Yesterday I looked out the window and The Boy Who Cried Wolf was chasing Chicken Little down the street with a hatchet.

iowan2 said...

rehajm said:

Move above sea level, away from the fucking water.

Problem solved.

This.

rehajm said...

Just waded though the story this about sums it up...

RecChief said...
I don't see where he is doing this pro bono but I may have missed it.


Alternate solution:

Loser pays

Anonymous said...

All of this is perhaps explained best by the band Mountain:

"Mississippi Queen, You know what I mean "

Except we might not all agree on knowing what he means. Is the sentiment sediment, as it were?

I find this lyrical trope problematic. Initially seemingly inclusive, its effect is actually exclusive: because the author expects you to 'know what he means' he doesn't have to spell it out, which can leave one feeling on the outside looking in. Indeed, one may suspect that author doesn't have a meaning at all, and is purposely obscuring that fact through elision. Elision: somewhat like erosion. Stay on topic.

This may seem minor, but here is a partial list of artists who have employed this rhetorical sleight-of-hand:

Neil Diamond
Lee Michaels
Edie Brickell
Oasis
Kanye West
Rihanna
Pitbull
AC/DC
Showaddywaddy
ABBA
Spinal Tap
Sonny Boy Williamson

- and, of course --

The Beatles.

Maybe they all indeed 'mean' the same thing: however, I find that unlikely. If Althouse were to say "you know what I mean" would all readers be in agreement?

Anyway.

Unknown said...

And at the end of the day, what will be the lawyer's cut?

Ann Althouse said...

If I deleted your post and you don't understand why, please email me.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he should have stuck to that second book.

Anonymous said...

Re: "Last sentence of the article: "But John Barry, John Barry insists, would be just a minor character.""

If you 'know what he means'.

Terry said...

Carol wrote:
All those dams and levees did screw up everything but the short term gains in food production were enormous.
I've noticed that in much ecology-friendly "science" they have the same blind spot. They will mention, for example, that deforestation by herdsmen caused some disaster, and give the scope of that disaster in great detail, but never address the issue of the disaster that would have occurred if the herdsmen had not caused the deforestation. Starvation, grinding poverty, etc.

Anonymous said...

And global warming as a theory for some folks seems as follows:

Take any change in the natural world, apply global warming as a theory as its cause. Voila!

Reinforce your underlying anti-industrial, anti-corporate, collectivist, red gone green beliefs and ideological commitments.

Call it science or 'majority opinion' and just keep pushing.

Bless your hearts.

Anonymous said...

The John Barry who orchestrated this lawsuit is not the same John Barry who orchestrated the James Bond theme. To clarify.

Hagar said...

And driving BP out of business will benefit Louisiana how?

In the end, whether it is government or businesss, we extract money from, it is we, the customers, that wind up having to pay for it.

James Pawlak said...

The failure of one/more diversion dams on the lower river could result in New Orleans becoming a city without a river.

Terry said...

All these regulations on oil companies and banks and they still make money! It's almost as though the money the regs cost doesn't come out of dividends, stock value, and high-buck salaries of executives.
I wonder where it does come from?

William said...

While many politicians are scumbags, there does seem to be an exceptionally large scumbag cluster among Louisiana politicians. Whether this is due to environmental or organic factors, it is hard to say, but there is definitely an abnormal cluster.......The fact that the author points out Jindal as being exceptionally disgusting doesn't bolster the author's claims to objectivity. The author himself may be part of the scumbag cluster.

rhhardin said...

There's water rights law but not mud rights law.

It would seem you're entitled to the mud that's already there, but not future mud.

William said...

I once tried to read a book by Hegel. I didn't get very far, but I made the effort. Anyway, I do know by heart one Hegel quotation: "Time is the moving image of eternity." That's certainly worth thinking about, especially now that the pot consumption laws have been so loosened.

SteveR said...

One nice thing about having an education in Geology, is there are a lot of writers and politicians I can see right through.

Fritz said...

The Eastern Shore of Maryland has much the same issues with marsh lands and barrier islands disappearing into the Bay. Unfortunately, the big oil companies have nothing to do with it, so the environmentalists have no one to blame. Currently, their gaze is fixed on the farmers, who they are trying to ruin economically by outlawing fertilizers.

chickelit said...

Re the silting problem and dams: Why can't silt be dredged and released over the top of each dam, instead of allowing it to pool behind each dam? The river still flows and the silt will too.

I read somewhere once that there's a tremendous amount of silt behind the Hoover dam. This needs to be released as well, but slowly. There's a tremendous amount of calcium in that silt which, withheld, will eventually starve those aquatic offshore ecosystems of shell-making material.

EDH said...

A supposedly heroic underdog, in this case a political journalist named John Barry, who spent a long time writing a book called "The Ambition and the Power" and was in the middle of writing another book — "Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul" — when he got distracted by Hurricane Katrina and concluded that "people died because of cynical decisions made by shortsighted politicians drawing on bad science." Back in those days, Bobby Jindal was a member of Congress, and Barry met with him and "left in total disgust." Is Barry contemplative and public-spirited, or is Barry a politico who hates Bobby Jindal? The fact that the second option even occurs to me while reading this article — framed on Barry's heroics — suggests that's the correct one.

Stray football hate: "When discussing his public battles, he often summons football metaphors. 'Writing is pretty isolated,' he said. 'I enjoy the action. I like to fight.'"


A lefty with writer's block determined to make his heroic mark in this life, one way or another.

How many times have we seen that before?

Anonymous said...

Who among us does not have an unfinished brief for the Great American Lawsuit sitting on the top drawer of their desk?

Freeman Hunt said...

The idea of a hostile Rotary Club gave me a good chuckle.

Luke Blanshard said...

I got stuck on the last name of the author of the article. And the answer is, yes, he's the child of Frank Rich.

chickelit said...

Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgerichte

"The History of the World is the Judgement of the World."

My favorite Hegel is actually Schiller. It's cool when a philosopher quotes a poet.

Ambrose said...

"It's not about global warming or carbon emissions."

- but somehow I expect the prescribed solution will be the same.

Mark Nielsen said...

The reason that place needs continuous addition of sediment from floods to stay above sea level is that the entire gulf region is part of what geologists call a depositional basin. It's dropping all by itself. Large parts of the city of New Orleans now lie below sea level, and global warming has nothing to do with it.

chickelit said...

betamax3000 said...
I am taken with the idea of New Orleans as an underwater theme park: Mardi Gras Under the Sea. Hooters with Mermaids.

Florida -- itself a huge delta -- pioneered this. Google "Weeki Wachee mermaids."

chickelit said...

Oil companies have the deepest pockets. That is why they get targeted for every ill. Progressives would like to nationalize them, but then look what happens.

Freder Frederson said...

The sea isn't rising and no, the land isn't sinking.

It's amazing how people with so little knowledge of the situation think they know so much.

The land south of Lake Pontchartrain is indeed sinking. While loss of sediment from the Mississippi is a cause of land loss, the land is also sinking. It is not bad science in the article. The reason the land is sinking may be in part because of all of the oil that has been sucked out of the continental shelf. Regardless of whether that is the cause, much of the land loss is caused not only by Corps of Engineer projects but the canals cut in the swamps by the oil companies, both for drilling and laying pipelines.

St. George said...

Didn't John McPhee write a book about some utterly gigantic dam/structure on the Mississippi, the gist of the book being that if that structure fails or if it valves freeze up the consequences downstream would be beyond monumental?

Freder Frederson said...

Or is it part of the oil industry, and doesn't the $20 billion BP has already paid (against the $50 billion cost) more than cover the oil industry's tab?

That is the fine and restitution for the oil spill.

Achilles said...

"The reason the land is sinking may be in part because of all of the oil that has been sucked out of the continental shelf."

I actually chuckled out loud a little on this one.

Michael K said...

"Regardless of whether that is the cause, much of the land loss is caused not only by Corps of Engineer projects but the canals cut in the swamps by the oil companies, both for drilling and laying pipelines."

Leftist stupidity is still leftist stupidity and ignoring MRGO and the Army Corps of Engineers plus the stupid NO politicians that used money for levees to build parking lots for casinos, are examples of it.

Before Hurricane Katrina, the Orleans Levee District was managed by the Orleans Levee Board. Its central mission was supposed to be flood control, but beginning in the 1930s it began to amass an array of unrelated assets, including an airport, two marinas, various commercial properties, Lakeshore Drive and adjacent parklands. It also leased dock space for a riverboat casino.

Although some of the assets generated revenue for flood protection, critics said that managing the many ventures was a distraction from the levee board's core responsibilities.


Those nefarious oil companies have taken control of Freder's brain, what there is of it anyway.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

chickelit said...
betamax3000 said...
I am taken with the idea of New Orleans as an underwater theme park: Mardi Gras Under the Sea. Hooters with Mermaids.

Florida -- itself a huge delta -- pioneered this. Google "Weeki Wachee mermaids."


If the Mississippi delta is America's vagina, Florida is certainly America's penis. We're a hermaphrodite.

Hagar said...

St. George,

I believe the Corpse of the Eggineers very much wishes the dam at the Atchafalaya had failed around 1900 -- 1920. Life on the lower Mississippi would now be so much simpler.

Of course, New Orleans and Baton Rouge would be mere small-towns, and the development would almost all have shifted over to the Atchafalaya.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Who is to pay the remaining $20 Bln?

How about an ad-valorem property tax on those thousands of square miles of land in the Mississippi drainage area no longer subject to periodic flooding?

Big Mike said...

I don't get why he's blaming oil and gas companies. If the problem is levees and dams why isn't he blaming those foolish ordinary people who perversely refuse to accept that they should be flooded out every so many years?

Hagar said...

Not to mention the barge companies, etc., who insist that the channel be kept open for navigation.

Mark Nielsen said...

Again, this is basic geology. D E P O S I T I O N A L - B A S I N. Google it. They exist and have always existed. It's how we get layers of marine sediments that are thousands (indeed, tens of thousands) of feet thick. That's what's going on there.

Freder Frederson said...

I actually chuckled out loud a little on this one.

Why do you find it so amusing.

Bob Ellison said...

A little history about the Mississippi alluvial plain.

The rivers created much of the above-sea-level land of Louisiana and other states. The Army Corps of Engineers preserved it, and Katrina and Rita knocked much of it down.

Water is the overwhelming force around there. Water, weather, wind, and work.

Freder Frederson, please provide an estimate of the amount of oil sucked above ground that made all the bad things happen.

Like shootin' catfish around here lately.

Freder Frederson said...

Leftist stupidity is still leftist stupidity and ignoring MRGO and the Army Corps of Engineers plus the stupid NO politicians that used money for levees to build parking lots for casinos, are examples of it.

You can't sue the Corps, at least not for monetary damages. The oil companies are responsible for a good portion of the wetland loss yet have contributed almost nothing to repair the damage they have caused.

Bob Ellison said...

Oh, I see that FF already did that while I was typing.

Thanks for that. It's a long article, so I'll have to take some time for it.

Freder Frederson said...

Freder Frederson, please provide an estimate of the amount of oil sucked above ground that made all the bad things happen.

Provided at the link.

Freder Frederson said...

Oh and here is the number:

"More than 150 quadrillion ft3 of natural gas and nearly 20 trillion barrels of oil have been produced from the coastal fields of Texas and Louisiana since the 1920s (Morton and Purcell 2001)."

That's a hell of a lot of oil and gas.

chickelit said...

The "meat" from Freder's link:

Conclusions

Production induced subsidence, fault movement, and wetland loss are indicated if the following situations co-occur: (1) large wetland areas become open water at the same time and in the same places as hydrocarbons are produced, (2) wetland sediments near producing fields subside rapidly beginning a few years to a decade after production rates accelerate, (3) the cumulative volumes of fluids produced cause large, rapid declines in subsurface pressures, (4) surface faults reactivated after initial production have the same orientation and direction of displacement as subsurface faults near the producing reservoirs, and (5) subsidence rates measured near the fields during production are substantially higher compared to those in surrounding areas or compared to geological rates of subsidence. Each condition by itself does not directly link wetland loss, subsidence, and hydrocarbon production, but together they are compelling evidence of causality.


I'll bet Freder only reads abstracts.

Captain Curt said...

Earlier this year, the NYT had a similar article on Bangladesh, which is fundamentally the Ganges river delta.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/29/world/asia/facing-rising-seas-bangladesh-confronts-the-consequences-of-climate-change.html?_r=0

In it, they state that sea levels are rising 10 times faster in Bangladesh than the global average, which means that 90% of the local sea level rise cannot be due to the global rise (of whatever cause). Yet the whole article is pinned on the idea that we must reduce CO2 emissions to save Bangladesh.

St. George: The book you are thinking of is John McPhee's "The Control of Nature", which covers the dilemma in detail. Basically, if we want to keep the Mississippi as a conduit for cargo from the center third of the country, we must keep the river contained, which means the old delta will tend to sink and erode away.

Michael K said...

"You can't sue the Corps, at least not for monetary damages."

Aha ! A light bulb goes on in Freder's brain. I wondered if there was any there there.

chickelit said...

Yet the whole article is pinned on the idea that we must reduce CO2 emissions to save Bangladesh.

The twin goals of CO2 reduction and wealth redistribution are explicitly linked. See for example here: link

Bob Ellison said...

Yes, Freder Frederson, those are big numbers. A little context would help. How many barrels of soil does the state of Rhode Island, say, have above sea level?

The USGS article is very interesting. I read long ago that there are areas in California that have subsided by several meters due to ground-water depletion.

Freder Frederson said...

I'll bet Freder only reads abstracts

And you deliberately misread what I wrote. I said extraction may be a cause of subsidence. Even if it isn't, the damage done by cutting canals for pipelines and oil field access in the swamps (most of the activity is offshore now but there was a huge amount of drilling in the coastal swamps and marshes in the past), is significant. As the article states, the oil companies themselves admit that 36% of the damage was caused by them.

Hagar said...

Chickelit,

All dams have a silt reserve pool good for X years, for a large dam like Hoover, I think usually 3 -- 500 years.
After that it will impinge on the flood control capacity, and something will have to be done about it.
But that will be someone else's problem -- assuming there still is somebody else around by then.

In the case of Hoover Dam, there must be other factors to be considered, since there already are plans to raise the dam to provide additional storage capacity.
Probably water and electric power for the Los Angeles basin is behind it.

After all, Freder's cousin in L.A. can be expected to throw a fit if and when his water and electric power supplies are rationed, or just plain shut off!

Freder Frederson said...

A little context would help. How many barrels of soil does the state of Rhode Island, say, have above sea level?

That's enough oil to cover Rhode Island in oil 3.3 feet deep. I didn't do the calculation for the gas.

Jupiter said...

"Duh no. The sea isn't rising and no, the land isn't sinking."

Actually, it does appear that the sea is rising in places. This is partly due to pumping water from deep wells for irrigation, removing it from the aquifers that have filled over millenia, and returning it to the oceans. It is also claimed that the oceans rise as they get warmer, due to thermal expansion. And yes, although the oceans are all connected, and water seeks its own level, that process is slow enough that some regions of the ocean are quite a bit higher than others.

Bob Ellison said...

Frederick Frederson, you did not answer my question.

Seeing Red said...

Katrina gave the US the opportunity to right the wrong. We chose not to. Should have let the environment reclaim it and built a better NOLA higher up.

Freder Frederson said...

Frederick Frederson, you did not answer my question.

The mean elevation of Rhode Island is 200 ft and the area of Rhode Island is 1212 square miles. You do the math.

David said...

A Rotary group will express hostility by yawning or in extreme cases snoring. That is about it.

It does occur to me that all this land that washed down the river once belonged to the Native Peoples. Then the White Man washed it down the river in the first place. Why don't they get a share. If you want to cut the Original Peoples out, then that land was part of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin. etc. We want our money back.

Hagar said...

Has more to do with the earth not being a perfect sphere, but is rather bumpy, and the gravitational attraction varies quite a bit.
Also the earth's crust is far from rigid, but moves up and down as well as horizontally for various reaons.

I think I remember reading that when the Waco Dam in Texas was completed, and the reservoir filled with water, the weight of the water caused an earthquake along two faultlines crossing the dam, which the Corps had not been aware of, and the center section of the dam dropped 12 feet.

Michael K said...

"After all, Freder's cousin in L.A. can be expected to throw a fit if and when his water and electric power supplies are rationed, or just plain shut off!"

Just like watching for lefty enviros to support nuclear power, I am waiting to see San Francisco, home of lefty greens like Steyer, blow up Hetch Hetchy Dam where San Francisco's water comes from.

Hagar said...

Bet the District Engineer had to go home and change underwear when that happened!

Beldar said...

Sancho Panza: Underappreciated paralegal.

Bob Ellison said...

FF, let's see. 20 trillion gallons equals about 2.7 cubic feet. Pour that much oil on Rhode Island and watch it...sink into the Atlantic Ocean.

I think you'll make a few environmentalists mad about that.

Math is hard.

Hagar said...

There is a news article up right now about how "they" are mapping the seafloors around the globe from the elevations the satellites are picking up on the ocean surfaces. Not too great accuracy, but better than anything they have had before, and doing it accurately by echo-sounding from ships would take 200 years and cost a gazillion, "they" say.

David said...

Freder Frederson said...

The land south of Lake Pontchartrain is indeed sinking. While loss of sediment from the Mississippi is a cause of land loss, the land is also sinking. It is not bad science in the article. The reason the land is sinking may be in part because of all of the oil that has been sucked out of the continental shelf. Regardless of whether that is the cause, much of the land loss is caused not only by Corps of Engineer projects but the canals cut in the swamps by the oil companies, both for drilling and laying pipelines.


I'm glad you have it all figured out Freder. The article you cite a little further below could best be summarized thus: "We have no clue as to whether oil extraction is causing subsidence."

Why is there land subsidence all over the world in places where there is no oil extraction? Why is withdrawal of water from aquifers (which happens on a far greater scale than oil extraction) not causing a similar problem?

Science consists mostly of unknowns, even in this "advanced" age. Unless there is a political point to be made, in which case certainty abounds.

Seeing Red said...

We went to the Arizona museum of science Redford narrated this piece of crap about dams and overpopulation. They want the dams gone
So the native Americans can live like they used to.

So let's dis plant millions of people for what?

cubanbob said...

"Yet the whole article is pinned on the idea that we must reduce CO2 emissions to save Bangladesh."

Why is this a problem? Bangladesh is no better than Pakistan and would anyone miss either one if they slowly disappeared?

While Fredder is all for the oil companies to pay the alleged 36% I don't see him advocating the removal of all of the dams that keep the silt from flowing down to the Delta. Perhaps that might affect him.

Stupid lawsuits like this are reason enough to institute loser pay.

broomhandle said...

"We went to the Arizona museum of science Redford narrated this piece of crap about dams and overpopulation. They want the dams gone
So the native Americans can live like they used "

Send all the Mexicans back and this might be doable

Bob Ellison said...

Let's see further. Assuming Louisiana is infinitely flat and at sea level at all places (even on the second floor), and assuming that there was a really good wall, a really good, oil-impregnable wall, much better than the one on the southern border, at its borders with Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and the Gulf of Mexico, etc., then if you poured 20 trillion gallons of oil on Louisiana, you'd sink the state in about...

...2.7 inches of oil.

That's in a century of oil extraction.

And every year, Louisiana gets some rain...

...about 60 inches of water from the sky.

A little context.

RecChief said...

"Freder Frederson said...
Leftist stupidity is still leftist stupidity and ignoring MRGO and the Army Corps of Engineers plus the stupid NO politicians that used money for levees to build parking lots for casinos, are examples of it.

You can't sue the Corps, at least not for monetary damages"


Bingo.

Freder Frederson said...

While Fredder is all for the oil companies to pay the alleged 36%

I don't why you are saying "alleged". That is the figure that the oil companies admit.

Freder Frederson said...

Why is there land subsidence all over the world in places where there is no oil extraction? Why is withdrawal of water from aquifers (which happens on a far greater scale than oil extraction) not causing a similar problem?

There is more than one cause for subsidence and water extraction does cause subsidence.

Bob Ellison said...

Don't know much about oil pumping, but I have read that modern techniques involve pushing water into the wells to push out the oil.

Water is famously non-compressible. That's why hydraulic pumps are so fashionable.

So if you're pushing fluid in to get out the fluid you want, you're maybe involved in something of a zero-subsidence game.

Don't know much about oil-pumping, as I said.

Michael K said...

"There is more than one cause for subsidence and water extraction does cause subsidence."

Sure there are communities in Pennsylvania that have serious subsidence from 1860 coal mines. I suggest you find the great grandchildren of those mine owners and sue them. Good luck.

Bob Ellison said...

Land subsidence due to groundwater depletion occurs when people in deserts like the San Joaquin Valley pump the water out of the ground, and there's only about eight inches of rain per year to make up for it.

Land subsidence due to grave-digging argument is much more severe. The digging tends to get faster over time. It's a sad and devastating trend.

Freder Frederson said...

Sure there are communities in Pennsylvania that have serious subsidence from 1860 coal mines. I suggest you find the great grandchildren of those mine owners and sue them. Good luck.

I'm not sure what is meant by this comment. Do you not think that companies should be held responsible for the damage they cause?

Kirk Parker said...

Uhhh Betamax,

Pardon me for quibbling, but shouldn't that be "Mermaids with hooters?" (People would have no interest in any other kind, would they?)

Hagar said...

20,000,000,000,000 x 42/7.48 ÷ 51,843 x 640 x 43,560 ≈ 77.7 ft.

What am I doing wrong here?

Unknown said...

Subsidence in southeastern Coastal Louisiana is a natural event as the river deposited sediments gradually consolidate. Subsidence by itself would take a much longer timeframe to cause the land loss we are experiencing, however.

That subsidence has been greatly accelerated by both river control and oil and gas extraction practices, with canal dredging being far more destructive than reservoir depletion.

So far so good. That's all well understood by everyone here. So who's to pay for fixing it?

Assuming we don't take the advice of the guy up thread and find a way to build seaports somewhere other than sea level, we either spend the money on coastal restoration or relocating and/or flood proofing every refinery, plant, and town on the final 300 miles of the Mississippi River-which estimates dwarf that of the Coastal plan.

Probably neither thing will happen as a matter of political consensus and we just continue to half-ass it as the future becomes the present.

Kirk Parker said...

Hagar,

"What am I doing wrong here?"

Thinking you can have a serious discussion with Freder.

Anonymous said...

It is the weight of Sin that is drawing New Orleans down into the muck. Every time a woman exposes her breasts for beads on Mardi Gras it sinks just a little bit lower. Science.

cubanbob said...

Where is Freder going with this ? The lawyers will make out like bandits, government slugs will make out like bandits, the public will be hosed and nothing will actually be restored unless all or most of the dams that are blocking the silt from coming down are torn down and oil production in LA ceases. Also why put the blame solely on the oil companies? The government slugs regulated the industry and they allowed this to occur all the while collecting extraction taxes. The slugs should share the costs by having they pay and pensions slashed for their contribution to the malfeasance. Its only fair that they pay as well.

Ann Althouse said...

"Sancho Panza: Underappreciated paralegal."

And Quixote has Sancho Panzo start his car for him in case it's wired to explode.

(That joke is based on this passage in the NYT article: "On the morning of July 24, 2013, Barry announced the lawsuit at a news conference held in the Orleans Levee District’s safe house…. “From now on,” one of his lawyers said when they convened afterward, “I’m going to have my interns start my car.” Everyone laughed, except Jones. “This is going to get dirty,” he said.")

Hagar said...

Seriously, what is wrong?
Freder quote this paper stating 20 trillion barrels of oil have been extracted from the Texas-Louisiana coastal fields, and Louisiana covered 78 ft. deep is what I get.

Anonymous said...

New Orleans is sinking from dirty whores. Some of which are politicians. Still: dirty, dirty whores. Repent.

Bob Ellison said...

Hagar, my math was wrong, and I'm trying to figure out why. The conversion from 2- to 3-dimensional spaces is a major problem.

Freder Frederson said...

20 trillion barrels of oil

20 billion barrels of oil, 20 trillion is cubic feet of gas.

Fred Drinkwater said...

I second the recommendation for McPhee's "The Control of Nature". The relevant section is called "Atchafalaya", but the other two, on lava flows and mudslides, are also very worthwhile. (I learned the useful phrase "Pissa a hraunid", which beats "tilting at windmills", from the section on lava.)
Also, anyone flying over the Memphis-Houston-Mobile triangle should take a careful look at the terrain, and think about how that part of the country formed.

virgil xenophon said...

UNKNOWN@2;04 neatly (and accurately) pretty much sums it up--both geological and political.

(PS: As a denizen of N.O. I would remind those that the Gulf Coast of Louisiana is a working coast, not a rich-man's playground of $1.2million 2nd home coastal "cottages." . How does one "relocate" all the oil-rig service industries, trappers, fishermen and shrimpers & assoc schools, Post Offices fueling facilities double-wides and @25K blue-collar homes and other support infrastructure personnel to avoid "flooding"? Move 'em all to high & dry Montana and have 'em commute by airline every day to the work-site on the Gulf Coast? Riiiiight..)

Hagar said...

OK, so that would be a shade under an inch deep over the State of Louisiana and 3/16ths over Texas. A little more believable.

Those decimal points are a bitch, eh? Like the Democrats and the national debt, except there they go in the other direction.

And as for the subsidence, did you ever notice that it is possible to add quite lot of peas to a bucket of potatoes without the bucket getting any fuller?

Hagar said...

V-X gas,

I do not know that anyone has suggested moving the Cajuns to Montana, but I do say that insisting on re-building the below sealevel areas of New Orleans in the same place was politically driven by the media and an extremely foolish thing to actually do. Moving them to dry ground in or near New Orleans would not have been that hard to do and much safer.

Only a fool or a knave (or a CoE District Engineer, and he does it only because he is ordered to, and it is Government policy. Not his personal opinion.) would pretend to guarantee the re-built levees against failure. The Rumsfeld matrix applies.

Unknown said...

Hagar-that's the point. What was dry ground 100 years ago is now open water. What is dry today can be underwater in a tropical storm and will be underwater in a 100 years. The query is what to do about the fact that southeastern louisiana is rapidly going underwater.
It's going to be very expensive to fix the coast or relocate a million people and a very built petro-chemical-shipping complex- but one of those scenarios is going to happen.

Bob Ellison said...

Here is the math.

That's about 4 cubic feet (feet squared per barrel) times 20 trillion barrels divided by 52,000 square miles (in Louisiana) divided by 27878400 square feet in a square mile (even in Louisiana) divided by 144 square inches in a square foot (ditto).

So my earlier math was wrong. It's only about 0.38 inches. Since 1920.

You should be so lucky.

Freder Frederson said "20 billion barrels of oil, 20 trillion is cubic feet of gas."

Where the heck do you get this stuff? Are you high right now?

Jupiter said...

"Assuming we don't take the advice of the guy up thread and find a way to build seaports somewhere other than sea level ..."

I think the overall point here is that "sea level" may be a moving target.

cubanbob said...

Jupiter said...
"Assuming we don't take the advice of the guy up thread and find a way to build seaports somewhere other than sea level ..."

I think the overall point here is that "sea level" may be a moving target.

10/5/14, 3:42 PM"

Building seaports somewhere other than at sea level....WMD grade level idiocy. Sure lets build a huge lock system to raise ships high enough to make Denver a seaport.

Seeing Red said...

It's ironic that tjose who want to control us by Global Warming! Global Warming, want nature to control by removing the dams.

So we have more food instability, along with other instabilities.

Unknown said...

New Orleans is already 150 miles upriver. In the 50s the Corps built a shortcut to the Gulf, a canal called the MRGO. The canal never paid for itself and caused the loss of hectares of valuable wetlands. It was a shortcut though, used most famously by Katrina to funnel storm surge into the city.

We will basically have to move the infrastructure along the bottom 300 miles of the Mississippi to around where Baton Rouge is now. I can't even conceive the task but it will have to be done unless other actions are taken, and maybe not even then. It might well be too late to implement the Coastal plan.

Hagar said...

Well, LBJ and Sen. Robert S. Kerr had a plan to make Tulsa a seaport.
Does not look like they made that far, but it does look like the channel got to Muskogee.

Hagar said...

Democrats both.

Jupiter said...

"Building seaports somewhere other than at sea level....WMD grade level idiocy. Sure lets build a huge lock system to raise ships high enough to make Denver a seaport."

While I can agree that Denver, which is about a mile above sea level, and hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, is probably not a good place for a seaport, most of New Orleans is below sea level, which also appears to be less than optimal siting. The idea that the elevation of New Orleans is the fault of oil companies seems -- far-fetched.

Hagar said...

Though the commissar vanishes!

sean said...

I'm glad someone reads the New York Times, so I don't have to.

Michael K said...

" I do say that insisting on re-building the below sealevel areas of New Orleans in the same place was politically driven by the media and an extremely foolish thing to actually do."

The Venetians did it but they had the Goths after them and it was about 1300 years ago so they had an excuse.

Michael K said...

"Do you not think that companies should be held responsible for the damage they cause?"

Sure, I think we should sue the The Virginia Company as they started all this trouble.

The two companies, called the "Virginia Company of London" (or the London Company) and the "Virginia Company of Plymouth" (or Plymouth Company) operated with identical charters but with differing territories. An area of overlapping territory was created within which the two companies were not permitted to establish colonies within one hundred miles of each other. The Plymouth Company never fulfilled its charter, and its territory that later became New England was at that time also claimed by England.

There is a map at the link so you can see how your case is going.

You're welcome, Freder.

Joseph Blieu said...

This is absolutely dishonest. The state of LA pumps 3 billion Petroleum Barrels of water per day from water wells. This causes more subsidence that oil are the small towns a party to the suit???

Drago said...

Joseph Blieu said...
This is absolutely dishonest. The state of LA pumps 3 billion Petroleum Barrels of water per day from water wells. This causes more subsidence that oil are the small towns a party to the suit???

Do you have any idea how unwelcome logic and reason is to the left when they are on Lawsuit Jihad?

SteveBrooklineMA said...

20 trillion barrels of oil from LA/TX seems way off. Using data from here:

http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MCRFPUS1&f=A

I get a total of 0.27 trillion barrels produced by the entire USA since the beginning of time.

Haiku Guy said...

We are reshaping the Mississippi Delta, but we doing it by accident. We create the conditions that lead to subsidence, but take no responsibility for the result.

If we are going to reshape the Delta, we should be doing it according to a plan. We should be pumping mud out into the low lying areas to simulate floods we no longer permit to occur. We should be pumping mud down the river out into the sea to expand the Delta into new areas. We should cut new channels at a rate they would form naturally.

Celebrim said...

Like almost all environmental concerns, the problem of balancing eroding coastline with flood control is an engineering problem that the left treats as a moral, political, and social problem.

This is because the left has no one with an engineering degree.

RonF said...

The problem with the levees is not only that they don't allow the river to flood and drop sediment in the delta area. They also force what sediment the river carries to be carried all the way out into the Gulf of Mexico, covering the sea floor and killing off the sea life - including the food chain that commercial fishing depends on.

RonF said...

The basic problem is this - the Mississippi River is not a static system. Over its history its mouth has been anywhere from Texas to Georgia. Much of the southern portion of those states were built up from sediment from the Mississippe - at one point or another they all probably extended farther into the Gulf until the Mississippi shifted away, and their coastlines eroded back to where they are now. Lousiana's time is coming up. In fact, there is one dam and levee that keeps the Mississippi's mouth from moving from New Orleans to Morgan City (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_River_Control_Structure) - which, if it ever breaks down, would leave N.O. a backwater instead of a major port.

The bottom line is that trying to force this river system to stop doing what it's been doing throughout geologic history will not result in the maintenance of status quo - it has consequences that we can't negate. In this case it sinking land, inland flooding and seabed poisoning. The short-term alternative would be to let the lower end of the Mississippi flood in the New Orleans area, such as when Katrina blew the levee system. That would mean that a lof of people would have to move out of New Orleans, of course, or arrange their lives so that only the people in the French quarter and a few other spots could count on not getting flooded out every couple of years.

mariner said...

One nice thing about having an education in Geology, is there are a lot of writers and politicians I can see right through.


I guess you can tell the difference between "dirt", "dumb as dirt", and "thinks we're dumb as dirt".

mariner said...

Jupiter,

And yes, although the oceans are all connected, and water seeks its own level, that process is slow enough that some regions of the ocean are quite a bit higher than others.


One word: tides

mariner said...

Hagar,

Well, LBJ and Sen. Robert S. Kerr had a plan to make Tulsa a seaport.
Does not look like they made that far, but it does look like the channel got to Muskogee.

Tulsa Port of Catoosa

OtisP Driffwood said...

I've actually spent several days working at the Port of Tulsa. It's located at the head of navigation for the Arkansas River, in the hilly country east of the City of Tulsa. The Port is actually located in an industrial park, and IIRC, they load grain barges there and they had a small steel plant which shipped its output from the Port by barge.

Rusty said...

Jupiter said...
"Building seaports somewhere other than at sea level....WMD grade level idiocy.


The Welland locks.
Which make it possible for grain from Minnesota, Manitoba, and Saskachawan to shipped from Duluth to Europe via the St Lawrence river

OtisP Driffwood said...

Rusty -
Landlubbers, go figure.
The entire Upper Mississippi River system, The Ohio River system, just about all the inland river systems of the US (including the Erie Canal) use locks to raise and lower vessel traffic, so you are not confined to building major seaports at sea level. What a noob.

Hagar said...

Oops!
I just looked at the Arkansas River, and there obviously was no channel there, and I missed the takeoff up the Verdigris because of the mud from the Arkansas discoloring the water across the junction.

Tt the time, I was told the Corps recommended against the project on the grounds that they could not justify the maintenance costs against the potential revenue, but then the District Engineer received a personal phonecall from LBJ wanting to know what the Corps was thinking, opposing this very worthwhile project proposed by his good friend, Senator Kerr.

And that was that.