Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Residents remain concerned about VOC emissions from

Saturday, March 27, 2010

This is home. Where else would we go ?

Looking back, our neighborhoods around the Meraux plant area recall how very fortunate we are to live by the Mississippi River, on some of the highest elevation in the Parish.

While other neighborhoods were still drying out or waiting for slab houses and boats to be cleared from the roadways, we had utilities and easy access, so to rebuild and repopulate in Fall 2005.

Now, in Spring 2010, that so much progress has been made in the harder hit neighborhoods of St Bernard Parish, we are so proud to have been that glimmer of hope for all others in our parish: to have provided those pockets of revitialized community.

And now others too join us and know the difference :
To not only say we will rebuild, but to actually rebuild and remain.

The neighborhood where I live is a close neighborhood. You don't find those kinds of neighborhoods anymore.

The challenge now is that no one in this blue-collar community of fishermen and refinery workers has any bread to spare. Even in a part of the country known for keeping kinfolk close, St. Bernard stands out, the way extended families stay together. That's something locals like about the place

Having met that challenge, we are moving forward.

We celebrate St Bernard Neighborhoods in 2010 and continue to encourage all those who wish to return or to visit.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Louisiana Sunshine

Court ruling casting clouds over sunshine laws

March 25th, 2010

It’s our responsibility as citizens to hold public bodies accountable. Pushing back may be our only option.•

I’ve been a journalist for more than a decade, and I can tell you there’s a stark difference between obtaining public access and records in Louisiana than in other states. Officials here know they can get away with skirting scrutiny, and often they do.

This kind of attitude continues to foster a culture where it’s acceptable to dim the sunshine on public figures and their transgressions, and is yet another factor giving way to a culture of corruption.

Monday, March 22, 2010

hog wild

Unnecessary damage has already occurred on the back levee between Violet canal and the E J Gore Pumping station. Hunters have inadvertently placed corn dispensers to draw hogs too close to the newly repaired levee along the 40 arpent canal.

Deer stands constructed within the levee foot instead of the required 400 foot setback.
Other deer stands and corn dispensers may be located down towards Verret.

Resident's concerns were relayed to Mr Bob Turner of the Lake Borgne Levee District and East District Levee Authority. Before the storms of 2005, hog holes in the levee were up to three and four foot deep. This is preventable.

Hurricane Season is fast approaching.

Let's implement those lessons learned.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

clean up work day

Save the Date

Saturday April 10th

clean up work day

Community Playground in
Torres Park

more info soon

Friday, March 19, 2010

what's in your recovery ?

medical clinics on school campuses, funding for immunizations, and faith based distribution centers have perhaps been some of the most important elements after disaster . coupled with hot meals, clothing and books, and even tent city, residents were able to return and rapidly re-populate neighborhoods despite the lack of grocery stores and other supplies.

while we've moved forward from earlier days, it's important to recall what worked best. the St Bernard Community Center on Lebeau Street in Arabi is still working for many. The Chalmette High School Students Medical Clinic serves our young adults while the Council on Aging provides an improved quality of life for our senior citizens.

what's in your recovery? what's working, what are you looking forward to in the future?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Val Reiss Park in District C

State subcontractors removing slabs from Road Home Properties adjacent and surrounding Val Reiss Park in District C. Given the location, the best use of these properties would be to extend the park's uses; such as picnics, bike paths, and perhaps even an off-leash recreational area for pets.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pollution Reduction Plan
September 16, 2008
A Community Action for a Renewed
Environment (CARE) Grant from the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The St. Bernard Parish Council is addressing the coexistence of conflicting land
uses by engaging in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Corrective Action for a
Renewed Environment (CARE) program.

Permitting issues regarding emissions were a great concern to residents. Discussed in detail at
the March 29th meeting with experts from different air quality and health fields, St. Bernard
Parish residents may be exposed to more air pollutants than the average American citizen. The
many industries lining the Mississippi River in the Parish, including but not limited to Murphy
Oil Company’s Meraux Petroleum Refinery, Exxon Mobil and Domino Sugar, have been issued
air permits which allow them to emit pollutants such as Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Carbon Monoxide,
Nitrogen Oxides, PM and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The combined emissions from all
these facilities can exceed thousands of tons per year.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade's Common Ground report documented the millions of pounds of toxic air pollutants which the two petrochemical refineries emitted into the air we breathe in amounts over their regulatory permit limits.

There are 17 refineries in the State of Louisiana. Three have been sued under the Clean Air Act's Citizen's Enforcement provision; two are in St Bernard Parish. Clearly, it is time for a renewed environment.

St. Bernard Citizens’ Recovery Committee
St. Bernard Parish Charrette Report

a pearl of our own

article about St Bernard's own pearl, Mrs Alberta Lewis

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

no title

Playing politicians against survivors instead of taking responsibility for failing to implement its own hurricane preparedness plans, and with little to no humanitarian aide to residents while gifting generous donations to politicians post crude oil spill, Murphy Oil adds insult to injury in its proposal to use residential homes for its own gain. Although presented as a transient contractor's parking lot, Murphy Oil admits it really wants heavy industrial zoning for future usage. Future heavy industrial usage not just on the north side, but the south side as well.
Industrial and Commercial Usage of residential properties in this area are a determent to the residents who have returned, provide nothing towards the safety of the community and lowers the buffer while rewarding an unjust enrichment for an incident of their own negligence. Encroachment, incursion, a taking, you name it what you want, the result makes the parish further liable.
It's our land, we'll use it as we do, if you please.
Denying secure tenure to victims after the worse environmental disaster, the worse land based oil spill, Murphy Oil proposes the financially strapped community raise its own funds to construct a dog park and other recreational usage where existing residual crude oil remains on the land of domiciled residents. Residents want no such thing and point out the numerous, readily available parks and parkways throughout the parish, which would be better suited for these suggestions.
Accepting donations for trees with the implication "No Zoning Changes, No Trees", newly elected officials are pushing this lovely linear park as the best thing for the community, while not only ignoring their constituents, but also the existing facilities and economic development opportunities at .
Slicker than oil and more offensive than obnoxious smells, this proposal was rejected by residents who serve on the Council's Murphy Oil Buffer Zone Committee. Yet, the Council continues the misnomer that if Murphy were only to reveal "The Plan"-- "The Plan" which everyone but the land owners and surrounding neighbors seem to have access to -- that it could move forward --- just exactly what the council wants to move forward is unclear to those homeowners who would be asked to once again lose everything.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Educate to Mitigate


Now is the time to trim trees, clear storm drains and canals, and review your Hurricane Plans.

June 1st is approaching fast -- are you ready ?

Residents requested Murphy Oil be a good neighbor and maintain their trees to avoid homeowner's damage from broken branches.
The Time for Protection is NOW !

The next best thing to a good neighbor is a good fence.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

the buffer that wasn't

Murphy Oil entered into an agreement

on December 7, 2009, to place some of its Meraux refinery buffer property back into commerce by selling to a local businessman. The Planning Commission will conduct a Public Hearing Tuesday March 23, 2010 at 4pm in the St Bernard Parish Council Chambers.

The Planning and Zoning Docket includes an application by Murphy Oil to change the zoning of three residential lots to 'Neighborhood Commercial.' Residents want to keep the Commercial out of the Neighborhood with NO SPOT ZONING.

Sold to Murphy Oil through the voluntary buyout program of Turner v Murphy, the class action suit for the Hurricane Katrina related crude oil spill, most of the residential buyup property's reassessments lowered property taxes. Local tax assessor explained to residents the reassessment of the buyup properties reflected the value of greenspace.

With all residential real estate purchased pursuant Turner vs Murphy, the homes were demolished; in the process, sidewalks were damaged and removed.

Located within blocks of the community’s only high school, residents of this school-zoned neighborhood have requested Murphy Oil be a good neighbor and replace the sidewalks. Sidewalks provide the children with a safe place to play, other than the streets -- the same streets some propose to add more industrial traffic.

With a mere pipeline easement between the neighborhood and refinery, Murphy Oil was also asked to make simple and readily available improvements to its fenceline. Trees on the Murphy Oil-owned lots have, over time, not received adequate care. Neighbors fear wind storms and hurricanes will take a toll on the unkempt branches, causing damage to homes.

With little else to protect them from the most hazardous processing side of the Murphy Oil Meraux refinery, residents have cause for concern. Murphy Oil was asked to be a good neighbor and make some Basic Fence Repairs .

In the Parish of St Bernard, local zoning allows heavy industrial usage within 100 feet of residential. Commercial usage which abuts residential is required to be within footage equal to that of residential lots; 70 feet on the particular street of the pending docket.

Having no intentions of selling now, many homeowners who restored houses and revitalized the neighborhood had returned in 2005, long before the buyout program began in 2007.

Rebuilding not only after mother nature’s hardest hit, but also after the worse land-based oil spill, neighbors reestablished the community they’ve called home all their lives. And, they want the equal protection for secure tenure and from spot zoning as any other neighborhood.

Murphy Oil's zoning change proposal as an improvement for the community leaves residents wondering what other plans Murphy Oil is making for the future without telling their neighbors.

The Public Hearing on Tuesday will provide the Planning Commissioners an opportunity to hear from the citizenry and make recommendations to the Parish Council. Lacking jurisdiction to interpret court decisions which created the buyout program and prohibited by Home Rule Charter to breech agreements between property owners, the Parish Council has final vote on zoning changes to the Master Land Use Plan . A plan which calls for green belts around refineries.

Murphy Oil’s petition to change zoning from residential R1 to Neighborhood Commercial C1 is a condition of its agreement with a local business owner, who agreed to purchase the rezoned land at $10,000 per lot. Murphy Oil originally purchased these three home-site lots for $94,560, $53,040, and $44,000 through the court order which stated the intent of the buyout is to create a buffer.

Subsequent to Turner v Murphy Orders and Reasons, the court ruled in 2009 the defendant could use up to $2 million to settle out of class cases stemming from the same spill. Additionally, a cy pres committee will determine how Murphy Oil may donate up to another $3 million dollars remaining from the court required $55 million set aside for the voluntary buyout program. Several million was used to purchase commercial property and Murphy Oil has converted one such property into its new Administration Building, located further west from the plant and outside the designated buyout zone.

The cy pres committee, appointed by Judge Fallon, includes Plaintiffs Liaison Counsel attorney Sidney Torres and Murphy Oil Public Relations Manager Carl Zornes.

Without representation in court, nor on the cy pres committee, it is difficult to understand how any future ruling may adversely effect our community. Offensive incursion tactics, including Murphy Oil's petition for heavy industrial zoning in the neighborhood to construct a petrochemical testing laboratory, spurred residents to contact the Plaintiffs Liaison Counsel (PSC). According to these plaintiffs, each was informed by PSC attorney Sidney Torres, if you were a class member and received your check for the crude oil spill case Turner v Murphy, then you are no longer represented by the PSC.

During the May 2009 court hearing to use buyout funds for out of class cases, residents requested Judge Fallon take under consideration this term greenspace.

Murphy Oil's intent of a green zone buffer and creation of greenspace from the buyout properties was stated by their defense attorney in the January 2007 Fairness Hearing. The term Greenspace was repeatedly and consistently used as the basis for our consent to the settlement agreement. Greenspace is what we all understood to be the intended use of the buyout properties and agreements were made based upon this understanding. Judge Fallon was asked to clarify that it is the empty space which exists now, this greenspace, which is to function as the buffer. The court was further asked to consider that any other use by Murphy Oil not only results in lowering the buffer, bringing more hazards closer to our homes, but it also gifts an unjust enrichment to the defendant, which is not beneficial to the class.

As of this date, the Judge has not responded.

Stating this recent activity by Murphy Oil to sell buyout property constitutes a breech of settlement, some residents again wrote Federal Judge Fallon.

In the meantime, Murphy Oil should recognize the need to do more than other refineries which are properly buffered from surrounding communities.

Murphy Oil's buffer for its Meraux refinery in St Bernard Parish lacks any publicly known plans for a buffer on the eastern side of the refinery. The property owners on this eastern side were not included in Turner v Murphy, as it was explained the oil did not go east. The east side of the refinery not only stores gasoline in tanks which have yet to receive a post Katrina upgrade, but is also too closely situated to a demographically and financially different neighborhood.

As any Gulf Coast resident can attest, you must have an adequate storm preparedness plan. Storm and spill preparedness and prevention is something Murphy Oil claimed to have, but did not implement for infamous Tank 250-2 prior to landfall of Hurricane Katrina.

The June 2009 rain event and subsequent flooding of our neighborhood by the refinery, coupled with the December 2009 oily discharge into our neighborhood canal, highlights the deficiencies in Murphy Oil's spill containment plans and waste water treatment plant.

A separate case in Federal Court found Murphy Oil to have violated their Title V Air Permits. The Citizen's Enforcement Suit: CCAM v Murphy Oil , ruling stated the residents had "demonstrated that Murphy repeatedly violates the Clean Air Act and that, unless some action is taken to prevent the illegal conduct, there is a real threat that such violations will continue to occur."

The root cause of these violations will not be corrected through real estate transactions. Operating on a more responsible level is expected, not only from Murphy Oil, but from all businesses that have returned to operation in St Bernard Parish.

Murphy Oil could contibute to St Bernard Parish's promising future through a daily commitment to operations, one which demonstrates respect for the residents who live on the other side of the fenceline.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

an editorial

Spot Zoning's adverse effects and ramifications fail to preserve the integrity of our residential neighborhoods, result in a piece meal of yet another land use plan developed without thoughtful deliberations, and make any assemblance of a public input process a charade from the beginning. Instead of a recovery plan that protects our right to secure tenure, the shift continues toward industry, undermining our health and that of our children.
Developed as the master land use plan through the work and recommendation of the Citizens Recovery Committee, and adopted by the Council in 2006 , the Waggoner and Ball Plan was submitted to and accepted by theLouisiana Recovery Authority Board as the foundation for the St Bernard Parish Recovery Plan .

Subsequent zoning changes allowed by Council ordinance, which are incompatible with the existing land use maps, seem to arbitrarily enforce local code. Although recently "modernized" with the advice of Donald Poland, a professional planner made available through a grant from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the local Code of Ordinances Chapter 22 Zoning (available online at MuniCode) left residential properties unprotected. The minimal allowance or required buffer between heavy industry and residential remains unchanged at a mere 100 feet.

Recently introduced dockets, if granted, will allow industrial zoning adjacent to residential homes with even less protective footage; not to mention nearby churches and schools. {Docket 7 - 10 Municipal No. 328 West St Bernard Hwy at Delille Street, Petition for Zoning Change from C2 General Commercial to I1 Industrial} .

It's time for St Bernard Parish to move away from politically motivated zoning changes. That authority should remain with the Planning Commissioners, with appeals of planning decisions heard in State Court.

Friday, March 12, 2010


our neighborhood is slowly being re-zoned without any additional safety measures

Public Hearing March 23rd 4pm
Council Chambers

Petition by Murphy Oil to change three residential lots in our neighborhood from residential to commercial zoning.

Introduction of Ordinance at Council Meeting Tuesday March 16th 1pm.

Comments can be submitted to the Planning Commissioners c/o the Office of Community Development. Comments can be submitted to the Council Members c/o of Council Clerk.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Air Quality Readings

The Air Quality Readings have been high for SO2 at the CHAL_VISTA Site Monitor.

The particulate matter reading in St Bernard Parish is not included in the New Orleans Region Air Quality Index.

March 10 2010 is a good example:

known as CH_VISTA Site on DEQs website under site data at this link

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

there goes the neighborhood

RE: Docket 5 - 10 Murphy Oil petition for zoning change

This zoning change is contrary to the Petition and Vision of our neighborhood presented in August 2008; contrary to the land use plan (the Waggoner and Ball Plan) adopted by the Council in 2006; it is spot zoning or piecemealing of a master land use plan without the appropriate thoughtful deliberations and public input opportunities; it does nothing to create and preserve a truly protective green zone buffer and shifts the balance towards industry; that shift towards industry undermines our health and safety and does nothing to address the heavy truck traffic on Despaux Drive.

The Council passed resolution not to allow ANY zoning changes by Murphy Oil until Murphy revealed their master plan for the plant and the residential lots. That has failed to occur. The residents of these neighborhoods around Murphy have presented their plan and our elected officials need to support their constituents.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Katrina the Clown"

Our Community Parade Sunday had a special participant: Katrina the Clown from The New Orleans Levee Newspaper

Saturday, March 6, 2010

home to heavy industry

"...the cumulative effect of the pollution is too dangerous not to take actions." "We have to be realistic that you can reach a saturation point in certain neighborhoods,".....

As in Southwest Detroit, St Bernard Parish's State Air monitoring sites in and near the Chalmette Vista neighborhoods show some of the highest, if not the highest, levels for PM 2.5 and SO2; criteria pollutants linked to health problems.

known as CH_VISTA Site on DEQs website under site data at this link

Although the monitors sometimes have technical difficulties, such as the PM 2.5 readings in late February, on Feb 25 2010 the CH_VISTA air monitor showed the type of unacceptable spikes in SO2 which occur in community.

This type of short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide undermines our health, and that of our children. EPA proposed SO2 standard changes in 2009 and is expected to issue the new one hour standard in June 2010. ""Exposure to SO2 can aggravate asthma, cause respiratory difficulties, and result in emergency room visits and hospitalization. People with asthma, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to SO2’s effects.""

The PM 2.5 readings from St Bernard Parish are not currently included in the New Orleans Area's Air Quality Index, at same link. Truck traffic and coker units, along with barges and other shipping on the river, contribute to this situation.

""EPA strengthened the air quality standards for particle pollution in 2006. Learn more about the 2006 fine particle standards. ""

""The 2006 standards tighten the 24-hour fine particle standard from 65 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) to 35 µg/m3, and retain the current annual fine particle standard at 15 µg/m3.""

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gulf Coast Civic Works

Whether by inaction or injustice, we still have failed to protect the rights and wellbeing of Gulf Coast survivors, immigrants and their families, especially the children, the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable. The collapse of local institutions, homelessness, internal displacement, poverty, abusive labor practices and environmental degradation mean communities continue to suffer and struggle unduly......Serving as a model for engaging residents in disaster recovery and sustainable economic development.

Gulf Coast Civic Works

Blog Archive