Science and Environment

Hurricanes, oil spills, and the latest efforts to manage them.

Taxpayers may be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars if the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East has to withdraw its lawsuit against oil and gas companies.

SLFPA-E met opposition from the legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee Wednesday, as the committee gathered information from the authority on the suit, also hearing opposing testimony from Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority head Garret Graves.

Louisiana public officials are launching a bipartisan battle to revamp proposed changes to the National Flood Insurance Program. The administrator evaluating the objections was taken on a helicopter tour of coastal regions possibly facing steep premium hikes.

Burnet County Environmental Services Department via ProPublica

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued new preliminary flood maps.

Louisiana’s delegation in Washington, D.C. is griping over FEMA’s disregard of local flood protection measures when it drew them.

Meanwhile, unless Congress succeeds in passing a delay, federal flood insurance rates are set to go up dramatically as soon as October. Many in Louisiana are facing increases of 20 percent or more.

And, as ProPublica reporter Theo Meyer has found, some may end up paying for insurance they don’t need.

Read the ProPublica article: Using Outdated Data, FEMA Is Wrongly Placing Homeowners in Flood Zones

Share your story: Tell ProPublica About Flood Map Problems Where You Live

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stuck by its earlier prediction today that the summer will bring with it an "above normal" Atlantic hurricane season.

NOAA reports:

When Louisiana officials unveiled the $50-billion Master Plan for the Coast, a 50-year program that could prevent most of southeast Louisiana from sinking under the Gulf by the end of the century as predicted, they knew one of their most important priorities would be getting reliable, long-term funding through Congress.

UPDATE: Clean-up of Train Derailment Underway

Aug 5, 2013

About 100 homes remain evacuated as officials work to clean up the site of a 26-car train derailment near the small community of Lawtell, about 60 miles west of Baton Rouge.

State police say crews are working Monday to clear U.S. 190 which is blocked by the accident. The Union Pacific train went off the tracks Sunday afternoon.

A company spokeswoman says one of the railcars was leaking sodium hydroxide, which can cause injuries or even death if it's inhaled or touches the skin. The other was leaking lube oil. But state police say the leaks were contained.

Train Derailment Prompts Precautionary Evacuation

Aug 4, 2013

The St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office says about 50 homes have been evacuated because of a railroad derailment.

The homes are within a mile of the spot where state police say at least 26 cars derailed about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, closing U.S. 190 east of Lawtell.

Master Trooper Daniel "Scott" Moreau says authorities have not reported any injuries, and the evacuation is a precaution.

He says some cars hold corrosive and flammable materials, including at least one flammable liquid.

At Margaret O'Keefe's farm in East Texas, they grow high-quality Bermuda grass. The fields are flat and vibrant green, surrounded by woods of a darker, richer green. The family loves this land. O'Keefe inherited it from her mother, who divided it among eight children.

"She used to call it 'enchanted valley,' " O'Keefe says.

But her "enchanted valley" also lies in the path of the Crosstex NGL Pipeline.

Natural gas is no longer escaping from a blown-out oil rig off the Louisiana coast. Only a small flame is burning off residual gas in the pipeline.

Halliburton Energy Services Inc. will plead guilty to destroying evidence in connection to the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010 that left 11 dead and resulted in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

Justice said in a press release:

Pages