Science and Environment

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

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost roughly as much land as makes up the state of Delaware.

"If you put the state of Delaware between New Orleans and the ocean, we wouldn't need any levees at all," says John Barry, vice president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. "There is this large buffer of land that has disappeared, and that buffer makes New Orleans much more vulnerable to hurricanes."

Teams of workers are mobilizing in the Gulf of Mexico to try to stem a natural gas leak at an offshore drilling rig that exploded and caught fire Tuesday. The rig off the Louisiana coast has been partially destroyed by the out of control blaze, and firefighting boats are on the scene.

A natural gas well off the coast of Louisiana was on fire Wednesday, one day after a blowout forced 44 workers to evacuate. There were no injuries reported.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement says the mishap at Well A-3 below a "Hercules 265 jack-up rig," about 55 miles off the Louisiana coast, was first reported around 9:45 a.m. ET Tuesday.

Kelly Connelly, WRKF

Environmental remediation scientists at LSU’s School of the Coast and Environment have found remnants of crude oil in the hearts of pogy that live off Grand Isle.

Pogy, a baitfish more officially called menhaden, make up the second largest commercial catch in the United States. They’re not only resold as baitfish, but they’re also processed into fish oil and fish meal, making their way into vitamins, cosmetics and livestock feeds.

If mosquitoes used Yelp, they might look for their next meal by searching nearby for a heavy-breathing human with Type O blood, sporting a red shirt and more than a smattering of skin bacteria. Preferably either pregnant or holding a beer.

That's some of what we take away from a post today on the Surprising Science blog from the Smithsonian.

Researchers at Tulane University are working on designing a less toxic oil dispersant than the Corexit used on the BP spill in 2010. The goal is using ingredients now approved for human consumption.

President Obama will soon unveil a plan that will put limits on the carbon emissions of existing power plants, the administration's top energy adviser says.

The New York Times reports this is the most consequential part of a bigger plan to curb climate change. The newspaper adds:

Army Corps of Engineers

State plans to restore the coastline are trying to mimic the way the Mississippi built the coast. Thousands of years ago the river dumped sediment from the plains upriver into the marsh. But some fishermen are worried the plans will displace the saltwater fish they catch to make a living.

Fishermen voiced their opposition at a community meeting in St. Bernard Monday.

UPDATE 10:14 p.m. CST WRKF's Kelly Connelly on the scene in Donaldsonville:

An industrial accident at North America’s largest nitrogen complex in Donaldsonville, La. has left one dead and at least five injured.

A little after 6 p.m. Friday, a crew at the CF Industries plant loaded too much nitrogen into a transportation tank, causing it to rupture. Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson described the mangled piece of equipment as a popped balloon. Louisiana State Police Capt. Doug Cain told the Associated Press a fire sparked by the blast was quickly extinguished.

Thursday’s chemical plant explosion in Geismar, La. has claimed another life. Seven remained hospitalized Friday with burns and respiratory complications.

Williams Companies CEO Alan Armstrong visited with workers and their families Friday. He called the incident a “major” explosion.

“This is a terrible and unprecedented tragedy," Armstrong said. "I’ve talked with a few of our employees and I know they are hurting, however, I’ve also seen and been inspired by their courage.”

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