Science and Environment

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

Christy Haynes/NPR

Debbie Elliott is NPR’s national correspondent based in Alabama. She has covered the 2010 BP oil spill, and its aftermath, since the beginning.

Reporting in Terrebone Parish in 2010, Elliott met the Chauvin family that had been shrimpers for five generations before the disaster. Now covering the trial over BP’s liability for the spill, Elliott tells WRKF’s Ashley Westerman that family story is one that has stuck with her.

BP executives are gearing up for testifying at the second week of a federal trial in New Orleans over its 2010 oil spill. Officials from the oil giant have so far blamed other companies for the disaster.

Judge Approves Transocean Civil Settlement

Feb 19, 2013

A federal judge has approved Transocean Ltd.'s agreement with the Justice Department to pay $1 billion in civil penalties for its role in the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said in his ruling Tuesday that he found "no just reason for delay" in approving the civil settlement.

Last week, a different judge approved Transocean's criminal settlement with the federal government. The company pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and will pay an additional $400 million in criminal penalties.

BP Ready for Trial in Civil Case

Feb 19, 2013

BP says it has failed to reach a settlement in advance of next week's civil trial on the Deepwater Horizon accident and is ready to defend itself vigorously against allegations of gross negligence in the U.S.'s biggest environmental disaster.

Rupert Bondy, the group's general counsel, said in a statement Tuesday that settlement demands were "not based on reality or the merits of the case."

Billions are at stake in the Feb. 25 trial in New Orleans to determine BP's civil liability. BP already agreed to a $4.5 billion settlement of federal criminal charges.

BP has agreed to a $4 billion settlement of a criminal case filed by the Justice Department over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A pending civil case could cost tens of billions of dollars more in penalties.

The persistent drought is raising questions about how the Mississippi River is managed — both upstream and down.

While cargo traffic upriver has gotten lots of attention, the drought is creating a different set of problems downriver at the mouth of the Mississippi, where saltwater has encroached.

An old-fashioned staff river gauge behind the New Orleans district office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows the Mississippi is running just shy of 6 feet above sea level at the river bend.

A federal judge has approved a guilty plea by BP to manslaughter charges in connection with the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

The approved deal includes a record $4 billion in criminal penalties.

Eleven workers on the Deep Water Horizon rig died in the April 2010 explosion. BP pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges for those deaths and to lying to Congress about the amount of the oil spilling out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Drought is mostly seen as a bad thing — and for good reason. It dries up crops, destroys landscaping and stops ships from moving. But even the lack of rain clouds has a bright side.

Good For Grapes

Last summer it seemed like all Midwestern farmers were upset over the lack of rain. But not all of them were; those growing grapes were embracing the drought.

The state-affiliated Water Institute, founded in 2011, touts itself as an independent organization that’s bringing the best scientists in the nation together to conduct research and recommend policies to the state on how to preserve the eroding coast.

There's a quick, one-word explanation for why the federal government started selling flood insurance: Betsy.

Hurricane Betsy, which struck the Gulf Coast in 1965, became known as billion-dollar Betsy. Homes were ruined. Water up to the roofs. People paddling around streets in boats. Massive damage.

This would be the time when you'd expect people to be pulling out their flood insurance policies. But flood insurance was hard to come by. You could get fire insurance, theft insurance, car insurance, life insurance. Not flood.

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