The coal-fired Rodemacher plant in Boyce, which is half-owned by Lafayette Utilities System, is among several facilities cited for causing toxic groundwater contamination by a report released this week. But CLECO, which owns a third of the plant and half of another cited, says not so fast.
Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club issued a report this week on what they call a nationwide problem involving coal ash contamination of groundwater. The report, “In Harm’s Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and Their Environment” points to more than three dozen new sites in 21 states where it alleges toxic coal waste has made water supplies unsafe, including parts of Pointe Coupee, Rapides and De Soto Parishes, where the coal-fired plants Big Cajun 2, Rodemacher and Dolet Hills operate, respectively. “In Harm’s Way” documents what it calls the steadily growing number of waters known to be poisoned by poor management of the toxic ash left over after coal is burned for electricity.
But CLECO is dismissing much of the report as inaccurate, at least as it pertains to Rodemacher and Dolet Hills. “The report had so many factual errors in it, and it also had a lot of misleading conclusions in it," says Robbie Laborde, CLECO’s general manager of environmental services. “We’d have to correct basically everything they said,” Laborde responds when asked for specifics about the alleged inaccuracies. “You know who put it out. It’s obviously from their point of view.”
Beginning with what he calls a misleading subtitle, the report insinuates a lack of coal ash regulation, Laborde notes, and that’s simply not the case — at least in this state. “I can speak for Louisiana, and Louisiana has been the one regulating. DEQ, our Louisiana environmental regulatory agency, has been regulating this since 1986 or ’87. So we have been subject to regulations for more than 20 years now, and our state is actually one of the more aggressive states that regulate this. Specifically we have been submitting semi-annual reports, where we take groundwater monitoring data, to the DEQ,” Laborde continues. “And we’ve been doing that since we’ve been regulated. And those reports show no groundwater contamination. The conclusions [the report] drew, especially for our facilities, [which is what] we’ll speak for, were false.”
It is indeed primarily federal regulators the report takes to task. “For years nobody, including the Environmental Protection Agency, has had a full picture of how much toxic waste is out there, where it is, or if it’s staying put. It has been dumped with no federal oversight, and utterly inadequate state policies,” says Jordan Macha, Sierra Club representative for the Sierra Club. “Now that we’re aware of the problem, it seems we are finding contamination everywhere we look.”
Toxic heavy metals, arsenic and lead were consistently found at levels well above what is considered safe for drinking water, according to the report. Its data shows that this toxic coal ash pollution is flowing into nearby communities, polluting private drinking water wells and even putting some public water supply wells at risk. The pollution in coal ash is known to cause cancer, organ disease, respiratory illnesses, and neurological damage and developmental problems, according to the Sierra Club.
“Communities affected by fly ash could gain protection from the EPA as well as be eligible for cleanup,” continues Macha. “The adoption of stronger federal regulation could change the health of untold numbers of regular folks whose only crime was living near a fly ash dumpsite but received the penalty of ill health. Clean air and clean water is a basic human right that no one should be denied.”
The report claims that nationwide states responsible for only four of the 35 sites have required an investigation to determine the scale of pollution. Not one state has required the toxic pollution to be stopped, the report claims, let alone cleaned up — further underscoring the need for strong federal regulations.
The report comes just days before the EPA begins a series of hearings across the country to gather public comment on new protections from toxic coal ash. On Sept. 8, a delegation of concerned residents from Louisiana will be attending the EPA hearing in Dallas to express their concerns regarding coal ash contamination across the state. Details on national hearings, including the Dallas hearing, can be found here.
MAY 20 This post by blogger CB Forgotston draws parallels between Gov. Bobby Jindal and two individuals he probably doesn't want to be aligned with: President Obama and former governor Edwin Edwards. CB says Jindal's trying to jack up the debt ceiling (an Obama play, according to CB) and buy votes from GOP leges who normally wouldn't go for that (an Edwards play, CB says).
MAY 20 Here's a post in the Baptist Message from an alumnus of Louisiana College. The author, Larry Burgess, calls on the leadership of the private school to take care of some pressing problems. Physical plant issues are critical and unaddressed, some faculty make so little they need government health care, and there is an atmosphere that does not encourage honest discussion, he writes. It's time to get things back in order, he says.
MAY 20 This post in Gambit tells of a benefit concert scheduled to raise money for the 19 people shot during a Mother's Day second line on Frenchmen Street in NOLA. Among them was Gambit blogger Deb Cotton, who spoke frequently about violence in the city and reported on the city's second line culture. Gambit's foundation, along with other NOLA non-profits, also is selling t-shirts to raise money for the victims.
MAY 20 Blogger Robert Mann is critical of the personal interest some legislators take in their work here, sharing the comments one NOLA solon made in explaining his decision to vote against a bill that would require people to stop discriminating against female workers. His wife might lose some salary, so he was going to have to vote against the equal pay bill, Conrad Appel said. Appel and everyone who heard him should have been ashamed, but they weren't, and that's what is wrong in that building, Mann argues.
MAY 20 American Press columnist Jim Beam writes about the budget again here, urging kudos for the House and its efforts to try to fix the budget as opposed to passing on a flawed and messy rubber-stamped document as it usually does. The Senate already is poo-pooing the effort, but instead Senators should be trying to find a way to improve it as well, Beam argues. He also has some predictions in here from LABI and CABL.
MAY 20 Here's a link to the photo gallery from Tulane's graduation this past weekend. Dr. John and Allen Toussaint played together and received honorary degrees. The Dalai Lama was so entranced by their performance he got up from his seat and walked across the stage to stand next to them. He even participated in a second line with his own personal, saffron-colored umbrella. To the graduates, he urged them to think about creating a peaceful, hopeful life and society.
MAY 20 This Picayune story questions the rhetoric of NOLA officials who say the city, aside from having a "murder problem," is safe. The talking points generally are that the criminals are killing each other, but everything else is OK. The police chief there says that even Lafayette is more dangerous than NOLA. But crime experts interviewed here say that NOLA's numbers indicate one of two things: either people are so used to violence they don't report it, or somebody's "fudging the numbers."
MAY 20 The Advocate's Mark Ballard writes about some of the background maneuvering that took place during the development of budget alternatives in the Legislature. From Rep. Joel Robideaux being called a "tax and spend liberal" to robo-call influence, Ballard lets us in on some of the work that happens behind the scenes but usually doesn't make it into the Advocate's daily coverage of the session.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.