Saturday, December 17, 2016 Fiery Accidents and Toxic Pollution: Louisiana's Environmental Woes Offer a Warning to Trump

By Mike Ludwig
New Orleans -- Last month, a large cloud of flammable gas ignited at an ExxonMobil refinery near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Six workers were injured during the 14-minute-long fire, and four of them were hospitalized with severe burns. Federal investigators said the flammable plume escaped during "unplanned maintenance" around a pump.
Soon after the accident, Anne Rolfes, the director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a group that tracks petrochemical pollution and accidents in the state, told reporters that the fire was not an isolated incident. There was a fire at the refinery in December 2015, and the facility reported 890 accidents to the government from 2005 to 2014 -- an average of over one per week.
"This refinery has a terrible safety record," Rolfes said. "Exxon defers maintenance and workers pay the price."  MORE

Bucket Brigade News Release 12/15/16
350Louisiana, DisasterMap.Net, Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Contact: Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 504.452.4909,
For immediate release December 15, 2016
Louisiana Experience Shows Trouble Ahead if Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson is Sec of State
Exxon fails to report accidents; 71 accidents by other companies in two weeks
What and when: Tele press conference about Exxon and accidents, 11:30 am central time
Report summary (map, key findings, spreadsheet of reports) available here
Call in number: (949) 229-4400 Access Code: 9341354#
If you want to see the visuals, register here for the tele press conference.
(New Orleans) As four Exxon workers remain in the burn unit from the November 22nd fire, no
accident reports have been filed by Exxon with the National Response Center about the fire or
other episodes in the two week period. Neighbors near the Exxon refinery reported five
occasions of bad air during the same period.
"You can't help but connect the dots," said Anne Rolfes, Founding Director of the Louisiana
Bucket Brigade. "If Rex Tillerson, the nominee for Secretary of State, does for the world what
Exxon has done for Louisiana, God help us. We will all be hospitalized from accidents and
choking on polluted air. And Mr. Tillerson will refuse to hold a press conference while he actively
funds misinformation."
The total number of reports about petrochemical accidents in Louisiana, both offshore and
inland, was 71. Fifty-five of those accidents were reported to the National Response Center by
the polluting company or passersby. The additional 16 were reported to by
neighbors impacted by the pollution. Dr. Ezra Boyd of has been compiling the
reports since October. "I'm shocked to see week after week, regular citizens are being sickened
in their own homes by chemicals."
The accidents reveal the ongoing infrastructure problems in the oil industry. Thirty of the 55
reports to the National Response Center were from some sort of equipment problem, including
faulty flow lines, leaks, corrosion, failed valves, cracked pipes, split piping and more.
The report also examines an oil spill in a marsh near Cameron Parish. Oil spills in sensitive
areas were shown, in a recent study by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, to accelerate
land loss. The dynamics of climate change will also be discussed. The map released in today's
report shows that the average temperature in the state has been four degrees above normal in
the last two weeks. The average temperature has been higher than normal for 15 straight
"There is just too much to talk about when we talk about the destruction of the oil industry," said
Ms. Rolfes. "Accidents, air pollution, burned workers, an eroding coastline, climate change.
They get away with it because the harms are overwhelming. But we won't stop. The industry is
wrong. Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson is wrong."
Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 2803 Saint Philip Street, New Orleans, LA 70119

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Berkeley's "Poor Tour": Homeless for the holidays

By Jane Stillwater 

     In Berkeley right now, there is a group of protesters who have organized an action to protest against homelessness in America.  They call themselves "The Poor Tour," and their actions to protect the homeless are the equivalent of Standing Rock's action to protect our water.  The protesters are also trying to make the dire situation of homelessness here in Berkeley visible to the rest of our nation -- and the police are forcefully trying to shut them down.

     According to one organizer, Mike Zint, "Police have raided our action at least four times already.  They illegally seize and destroy our belongings.  The police don't do that to the tweaker camps here but they do it to us.  Why?  It is because we are protesting that we are being constantly hammered."

    And, surprisingly, Zint also told me that many of the homeless in Berkeley are UC students.  "But how can that be?" you might ask.  Easy.  According to Zint, students here have to pay $1,800 a month just to rent a 10 x 15 dorm room -- which they also must share.

     "Some say that the homeless student population at Cal is as much as 10% of the enrollment, but I think it is more like 300 homeless students."  Want a better class of homeless folks besides the tweakers and drunks?  A better class of homeless is definitely on its way!

     "What I suggest," continued Zint, "is to make a whole bunch of tiny homes available.  Each one of these self-equipped mobile tiny homes costs only $16,500 apiece.  They are like mini-RVs, they come with trailer hitches, are portable and cost less than even the cheapest new car.  The City of Berkeley could set up an RV-park type of operation with utility hook-ups, and then students could rent them for only $300 a month."  Like the hook-ups at State parks.

    "But what about you personally," I asked Zint.  "How is all this camping out in the cold and the wet affecting you yourself?"  It's probably not as cold here as it is in North Dakota and the police here don't use rubber bullets yet -- but still.

     "I'm doing okay," answered Zint, "but some of the rest of us aren't."  I know that last week, during one of the heavy rainstorms (while the rest of us were snug and warm in our beds), one of the protesters, Mike Lee, almost died from pneumonia.  Lee says that he got sick because the cops just keep chasing the "Poor Tour" and confiscating their blankets and tents.

     "I'd love to be more articulate about my ides for ending homelessness and to consult with the new mayor about how to solve these drastic problems, but I can't think on my feet while the cops keep chasing me and chasing me."

     "What about the Oakland warehouse fire disaster," I asked Zint. 

    He answered with the simple truth.  "Artists and musicians lived there because they couldn't afford to live in other, more building-code-safe lofts and studios.  The bottom line here is that people are going to look for any way to get out of the weather."

     I really enjoyed talking with members of the Poor Tour.  And I respect what they are doing.  But even though Mike Lee tells me that the protesters' tents will get bedecked with Christmas lights very soon and that even a Christmas tree is in their near future, there really is no place like a real home for the holidays.

PS:  Need I remind you once again that, by simply re-directing the hundreds of billions of American dollars going into war profiteers' pockets, we could easily feed and house every single man, woman and child in America.  No more poor folks sleeping in doorways.  No more children raised in the backseats of cars.  No more frozen dead bodies of our elderly found in cardboard boxes after winter storms.  Not to mention the jobs this would create.

     For instance, the British government just offered a journalist $17,000 a month to make up propaganda lies about not arming ISIS in Aleppo.  And if the Brits are doing that kind of media manipulation, imagine what America's War Street does to grind out its never-ending "fake news".   I wonder how much it pays the New York Times?  And even Democracy Now for its fake news that ISIS butchers are merely "moderate rebels" peacefully hanging out in Aleppo?

        Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Prolific Yosemite photographer’s work stored in HBLL Special Collections

From:  The Universe 

Stay tuned for the forthcoming book and movie, "An Open Secret, by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster


        From:  Collection of the Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

It’s a classic family history story: your grandfather was raised by feminists in the late 1800s, invented the time-lapse camera, lived in Yosemite National Park where he was a famous photographer and photographer Ansel Adams may’ve stolen a box of his photographs and claimed them as his own.
OK, so maybe not the classic genealogy story, but it is Melinda Pillsbury-Foster’s story.
Pillsbury-Foster’s paternal grandfather was photographer A.C. Pillsbury, famous for landscapes of Yosemite National Park, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and time-lapse photos of flowers. His inventions include a circuit panorama camera, a specimen slicer (for microscopy), the X-Ray Motion picture camera and the underwater motion picture camera.  MORE

Massive explosion at one of Europe's biggest oil refineries amid fears toxic cloud could drift across continent

From:  The Mirror 


Italian emergency services have ordered local residents to stay inside their home.
The Italian Department of Civil Protection in the province of Alessandria said in a statement "The fire occurred inside refinery Italian ENI energy company occurred around 15:40 (local time), causing a large fireball of tens of meters."
Eni, Italy's biggest refiner, said in a statement the fire had started at around 4.00 pm in the so-called EST plant at the refinery. The cause was still unknown.  MORE