Environmental activist celebrity Erin Brockovich has drawn national attention to Louisiana’s state of emergency with her weekend visit to the oil and gas industry’s salt dome collapse “sinkhole” disaster area, telling reporters an absolute risk of explosions exists, locals need to get out and they need to sue for relief.
Brockovich and her colleague, California attorney Thomas Girardi, hired by some of the sinkhole zone residents, were in Pierre Part for a meeting Saturday to discuss relief through legal options for residents evacuated from Bayou Corne due to a historic collapsing salt dome “sinkhole.”
“There is absolutely risks and potential for explosions,” Brockovich told WBRZ TV reporters.
“They didn’t feel like they were getting their questions answered immediately,” 19-year human and environmental advocate veteran Brockovich explained to a Fox44 reporter. “They were frightened. They didn’t know what was going on. They felt that if they could reach me it was something that they could trust.”
“They’re being told, ‘This is dangerous. Get out!” Brockovich exclaimed. “They need to get out. That land, those homes, it’s useless now.”
“Unfortunately, the company is not doing the right thing by them,” she stated. “It’s a disaster and it should have been dealt with seven months ago.”
The problem is that “it” cannot be stopped, according to some officials, locals and other south Louisiana residents.
What makes this an unprecendented or historic “sinkhole” is that below it are approximately 500 billion cubic feet of gas and 200 million gallons of crude oil, according to Golden Gate Petroleum, LTD. Golden Gate with Grand Gulf Energy (ASX:GGE) and other collaborating companies are targeting 1 million barrels of oil in its Napoleonville Project.
Nowhere in the world has a brine cavern this large collapsed, and the data shows it is not finished yet, Dr. Gary Hecox has explained.
Glo Conlin lives near another frightening salt dome, at Lake Peigneur, that has been oddly bubbling for years and until recently, dismissed by officials.
Conlin wrote in an email Sunday about the Bayou Corne salt dome disaster, “If anything could stop it, it would have been done. It is too late.”
Lake Peigneur bubbles have increased recently, resulting in state officials finally taking some action. The state also recently ordered all of Louisiana’s salt dome operators to prove their storage facilities are safe.
The sinkhole, approximately 400 square feet when discover on August 3, is now 9 acres large and continues to expand. It is expected to continue growing up to the size of 30 football fields.
About 350 residents remain under evacuation orders. Many of them crowded into a standing room only American Legion Hall Saturday to learn from Brockovich and Girardi.
Human rights crusader Brockovich told residents at the meeting that legal action is their only chance of relief.
At least 50 homeowners have retained Brockovich’s colleague, attorney Thomas Girardi, who also spoke to the gathering.
As shown in the 2000 Oscar Award winning film starring Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich, the environmental and human rights advocate helped California residents get millions of dollars in settlement money from a company, after she helped prove it contaminated ground water. Dozens of those residents were sickened by cancer.
Girardi said that lawsuits for his 25 clients have not yet been filed but that he will be filing them soon.
“We are still looking into it,” he said.
Disrupt, Discredit, Divide and we fall
After visiting the sinkhole site Saturday, Brockovich met with locals for two hours.
According to a news report interview with one woman after the meeting, Bayou Corne locals are ready to take action. That is not easy, however, with disruptions, discrediting and dividing occurring there.
Brockovich urged the energy evacuees and other locals at the meeting that they needed to stick together as a community, if they want to win.
Divisions among locals, infighting and disruptions are seen on Facebook sinkhole pages dedicated to the collapsing dome.
“All the ‘experts’ on these type situations pound in to us, to NOT let this situation divide us. To stick together,” Bayou Corne activist Jo Celle wrote on Facebook. “That division is what these big companies feed on. Well, we have failed on that one.
“We are not only divided as a community, but the evil has entered.”
Brockovich also asserted that residents needed to heed officials’ advice to evacuate, that the area remains under a mandatory evacuation order. The mandatory evacuation has not been enforced.
Many locals remain within the disaster zone. On occasions, officials have requested that they return to their homes to check for cracks from the ongoing earthquakes occurring there and methane leaks, both of which have been occurring since the disaster began.
“For us it’s destroyed. They destroyed our family life. Our piece of the American dream is gone,” said Bayou Corne resident Kenny Simoneaux.
“Where is it that you want them to live?” exclaimed Brockovich. “What is it that you want them to do? You are displacing them. You are creating fear amongst them. Ease that for them, and it’s not happening.”
“There is not going to be any quick answer for them, but it is time for them to decide to take some action,” Brockovich explained, “Initiate, unfortunately, some litigation, because the company isn’t doing the right thing by them.”
It could take up to two years before this case goes to trial, according to her lawyer associates. They hope to settle before then.
That’s too long, most residents say. Some told Deborah Dupré in November that they anticipated a buy-out by January.
“My heart stopped beating. I can’t even imagine staying in this dilemma for two years,” Bayou Corne resident Kenny Simoneaux broke down.
“Look how long it’s been so far. I mean it’s a slow process,” Bayou Corne resident Jennifer Gregoire said this weekend. “Nothing is going to happen over night.”
“We are not the ones that are going to hold this up,” Brockovich asserted. “It will be Texas Brine. They could come right now and start discussing and make this right by people.”
‘Throw a shoe’ at Gov. Bobby Jindal
Asked about Girardi and Brockovich’s planned visit, Texas Brine spokesman Sonny Cranch said the company had no comment.
Gov. Bobby Jindal also has had few comments on the disaster. Last week, he evaded WBRZquestions about going to the disaster area.
Jindal has failed to visit the evacuees and other residents there in the 7 months since declaring it a state emergency.
Americans across the nation have petitioned Jindal to expand the disaster zone mandatory evacuation, according to the expansion of the disaster.
The “sinkhole” began as 400 square feet and is now over 9 acres.
Explosive methane has extended at least two square miles from the “sinkhole.”
There are substantially over 50,000,000 cubic feet of methane below the surface there. Methane leaks such as these are typically followed by crude oil.
People outside the official evacuation zone, many of whom have become ill since the event began, receive no relocation assistance from Texas Brine. Others receive $875 weekly.
To date, Jindal has not responded agreeably to this petition nor to local requests to visit them there.
It is believed that a photo of Jindal at his state’s latest oil and gas disaster would not only better draw national attention to the disaster. It would also be damaging to the industry.
“Your Governor, when I see him on TV Meet the Press or whatever, I wanna throw a shoe!!” exclaimed a Bayou Corne Sinkhole Facebook user.
A commenter wrote under Times Picayune‘s article about the Brockovich meeting, “Maybe she should be our governor.”
“There have been a few examples recently in this paper, and the media at large, of environmental (or environmental justice) cases where parties are marginalized or told that they don’t have a real stake in the issue, in an attempt to make it go away,” another commenter wrote. “An area that has experienced Katrina and BP should be more than familiar with what happens when corporations and powerful interests try to deny citizens due process or compensation.”
Monday, officials will meet with Jindal in Baton Rouge about the sinkhole and latest information of concern that Texas Brine disclosed Friday:
The other of its two wells in the dome, Oxy #1, is also failing - only 950’ from Highway 70, to the outer wall of the Napoleonville Salt Dome.
Fifty-one chemical caverns are in the dome beneath Grand Bayou and Bayou Corne communities.
Human and Earth rights crusader blesses oil-cursed south Louisiana
Despite Jindal’s refusal to appear at his state’s latest oil and gas industry disaster, Brockovich is bringing national attention to the locals’ plight, attention they have begged for seven months.
A quick Google search on Brockovich Louisiana sinkhole results in up to 20 pages.
Fox 44 News, other television news programs and other websites across the nation are now carrying the Brockovich sinkhole story.
Brockovich, president of Brockovich Research and Consulting, is researching over 700 U.S. sites possibly fraught with industrial contamination, where people struggle with no federal support.
“There’s a huge disconnect,” Brockovich once told Fox News Insider.
Twenty-five thousand to thirty-five thousand people contact her monthly, asking for help due to industry human rights abuses, including inflicting cancer and other environmental diseases.
According to the EPA, childhood cancer rates increased over 20 percent from 1975 to 2007, robbing them of life and subjecting them to surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Brockovich testified on Capitol Hill about the growing epidemic of “disease clusters” in the U.S. – communities with particularly high cancer rates known only too well in south Louisiana’s Cancer Alley.
“These communities in every part of the nation are sending out an S.O.S.” Brockovich testified.
Public health and safety specialist Emily Harris stated on Facebook Monday, “So many issues have gone on much too long unaddressed. My heart goes out to this community and all the others that are being eaten alive by big oil and gas.”
(Watch: Erin Brockovich sends out an S.O.S. video)
Brockovich wants people to take an active role in their communities, to take them back from oil and gas corporations destroying lives and the environment, according to Real-Life Erin Brockovich’s Cause Novel video interview on Fox News about her book, Rock Bottom.
“If you follow your heart, if you listen to your gut and if you extend your hand to help another, not for any agenda, but for the sake of humanity, you are going to find the truth,” Brockovich states on her website.
A motivated and compassionate Facebook commenter wrote Sunday, “God bless you Erin Brockovich! You go! Help these people where no one else will!
Tell me what I can do as a neighbor to help and I’ll do my best to do it!”
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Human Rights news reporter Deborah Dupré is author of the inspiring and shocking book, “Vampire of Macondo, Life, crimes and curses in south Louisiana that Powerful Forces Don’t want you to know.” Its 450 pages are packed with mainstream media’s censored stories (and over 1000 references) about the BP-wrecked Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico that continues catastrophic human and environmental devastation.
Follow Dupré on Twitter @DeborahDupre. For interviews, email [email protected]
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