This week on the Coastal News Roundup, WWNO’s Travis Lux talks with Mark Schleifstein, environment reporter for Nola.com/The Times-Picayune, about a big new oil find in the Gulf of Mexico. Plus, the latest on a lawsuit related to Hurricane Katrina damages.
The following transcript has been lightly edited:
Q: On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up a case that had to do with damages from Hurricane Katrina. Residents in St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans were claiming that the federal government owed them money for damages caused by levee failures. What was their argument?
This one’s a little bit different from a bunch of lawsuits that were filed earlier in that this one actually said that the federal government had violated the constitution by taking part of the value of their property. It’s called a “takings” case.
Q: Does that settle it? Is it over now? What happens next?
Yeah that’s it, it is now over. This is the last major lawsuit [related to Hurricane Katrina damages]. There were 500,000 individual claims that were filed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after Katrina. Those are done. A lot of those people did get some compensation through either FEMA or through their flood insurance, if they were lucky enough to have had flood insurance.
Q: But to date no one got any legal compensation outside of FEMA?
No. There was one case that did go to trial at the state level where a local levee district was found to be partially responsible. But the amount of money that people got was $20-$30 each, at most. It was not much -- not enough to really mean anything.
Q: Another big headline this week was about drilling in the Gulf. BP announced that it’s found a ton of new oil in the Gulf of Mexico. More than a billion barrels of oil between a couple different locations. In the context of oil production offshore, is that a lot or a little? How much is that, really?
That is really significant. Remember, a barrel of oil is 42 gallons. We’re talking about a really big chunk of additional resources that BP thinks it will be able to extract from deep under the Gulf of Mexico.
Q: These discoveries were made with a technique known as seismic imaging, where scientists use sound waves to help them find those pockets of oil. This is a pretty controversial method of searching for oil, right?
Right. Seismic imaging is usually some kind of an explosion at the surface or some kind of noise making process that could hurt marine mammals. And so that’s the concern. What’s different about this particular process is really not in the way that the seismic waves are created, but rather how they’re measured and visualized. In the past, it could take a year or longer for the computer to actually determine what the waves meant. And now it’s just a couple of weeks.
Q: Some of the money the state uses for coastal restoration comes from the royalties made from oil and gas drilling offshore. Theoretically, could mean more money for restoration coming to the state since there’s also going to be more drilling after this find?
Absolutely. The state gets 37.5% of new oil found after 2005, so this would fall under that because it’s all going to be newly produced oil. So yeah, it could mean a significant chunk of revenue for the state.
The Coastal News Roundup airs every Friday at 7:45 am and 4:44 pm.
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