Monday, on the four-month Louisiana sinkhole anniversary, bubbling bayou residents are asking why Gov. Bobby Jindal has never visited them during the state of emergency and mandatory evacuation he declared due to the massive sinkhole disaster. Although Assumption Parish Police Jury passed a resolution Wednesday requesting oil and gas service company Texas Brine Company to buy out property owners wanting to permanently relocate and compensate stayers, the parish has not issued that request to the company to date.
Property values have dropped to an all-time low, as has regard for Gov. Bobby Jindal, locals told Deborah Dupré at the Examiner and Kris Cuzansa at NBC Monday.
Four month Louisiana sinkhole anniversary, Gov. Jindal slammed for declaring State of Emergency and Mandatory Evacuation but never visiting citizens there
Sinkhole area residents want the state to step up and they want stronger action from officials. They want Gov. Bobby Jindal, housed only fifty miles away in Baton Rouge, to go to Bayou Corne where he declared a mandatory evacuation and a state of emergency soon after the sinkhole developed on Aug. 3.
“I have sent a formal meeting request to Governor Jindal,” Pierre Part resident Alicia Heilig told the Examiner in a Facebook message Monday.
Heilig manages the Bayou Corne Sinkhole Facebook page and from her home, has smelled the foul chemical odors at times. She told the Examiner that she was posting onto the Facebook page what she sent to the governor “so everyone can see.”
“I believe its time that the governor hear our concerns in person,” Heilig wrote. “He has not been here once to see this disaster for himself or show the people he is elected to represent that he is ‘here’ for us.”
“We would like to see our governor,” Bayou Corne property owner John Achee said. “Where has he been since all this has started? I mean this has been going on for six months. People have been evacuated for four months. We haven’t seen the governor. We haven’t heard from him. It’s like a circus without a ring leader literally.”
Hundreds of people signed a petition initiated by Heilig asking Jindal to expand the mandatory evacuation zone near the sinkhole. Heilig sent the petition to Jindal last month, only to receive from his office the following response:
Dear Miss Heilig,
Thank you for contacting the Governor’s office regarding emergency preparedness. Rest assured that your concerns are of great importance to the Governor.
As you may know, this matter falls under the jurisdiction of the Governors Office of Homeland Security & Homeland Preparedness. I have forwarded your information to them for further review, and you should be receiving a response from them in the near future.
Should you wish to contact the office directly, you may do so at:
Governors Office of Homeland Security
& Emergency Preparedness
7667 Independence Blvd.
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
Please continue to keep our office informed of your views on matters of importance. Please do not hesitate to contact our office in the future on matters of concern to you. If you have any further questions please contact Christine Wagley (225) 342-7015.
/s/ Christina Grantham
Director of Constituent Services
Governor Bobby Jindal”
Since receiving that reply, Heilig has informed Jindal’s office of her views. She says she is disturbed at the lack of attention this seems to be getting from the governor.
“Every email I have sent his office has been ‘forwarded to the appropriate agency,'” Heilig wrote. “I want SOMEONE out here to hear SOMETHING from Mr. Jindal himself.”
Like other sinkhole locals, Heilig wants to see Jindal at a community meeting where sometimes, hundreds of energy refugees crowd into St. Joseph’s Church in Pierre Part to hear the latest devastating news about the disaster and why they cannot go home.
“I am formally requesting that Mr. Jindal arrange a meeting with the people being affected by this situation, or that he attend the next community meeting.”
“How can a governor declare a state of emergency in his own state, and then be absent from anything having to do with said emergency?” Heilig asks. “Does he not realize how this is affecting the people out here? Does he not care, or is he just too busy cutting ribbons for bridge projects?”
“When you see a guy like Governor Bobby Jindal out there and he’s talking about trying to pick up the oil from the Deepwater Horizon, but the first thing he wants to do is keep drilling,” award-winning investigative journalist Greg Palast says in the movie, The Big Fix. “Where is he getting his money?”
“By 2010, Gov. Jindal had taken $645,935 from oil and gas companies.” (Dupré, Vampire of Macondo)
“Environmental groups in particular always say, ‘the oil industry has raped Louisiana,’” says professor of environmental studies at Louisiana State University Dr. Paul Templet in The Big Fix. “And my response has always been, they haven’t really raped us. They came to us with money in their hands and we said, ‘take us.’
“The political establishment here has been prostitutes to the oil industry, and not high priced call girls in many cases – cheap hookers,” Templet says.
Property values near worthless
“If they paid me my property value right now they wouldn’t have to pay me much,” Henry Welch, Bayou Corne Resident, said. “I don’t have any property value here, since their stuff started up.”
Officials have not sent the request to Texas Brine to buy out residents.
Texas Brine spokesman says the company is not ready to talk buyouts at this point and that it is time to focus on fixing problems in Bayou Corne.
An expert on the officials science team had said that if the cavern was fractured, it was irreparable. The cavern is now known to be fractured.
Every day that residents wait to learn the fate of their homes, their property values drop. Welch and dozens of other Bayou Corne residents have spent four months in camper trailers, waiting to return home. Now he and others are ready to move on.
“This is getting old. People have had enough,” Welch said. “I want to be bought out. I don’t want to live here any more.”
Other residents already battling cancer worry that the new chemicals in air and water are increasing their vulnerability. They also want to leave, they told Dupré.
The proposed plan is a small step to help homeowners wanting to leave, according to Welch. He worries Texas Brine won’t agree and months or years could pass before there is any relief.
“They made millions and billions of dollars, and now they can’t come up and step up to the plate and help the communities,” Welsh said. “I don’t think too much of them.”
“Texas Brine has gotten off the hook since this whole thing started,” Bayou Corne Achee said. “It’s been a slap on the wrist for Texas Brine. No one has really enforced them to do anything. They’ve basically done what they wanted to do.”
This weekend, the Louisiana Office of Conservation fined Texas Brine $100 thousand for failing to meet state orders to protect the area. The company failed to meet several deadlines.
Texas Brine told NBC33 they are working with the Office of Conservation to complete those required directives specified in a Nov. 12th order and that before the notice of fines, it was moving as fast as it could to meet deadlines.
The company ran into issues obtaining homeowner permission and land owner permission to install the gas monitors and vent wells, according to a spokesperson.
Residents near the sinkhole say the company is moving too slowly and jeopardizing their human right to health, safety and security.
“Why (can’t Texas Brine move quicker) if we got so much gas that we to have a monitor in our home with us not even living here. And they want to put monitors in our yards in and in our homes. I think that’s dangerous,” said Welch.
Suspend company permits, call in the feds
Residents believe that fines will not help. They want state officials to cancel Texas Brine’s permits and to kick Texas Brine out of the state.
“The only way you are going to see action is if the state steps up and suspends all permits in the state of Louisiana, not just here not just on this dome, the entire state,” Achee believes. “Get rid of them.”
There are seven companies operating out of the Napoleonville Salt Dome. Authorities have yet to confirm the source of the crude oil seeping into the dome. They are holding Texas Brine responsible for the entire disaster due to its collapsed cavern in the dome.
Some residents are so frustrated, they want the feds to come in if the state cannot do the job.
“Our president, I’m not too far from calling him and trying to set up a date with him and see if he can come help us,” Welch said.
“People are tired of this. We have absolutely had enough. This is not the way it should be,” Achee said. “We have a company out of Houston, Texas making a mockery out of the state of Louisiana. It’s a shame.”
The next public Bayou Corne resident briefing is scheduled for Dec. 18 at 7:00 P.M. at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Pierre Part.
Gov. Jindal’s invitation to attend the Dec. 18 meeting has not been answered at the time of this writing.
Deborah Dupré is author of the newly released book, Vampire of Macondo, packed with 450 pages of censored stories about the BP-wrecked Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, continuing catastrophic human and environmental devastation. Follow the Bayou Corne disaster here. For interviews and book signings with Ms. Dupré, email email@example.com.