SEJ's 24th Annual Conference Agenda — Thursday



Day Tours
Independent Hospitality Receptions
And More TBA!



Agenda Registration Lodging/Travel Advertise/Exhibit Environmental News About New Orleans


Thursday, September 4, 2014


Note: All information is subject to change. Please check back often for updates and information on event times, speakers, etc.


Tours in the Field

Advance registration is required for all Thursday tours. Attendance on each tour is strictly limited, so registering early is important. Departure times vary (see below), but all Thursday tours will return to the New Orleans Hilton Riverside about 5:00 p.m. For those looking for some exercise, tours 2, 3 and 7 are your best options. Other tours involve moderate exercise. Tours 4 and 9 are best suited for wheelchair accessibility.

We'll be boarding a bunch of boats, from kayaks and canoes to trawlers and cruise ships and everything in-between. A lucky few might even get in planes and helicopters for birds' eye views of ground zero for climate change and trips to offshore rigs for a firsthand look at our ramped up fossil fuel future.

This year's tours collectively include a very comprehensive exploration of our schizophrenic future energy picture, as New Orleans and the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf of Mexico face both ramped up fossil fuel extraction, refining and shipping and increased threats from climate change impacts. We'll examine this juxtaposition of energy policy and environmental risk in a place where they come together like nowhere else.

Yet, New Orleans is also a place where we can eat, drink, dance, listen to music and generally partake of the whole spectrum of humanity's offerings, and all this with the climate change monster right outside the door.

1. After BP: Are We Really Prepared Offshore?

(6:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

The BP Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill in 2010. © Photo courtesy | The Times-Picayune.

The four years since Deepwater Horizon have been about improving our readiness for spills and raising offshore drilling safety standards, but as Gulf drilling keeps expanding and pushing limits, U.S. regulators remain reactive rather than proactive, contractors still escape scrutiny and violations still get covered up. With that in mind, we will go behind the scenes at a leading spill response outfit, hear directly from offshore regulators, visit with a whistleblower who sacrificed his livelihood to expose offshore criminal activity and, finally, jump on a boat to witness a rig in action and see for ourselves the safety challenges and unpredictability of working on an oil rig. Total drive time – 5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Dina Cappiello, National Environment/Energy Reporter, The Associated Press
David Hammer, Investigative Reporter, WWL-TV Channel 4 (CBS), New Orleans

Donald Boesch, Professor, Marine Science and President, Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland
Michael Bromwich, Managing Principal, The Bromwich Group
Randy Comeaux, Terminated Whistleblower, ATP Titan, Mississippi Canyon 941; Terminated Whistleblower, W&T Offshore, Ewing Banks 910
Charlie Williams, Executive Director, Center for Offshore Safety; Chief Scientist, Well Engineering and Production Technology, Shell


2. Rebuilding Barrier Islands and Restoring Marshes

(7:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Studies show that most of southeast Louisiana will be drowned by the Gulf of Mexico before 2100 because it is sinking at one of the world’s fastest rates, while at the same time, seas are rising. The state and federal wetlands restoration community is fighting that fate by using Mississippi River and offshore sediment deposits to rebuild vanishing marshes and barrier islands. Attendees will visit two restoration sites, including a barrier island rebuilding project and a marsh restoration project south of New Orleans in Plaquemines Parish. The trip includes two boat rides, a seafood lunch at Woodland Plantation, and opportunities to see coastal restoration, both in progress and complete. Over 10 wetland experts will be on hand for the tour and during the winding two-hour bus ride across some of the most vulnerable coastal wetlands on the planet. Total drive time – 4 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Gloria Gonzalez, Senior Associate, Carbon Program, Ecosystem Marketplace
Bob Marshall, Staff Writer, The Lens

Kenneth Bahlinger, Coastal Restoration Project Manager, Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
Virginia Burkett, Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change, U.S. Geological Survey
Darryl Clark, CWPPRA Coordinator and Project Manager, and Senior Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Louisiana Ecological Services Office, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Brad Inman, CWPPRA Chairman, Planning and Evaluation Committee and Senior Project Manager, Restoration Branch, Protection and Restoration Office, New Orleans District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Paul Kaspar, Project Manager for the "Mississippi River Sediment Delivery System – Bayou Dupont" Project, Environmental Engineer and Chief, Permits Oversight Section, Region 6, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Quin Kinler, Resource Conservationist, Water Resources Planning, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Mel Landry, Marine Fisheries Habitat Specialist, Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Sarah Mack, President and Chief Executive Officer, Tierra Resources LLC
Cherie Price, Planner for LCA Mississippi River Hydrodynamics and Delta Management Study, Restoration Branch, Protection and Restoration Office, New Orleans District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
George Ricks, Charter Captain and President, Save Louisiana Coalition
Kevin Roy, Project Manager for the "Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation Project" and Senior Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Louisiana Ecological Services Office, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Susan Testroet-Bergeron, CWPPRA Public Outreach Coordinator, National Wetlands Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey
Eugene Turner, Boyd Professor, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, School of the Coast and Environment, Louisiana State University


3. If the Gators Don’t Get You... the Sinkhole Will

(7:15 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

© Alligator photo courtesy Ly Cao.

What are ya, wimps? We’ll take you to the heart of Louisiana’s swampland to visit the Atchafalaya Basin and the Bayou Corne-area sinkhole. U.S. Geological Survey scientists will lead a morning boat trip into the million-acre basin, the largest river swamp in the United States. Here we’ll see alligators, wintering waterfowl, invasive nutria and huge cypress trees. Then, in the afternoon, you’ll see the sinkhole for yourself. The 26-acre hole emerged from cypress forest in August 2012 because a salt dome cavern failed deep underground. Hear from parish and Texas Brine Co. officials and residents about the environmental disaster. Total drive time – 4 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Randy Lee Loftis, Environmental Writer, The Dallas Morning News
David Mitchell, Reporter, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate

John Boudreaux, Director, Assumption Parish Office, Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
Jacoby Carter, Research Ecologist, National Wetlands Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey
Patrick Courreges, ‎Communications Director, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
Sonny Cranch, Spokesman, Texas Brine Company
Dan Kroes, Floodplain Ecologist, Louisiana Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey
Dennis Landry, Resident and Local Business Owner, Bayou Corne
Mike Schaff, Departing Resident of Bayou Corne
Wilma Subra, Environmental Scientist; President, Subra Company (New Iberia, LA); Vice-Chair, National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Member, U.S. EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council; and Recipient, MacArthur Fellowship Genius Award
Christopher Swarzenski, Wetlands Hydrologist and Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey


4. Chemical Corridor: Industry, Community and Environmental Health Impacts

(7:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

The boom in North American oil and gas extraction is fueling expansion in Louisiana’s petrochemical industry, with nearly $84 billion in new plant construction planned. We will visit petrochemical and refining facilities and their surrounding communities to learn how the plants operate and what the expected expansion will mean for the surrounding environment and neighboring communities’ health. We will hear from industry experts, environmental health and justice advocates, occupational health and safety experts to learn how environmental safety and health are addressed and how adjacent communities’ have been grappling with these issues. Total drive time – 3 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Elizabeth Grossman, Freelance Journalist
Amy Wold, Reporter, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate

Dan Borne, President, Louisiana Chemical Association
Celena Cage, Enforcement Administrator, Louisiana State Department of Environmental Quality
Chris John, President, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (invited)
Kim Nibarger, Health and Safety Specialist, United Steelworkers
Marylee Orr, Executive Director, Louisiana Environmental Action Network
Anne Rolfes, Founding Director, Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Wilma Subra, Environmental Scientist; President, Subra Company (New Iberia, LA); Vice-Chair, National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Member, U.S. EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council; and Recipient, MacArthur Fellowship Genius Award
Tegan Treadaway, Air Permits Administrator, Louisiana State Department of Environmental Quality
Louisiana Economic Development representative TBA


5. Oyster Reefs and Fisheries in the Aftermath of BP and Katrina

(8:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

We’ll head to Empire, near the Mississippi River’s mouth, and hop on boats to examine oyster reefs. Oysterers and scientists will discuss how oyster beds are seeded and harvested, and why the brackish mix of salt and fresh water is needed to grow the Gulf of Mexico’s large mollusks. We’ll also hear about impending new freshwater diversions that are expected to build wetlands, but also could doom existing oyster reefs. We’ll also discuss the effects of Katrina, the BP oil spill, changes in the oyster industry, and the low-oxygen “dead zone” along Louisiana’s coast on local oyster harvesting. We might even taste some oysters from the boat. Total drive time – 3 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, Staff Writer, The Times-Picayune and
Robert Thomas, Professor and Director, Center for Environmental Communication, School of Mass Communication, Loyola University New Orleans

David Muth, Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program
John Tesvich, Chair, Louisiana Oyster Task Force
3rd speaker TBA


6. Fracking, and All That Oil and Gas

(8:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Louisiana is enjoying its biggest industrial boom since the oil bust in the 1980s, and decisions on new plants and expansions of existing ones are being driven by ample supplies of cheap natural gas, thanks to advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology. Manufacturers who use the clean-burning fuel to power their facilities are reaping the benefits, particularly along the 70-mile corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Hear what experts on all sides of this issue have to say during a visit to a drilling site in Amite County, Miss., in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale formation, an emerging oil and gas play. Total drive time – 4 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Bobby Magill, Senior Science Writer, Climate Central
Ricky Thompson, Staff Writer, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate

David Allen, Melvin H. Gertz Regents Chair in Chemical Engineering, McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering and Director, Center for Energy and Environmental Resources, Cockrell School of Engineering, University of Texas-Austin
Don Briggs, President, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association
David Dismukes, Professor and Executive Director, Center for Energy Studies, Louisiana State University
Stephanie Houston Grey, Anti-Fracking Activist and Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Culture, Department of Communication Studies, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Louisiana State University
Steve Murchie, Campaign Director, Gulf Restoration Network
Andrew Place, Corporate Director of Energy and Environmental Policy, EQT Corporation
Environmental Defense Fund representative TBA
Goodrich Petroleum representative TBA


7. Louisiana’s Great Lakes, Cypress Swamps and Woodpeckers

(9:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

We'll visit the Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station on Lake Maurepas for a pontoon boat ride through cypress swamps, followed by a dip-netting exercise and a delicious lunch of local seafood. Then we'll visit the Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge, a gem on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, where we may catch a glimpse of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. All along the way, we'll hear from experts about the natural and unnatural history of the Pontchartrain Basin and learn about efforts to restore this important ecosystem. Total drive time – 2.5 hours. Tour limited to 45 people. Dress for the outdoors; bring water, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and binoculars (optional).

Tour Leaders:
Christopher Johnston, Freelance Videographer
Sara Shipley Hiles, Freelance Journalist and Assistant Professor, School of Journalism, University of Missouri

Pon Dixson, Refuge Manager, Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge
Melanie Driscoll, Director of Bird Conservation, Gulf Coast/Mississippi Flyway, National Audubon Society
Ioannis Georgiou, Associate Professor of Coastal Processes, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Director, Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of New Orleans
John Lopez, Executive Director, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
Robert Moreau, Manager, Turtle Cove Environmental Research Center
Alisha Renfro, Staff Scientist, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, National Wildlife Federation


8. Risky Business: How New Orleans’ Rebuilt Levee System Is So Much Better, But Not Good Enough

(9:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

We tour the post-Katrina hurricane storm surge risk reduction system — the Army Corps of Engineers’ new name for the flood protection system — and learn how dramatic improvements in design requirements and new technology make New Orleans the best-protected city in the nation. But, we’ll also learn how that protection still won’t save the city from being flooded by the Big One. The tour will view new earthen levees, a 2-mile-long, 26-foot-high storm surge barrier, and a new pump station that could drain all the water out of an Olympic-sized swimming pool in five seconds. Total drive time – 2 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Jeff Adelson, Reporter, The New Orleans Advocate
Juliet Pinto, Associate Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, Florida International University

Ezra Boyd, Hazard Geographer and Disaster Scientist, and Co-Founder,
Susan Maclay, President, Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - West
Sandy Rosenthal, Founder and Executive Director,
Stevan Spencer, Chief Engineer, Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative TBA


9. The Long Road Home: Community Resilience, Adaptations, and Legacies From America’s Biggest Rebuild

(10:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Collaborative rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.

Each New Orleans community took its own road home. We'll look at what determines who comes back, efforts to rebuild better, and what others can learn from our disaster experiences. We'll tour the Lower 9th Ward to check in on Brad Pitt's Make It Right houses and more traditional church-run renovation projects. We'll look into the replanting going on at Bayou Bienvenue, and have lunch with the Vietnamese fishing and farming communities. We'll return via the Lakefront and discuss efforts to re-connect residents with water. We'll end in Broadmoor — the geographical heart of the city and its latest rebuild efforts — and send you home singing New Orleans style. Total drive time – 3 hours.


Tour Leaders:
Adam Glenn, Educator, Graduate School of Journalism, City University of New York; Digital Media Consultant, a2g Media; Editor, SEJournal, Society of Environmental Journalists; Editor, AdaptNY
Julia Kumari-Drapkin, Videographer, | The Times-Picayune and Executive Producer, iSeeChange
Tom Thoren, Freelance Journalist and Open Data Reporter, The Lens
Loretta Williams, Freelance Producer/Editor

Karen Gadbois, Co-Founder and Staff Writer, The Lens
Michael Hecht, President and Chief Executive Officer, Greater New Orleans, Inc.
Darryl Malek-Wiley, Senior Organizing Representative, Environmental Justice and Community Partnership Program, Sierra Club
Allison Plyer, Executive Director, The Data Center and Author, "The New Orleans Index"
David Waggoner, Principal, Waggonner & Ball Architects
Beverly Wright, Professor of Sociology and Director, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Dillard University
Peter Yaukey, Professor of Geography, College of Liberal Arts, University of New Orleans


Independent Hospitality Receptions

5:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Looking for networking opportunities? After spending all day out on tours, meet with hosts of independent receptions. Reception hosts will have experts, displays, information, and, of course, great food and drink. Check back here this summer to see the roster of 2014 hosts.

Location: Napoleon Ballroom, 3rd Floor


Wednesday, September 3
Friday, September 5
Saturday, September 6
Sunday, September 7