The Army Corps of Engineers is launching a $1 billion project to protect the suburban West Bank of New Orleans from devastating floods. Some critics say the project may have the potential dangerous consequence of encouraging more people to move there. By chance, the West Bank did not flood during Hurricane Katrina but engineers say the area is vulnerable to surge from a storm coming in at just the right angle, thanks in part to navigation and drainage canals. New Orleans’ population plummeted by 300,000 after Katrina, but residents quickly returned to the West Bank of the Mississippi River. The corps recently broke ground on the West Closure Structure, a floodgate and pump system designed to close off canals and bolster the area’s levees.
Gov. Mike Beebe has named 46 more Arkansas counties disaster areas following severe storms that caused tornadoes and flooding. The recent declaration brings to 51 the total of Arkansas counties that have received state disaster status due to severe weather in October. Counties that have been declared disaster areas are Arkansas, Ashley, Boone, Bradley, Calhoun, Carroll, Chicot, Clark, Cleburne, Cleveland, Columbia, Conway, Cross, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Faulkner, Franklin, Fulton, Grant, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Lafayette, Lawrence, Lee, Lincoln, Little River, Logan, Lonoke, Madison, Marion, Miller, Monroe, Nevada, Newton, Ouachita, Poinsett, Prairie, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Scott, Sharp, St. Francis, Union, Van Buren, White and Woodruff.
U.S. safety regulators hit oil giant BP with a record $87.4 million fine for failing to fix safety violations at its Texas City, Texas, refinery after a deadly 2005 explosion. U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said old and new safety violations found by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the nation’s third largest refinery “could lead to another catastrophe” like the 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 180. BP is contesting the fine, calling OSHA’s actions disappointing as the company believed the Texas City refinery had honored a 2005 agreement with the agency to fix safety problems that led to the blast. A United Steelworkers safety official said the union, which represents Texas City refinery workers, would seek to participate in any settlement talks or hearings.