Anne Rolfes says she founded the Louisiana Bucket Brigade because environmental groups in Louisiana would not hire her when she returned to her home state after stints at college in Colorado and in west Africa for the Peace Corps.
The basic idea was to provide citizens with an air sampling bucket that would enable them to document pollution in their communities and empower them to challenge industry and regulatory indifference.
The work has earned Rolfes and the Bucket Brigade friends in communities and enemies in the industry and among some politicians. In 2014, Senator David Vitter, in what was apparently one of his only known public displays of a sense of humor, tried to make Rolfes and her organization the face and logo of a vast left-wing environmental conspiracy.
The Bucket Brigade has an iWitness Pollution Map reporting tool which allows citizens to report and document incidents of pollution directly into the organization’s website. It maintains a database of Louisiana refinery accidents. And, Rolfes has been a persistent voice inside General Russel Honoré‘s GreenARMY calling for more activism on the part of the state’s environmental organizations while still working with local activists to fight particular issues.
Rolfes and the Bucket Brigade have now joined local, regional and national climate activists in the effort to put an end to federal oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. The group succeeded in disrupting a lease in New Orleans in March. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has now shifted lease sales to online in order to reduce the possibility of disruption.
In the interview, Rolfes said federal officials say the only reason the Gulf of Mexico is still open to offshore drilling is because the people of Louisiana allow them to do it, noting that drilling off the west coast has been shut down since the 1970s and drilling has never opened off the east coast.
Rolfes says she believes the oil and gas industry has a credibility issue based in part on false claims of work tied to offshore drilling and part to their repeated claims of environmental stewardship in the face of mounting evidence that shows otherwise.