Tegan Wendland

Tegan Wendland is a freelance producer with a background in investigative news reporting. She currently produces the biweekly segment, Northshore Focus. 


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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The day after Wilma Banks lost power, the stale summer air inside her New Orleans apartment became suffocating.

Typically when her breathing gets strained, Banks straps on her plastic nebulizer mask. After turning it on, a medicated mist flows into her lungs, making her short breaths full again.

But after Hurricane Ida knocked out her power on Aug. 29, she couldn't use the nebulizer. She knew her oxygen level would continue to drop. Her heart could stop.

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The first thing Larry McCanney fell in love with was the tree in the front yard. It cast shade on the porch of a house that, if he were honest, needed some work. But McCanney is handy, the price was right and the location was perfect, just a couple of miles from his childhood home in Burlington, N.J.

It may be the most surprising addition to the growing number of states setting aggressive climate goals.

Louisiana's economy has long relied on the production of oil, gas and petrochemicals. But in a major shift, officials are looking to dramatically reduce the fossil fuel emissions that disproportionately ravage the state with powerful hurricanes, intense floods, rising seas and extreme heat.

Louisiana is known for its losing battle against rising seas and increasingly frequent floods. It can sometimes seem like the state has too much water. But the aquifers deep beneath its swampy landscape face a critical shortage.

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Copyright 2020 WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio. To see more, visit WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio.

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Updated at 9:26 p.m. ET

A chemical plant in Westlake, La., that caught fire during Hurricane Laura is still burning Thursday evening.

The facility, BioLab Inc., makes chlorine for swimming pools. Officials are unsure exactly when the fire started, but Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) Press Secretary Greg Langley said his agency was informed of the fire around 9 a.m. local time.

Cheap natural gas and access to international ports are fueling a new industrial boom in Louisiana, along the stretch of land locals have long dubbed "cancer alley." The expansion is prompting new efforts to stop the factories, by residents concerned about the impact on their health.

Ten miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, off the tip of Louisiana, the fumes become overwhelming. "See how it's all rainbow sheen there? So that's oil," says Ian MacDonald, who's guiding us in a tiny fishing boat that's being tossed around by 6-foot waves.

MacDonald is a scientist at Florida State University where he studies oil spills. This one is not a black, sticky slick, but it stretches on for miles. And here, where the murky Mississippi River dumps into the Gulf, it's been leaking for more than 14 years.

Scores of coastal research labs around the U.S. are helping communities plan for sea level rise. But now many are starting to flood themselves, creating a dilemma: stay by the coast and endure expensive flooding, or move inland, to higher ground, but away from their subject of study.

The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium lab is located along the state's fragile coast, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans. The giant X-shaped building is at the end of a gravel road, surrounded by open water and grassy marshes.

This story is a collaboration with Reveal, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and PRX. You can share your own experience with increased flooding here.

Louisiana is losing its coast at a rapid rate because of rising sea levels, development and sinking marshland. Officials are trying to rebuild those marshes and the wetlands, but much of the coast can't be saved. This makes Louisiana's history an unwitting victim. As land disappears and the water creeps inland, ancient archaeology sites are washing away, too.

Richie Blink was born and raised in Plaquemines Parish, La. — way down south of New Orleans along the Mississippi River. Now he works for the National Wildlife Federation.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Coastal cities across the globe are looking for ways to protect themselves from sea level rise and extreme weather. In the U.S., there is no set funding stream to help — leaving each city to figure out solutions for itself.

New Orleans and Philadelphia are two cities that face very similar challenges of flooding from rising tides. But they've chosen to pay for the solutions in very different ways.

New Orleans: Post-Disaster Payments And Grants Pave Future

The Gulf of Mexico is now open for commercial fish farming.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced last month that, for the first time in the U.S., companies can apply to set up fish farms in federal waters.

The idea is to compete with hard-to-regulate foreign imports. But opening the Gulf to aquaculture won't be cheap, and it could pose environmental problems.