Now that he’s been tapped as interim secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Stephen Chutz’s first order of business should be an extensive review of how his department has handled its responsibilities regarding a large sinkhole and unexplained natural gas venting in the Assumption Parish community of Bayou Corne.
DNR officials and Texas Brine Co. officials knew at least since January 2011 that one of the company’s salt dome caverns may have developed problems now suspected of possibly causing the recent emergence of the sinkhole. It is possible that the sinkhole was caused by the collapse of a salt dome cavern.
But the problems with the salt cavern were not immediately disclosed to the public and some local officials involved with the response effort. DNR officials defended their timing in disclosing the information, suggesting that they have responded appropriately as progress is made toward clarifying the cause of the sinkhole.
The investigation of the cause of the sinkhole and its possible impact on the environment is ongoing. We’d also urge a thorough and transparent review of DNR’s dealings with this issue, with particular attention to ways that the agency’s communication with the public might be improved.