Plenary 2: The Gulf Coast: Diverse Converging Issues

This session will discuss the multitude of issues that affect the Gulf Coast today, and how those problems converge into major disasters. They will also go over cascading effects and potential disasters we can expect to see in the future.



Admiral Thad Allen (USCG, Ret.): Booz Allen Senior Vice President Thad Allen supports the firm’s work with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. He leads the development of thought leadership and client engagement regarding the future direction of law enforcement and homeland security. He is known for his expertise in bringing together government and non-government entities to address major challenges in a “whole of government” approach designed to achieve a unity of effort. Mr. Allen completed his distinguished career in the US Coast Guard as its 23rd Commandant.

In 2010, President Barack Obama selected Mr. Allen to serve as the National Incident Commander for the unified response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Working closely with the US Environmental Protection Agency, DHS, the Departments of Defense, Interior, Commerce, and Health and Human Services, state and local entities, and BP, he sought to bring a unity of effort to response operations.

Prior to his assignment as Commandant, Mr. Allen served as Coast Guard Chief of Staff. During his tenure in that position, in 2005, he was designated Principal Federal Official for the US government’s response and recovery operations in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita throughout the Gulf Coast region.

Other Coast Guard assignments included Commander, Atlantic Area where in 2001 he led the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area forces following the September 11 attacks. He previously served as Commander, Seventh Coast Guard District, where he oversaw all operations in the southeastern United States and in the Caribbean.


Confirmed Discussants:

Marcia McNutt: Marcia McNutt grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She received a bachelor's in Physics from Colorado College, Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude, and a doctorate in Earth Sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Dr. McNutt previously served as professor of Geophysics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), in Moss Landing, CA. Dr. McNutt has sailed as chief scientist on numerous oceanographic research voyages and published more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles. Her research has primarily focused on processes that lead to volcanic eruptions and formation of mountain belts far from the edges of the tectonic plates, and therefore are not explained by the plate tectonic paradigm. In 2009 she became director of the United States Geological Survey, where her responsibilities include leading the Nation's largest water, Earth, biological science and civilian mapping agency in its mission to provide the scientific data that enable decision makers to create sound policies for resource management and reducing vulnerability to natural hazards.  She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The American Geophysical Union awarded her the Macelwane Medal in 1988 for research accomplishments by a young scientist and the Maurice Ewing Medal in 2007 for her significant contributions to deep-sea exploration. The Coast Guard awarded her their Meritorious Service Medal, the second highest honor open to civilians, for her efforts during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She holds honorary degrees from Colorado College, the University of Minnesota, Monmouth University, and the Colorado School of Mines.


Nancy N. Rabalais: Nancy N. Rabalais, Ph.D., is a Professor and Executive Director at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Cocodrie, Louisiana, USA.  Dr. Rabalais' research interests include the dynamics of hypoxic environments, interactions of large rivers with the coastal ocean, estuarine and coastal eutrophication, and science policy. She serves the Board of Trustees for the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the Council for the University National-Oceanographic Laboratory System, the National and Southern Associations of Marine Labs, and the Board of Directors for GCOOS the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, and is Chair of the National Sea Grant Advisory Board. Dr. Rabalais is a MacArthur Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, an Aldo Leopold Leadership Program Fellow, Past Chair of the Ocean Studies Board and Past President of the Estuarine Research Federation, and has received several awards for the research that she and her collaborators have conducted on hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico. She earned her Ph.D. in Zoology from The University of Texas at Austin in 1983.

Bernard Goldstein: Dr. Goldstein is emeritus professor of environmental and occupational health and former dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.   Dr Goldstein is an elected member of the National Academies of Science Institute of Medicine (IOM).  He has chaired numerous national and international committees related to environmental health including the recent NRC Committee on Sustainability and the US EPA.  Currently he chairs the Coordinating Committee of the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program; the UNEP Emerging Issues Working Group on Chemical Governance; and the Society of Toxicology Issues Writing Team on Shale Gas. His experience includes service as Assistant Administrator for Research and Development of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1983-1985.   His current activities are primarily related to shale gas and to sustainability.


Jerome Zeringue currently serves as the Executive Director of the Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA). The CPRA’s mandate is to develop, implement, and enforce a comprehensive coastal protection and restoration master plan. The CPRA is also directed to implement the integration of hurricane protection, storm damage reduction, flood control, infrastructure, and coastal protection and restoration efforts in accordance with the master plan and annual plans. In partnership with federal, state, and local government, including levee districts, the CPRA is working to establish a safe and sustainable coast to protect Louisiana’s communities, the nation’s critical energy infrastructure, and our bountiful natural resources for generations to come.

After serving as the Executive Director of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District for over a decade, Zeringue joined the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities in May 2008 to serve as Director of Policy and Programs. Soon thereafter, Zeringue assumed the role of Deputy Executive Director of the CPRA and as such, was responsible for organizing, motivating and leading the integration of more than 150 staff that transferred from the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Transportation and Development, and the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities to form the implementation office for the CPRA. This was a crowning achievement as it marked the first time in Louisiana’s history that a single state entity was responsible for integrating and implementing coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects. In addition, Zeringue serves as Louisiana’s Incident Commander for coastal flood fighting during hurricane and high water events.

Zeringue was named the Management Team Chair of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance in 2011; taking an active lead on behalf of Governor Bobby Jindal. The Alliance is a result of a shared vision for a healthy and resilient Gulf of Mexico region by the States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.  The Gulf of Mexico Alliance Alliance’s mission is to enhance the ecological and economic health of the Gulf region by encouraging collaboration among government agencies, businesses, and non-governmental organizations. 

A native of Thibodaux, Zeringue holds a bachelor’s degree in Zoology and a master’s degree in Fisheries Biology both from Louisiana State University.