Scott A. Hemmerling, Tim J.B. Carruthers, Ann C. Hijuelos, and Harris C. Bienn, 2020. “Double exposure and dynamic vulnerability: Assessing economic well-being, ecological change and the development of the oil and gas industry in coastal Louisiana”, Shore & Beach 88(1), 72-82. http://doi.org/10.34237/1008819
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Double exposure and dynamic vulnerability: Assessing economic well-being, ecological change and the development of the oil and gas industry in coastal Louisiana
Scott A. Hemmerling (1), Tim J.B. Carruthers (2), Ann C. Hijuelos (3), and Harris C. Bienn (4)
1) Director of Human Dimensions, The Water Institute of the Gulf, 1110 S. River Road, Suite 2000, Baton Rouge, LA, 70802, USA
firstname.lastname@example.org (corresponding author).
2) Director of Coastal Ecology, The Water Institute of the Gulf, 1110 S. River Road, Suite 2000, Baton Rouge, LA, 70802, USA
3) Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, New Orleans, LA, 70118, USA
4) GIS Lead, The Water Institute of the Gulf, 1110 S. River Road, Suite 2000, Baton Rouge, LA, 70802, USA
The oil and gas industry has been a powerful driver of economic change in coastal Louisiana for the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st. Yet, the overall impact of the industry on the economic well-being of host communities is varied, both spatially and temporally. While the majority of Louisiana’s oil and gas production now occurs offshore, processing the extracted product is an energy-intensive undertaking requiring an expansive network of land-based infrastructure. Despite the positive economic aspects of this development, there are also potential negatives posed to coastal ecosystems and to communities located adjacent to oil and gas infrastructure. This research utilizes a double exposure framework to explore the relationship between oil and gas infrastructure development, fish and shellfish habitat, and economic well-being in Louisiana’s coastal zone from 1950 to 2010. The approach followed four main steps: (1) Developing a hazardousness of place model to identify areas of magnified risk due to the combined hazards of multiple potential exposure sites related to the extraction and processing of crude oil and natural gas; (2) developing a model of ecological functioning to measure the ability of aquatic habitat to support key fish and shellfish species; (3) utilizing an integrated community economic well-being index to assess change on a decadal timescale; and (4) analyzing selected oil-dependent communities to illustrate how change processes occurring in different energy sectors result in differential outcomes. The results suggest that, for many communities, the dependence on the oil and gas industry has increased economic well-being but also increased sensitivity to natural and human-induced changes, including fluctuating economic conditions, environmental stress, coastal habitat destruction, and increasing social and economic pressures.