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American Energy, Imperiled Coast

Oil and Gas Development in Louisiana's Wetlands

Jason P. Theriot

Publication Year: 2014

In the post--World War II era, Louisiana's coastal wetlands underwent an industrial transformation that placed the region at the center of America's energy-producing corridor. By the twenty-first century the Louisiana Gulf Coast supplied nearly one-third of America's oil and gas, accounted for half of the country's refining capacity, and contributed billions of dollars to the U.S. economy. Today, thousands of miles of pipelines and related infrastructure link the state's coast to oil and gas consumers nationwide. During the course of this historic development, however, the dredging of pipeline canals accelerated coastal erosion. Currently, 80 percent of the United States' wetland loss occurs on Louisiana's coast despite the fact that the state is home to only 40 percent of the nation's wetland acreage, making evident the enormous unin-tended environmental cost associated with producing energy from the Gulf Coast.

In American Energy, Imperiled Coast Jason P. Theriot explores the tension between oil and gas development and the land-loss crisis in Louisiana. His book offers an engaging analysis of both the impressive, albeit ecologically destructive, engineering feats that characterized industrial growth in the region and the mounting environmental problems that threaten south Louisiana's communities, culture, and "working" coast. As a historian and coastal Louisiana native, Theriot explains how pipeline technology enabled the expansion of oil and gas delivery -- examining previously unseen photographs and company records -- and traces the industry's far-reaching environmental footprint in the wetlands. Through detailed research presented in a lively and accessible narrative, Theriot pieces together decades of political, economic, social, and cultural undertakings that clashed in the 1980s and 1990s, when local citizens, scientists, politicians, environmental groups, and oil and gas interests began fighting over the causes and consequences of coastal land loss. The mission to restore coastal Louisiana ultimately collided with the perceived economic necessity of expanding offshore oil and gas development at the turn of the twenty-first century. Theriot's book bridges the gap between these competing objectives.

From the discovery of oil and gas below the marshes around coastal salt domes in the 1920s and 1930s to the emergence of environmental sciences and policy reforms in the 1970s to the vast repercussions of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, American Energy, Imperiled Coast ultimately reveals that the natural and man-made forces responsible for rapid environmental change in Louisiana's wetlands over the past century can only be harnessed through collaboration between public and private entities.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

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pp. vii-xiii

There is something alluring about the Louisiana marsh. In some way, all of us native to south Louisiana have a connection to the wetlands, either through work or play or some link to a past heritage. Some say that it...

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pp. 1-14

Energy development and the Louisiana Gulf Coast have a shared history. The region is the birthplace of the offshore oil and gas industry. Throughout the twentieth century the energy industry transformed the Louisiana...

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1. AN ENERGY LANDSCAPE EMERGES: Early Coastal Oil and Gas Development

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pp. 15-40

Development of the oil and gas industry in south Louisiana began at the dawn of the twentieth century near known salt domes. Exploration and production around these geological structures led the industry from the...

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2. POSTWAR PIPELINES SPAN THE COAST: Building the Three Hundred-Mile Muskrat Line

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pp. 41-73

The early post–World War II period marked the beginning of building large energy pipelines in the Louisiana Gulf Coast. In the 1950s, U.S. demand for petroleum, particularly natural gas in the northeast, dramatically...

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pp. 74-103

After more than three decades of toiling through the marshlands and adapting to a new environment, the industry launched from the Louisiana coastal area into a new frontier offshore. While the offshore...

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4. AMERICA’S FIRST OFFSHORE OIL PORT: LOOP and the Science of Wetland Ecology

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pp. 104-130

The 1970s marked a turning point for energy and the environment in America. The imperative to increase energy supplies from offshore, as a result of the ongoing energy crisis, collided with a new national agenda...

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5. THE COASTAL EROSION CRISIS: Wetland Loss and the Oil Field Canal Debate

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pp. 131-162

In the 1980s, coastal erosion became a highly charged issue in south Louisiana. The thousands of miles of canals built and permitted throughout the coastal wetlands for oil and gas development over the decades contributed...

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6. THE COASTAL RESTORATION CAMPAIGN: From the Breaux Act to Coast 2050

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pp. 163-184

The 1990s ushered in a new chapter in Louisiana’s energy and environmental history. As the state clawed its way out of an oil-led recession, the economic outlook for the region greatly improved with the new...

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7. AMERICA’S ENERGY COAST: Redefining Restoration in the Gulf

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pp. 185-219

At the turn of the century, the environmental conditions in coastal Louisiana continued to decline. The ten years of Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) projects had resulted...

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CONCLUSION: A Sustainable Energy Coast for the Twenty-First Century

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pp. 220-228

For much of the last century, the wetlands in coastal Louisiana have been critical to the development of America’s energy supplies. To expand oil and gas development offshore, the industry built a vast network...


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pp. 229-251


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pp. 253-259


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pp. 261-271

E-ISBN-13: 9780807155189
E-ISBN-10: 0807155187
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807155172

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 44 halftones, 3 maps, 2 charts
Publication Year: 2014