Title page for ETD etd-04122007-004138

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Hemmerling, Scott Allan
Author's Email Address shemme1@lsu.edu
URN etd-04122007-004138
Title Environmental Equity in Southeast Louisiana: Oil, People, Policy, and the Geography of Industrial Hazards
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Geography & Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Craig E. Colten Committee Chair
Andrew Curtis Committee Member
John C. Pine Committee Member
Kent Mathewson Committee Member
Christopher White Dean's Representative
  • comparative risk assessment
  • cumulative risk assessment
  • proximity-based equity
  • risk-based equity
  • geographic information systems (gis)
Date of Defense 2007-03-13
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation explores issues and concepts underlying the creation of Louisiana’s rural-industrial petrochemical complex as they relate to environmental equity and industrial development’s deleterious consequences. Cumulative hazards models examine the distribution of technological hazards associated with petroleum extraction and processing and explores how this varies among different socioeconomic groups in three coastal Louisiana parishes. Considerable onshore oil extraction occurs in Jefferson Parish. Lafourche Parish is the primary land-based supply center for the majority of the offshore oil activity in the Gulf of Mexico. The refineries of Saint Bernard Parish represent the endpoint of the flow of raw product and the staging point from which the refined product is transported to the wider market. Transportation infrastructure and a web of oil and gas pipelines connect these three parishes to each other and the areas beyond.

The hazards models found a range of potential impacts affecting a wide swath of communities. Chalmette, for example, faces the greatest immediate risk from Saint Bernard Parish’s two large refineries and has the lowest proportion of minority residents within the study area. Conversely, Houma Indians residing on the wetland fringe stand at risk from the petroleum industry, both directly, through potential residential exposure, and indirectly, through potentially impacted hunting and fishing grounds. These results highlight the importance of using a fine grained localized environmental equity model.

Historic process-based analyses examined the development of environmental inequity in communities identified by the hazards models. The historical development of environmental inequity is an extremely dynamic process. Generally, industry arrived first followed by population. After the initial siting, industry and population grew concomitantly. Industry growth continued even after the communities became predominantly minority or low-income. This research examined regional migration patterns over the last decade to explore why people move into potentially hazardous areas. Statistical analysis reveals that historic segregation patterns are a primary factor in most population movement. Additionally, populations are moving into neighborhoods proximate to their place of employment.

Finally, this dissertation describes how the results achieved compare to those of other environmental equity studies and identifies six tenets of a practical, attainable, place-specific model of environmental equity.

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