As Louisiana copes with the early impacts of climate change, from severe storms to sea level rise, a stunning irony is playing out in areas that have been home to the state’s mammoth oil industry: fossils can no longer count on the natural environment to protect their infrastructure.
“As the coastline recedes, tangles of pipeline are exposed to corrosive seawater; refineries, tank farms, and ports are at risk,” Bloomberg reports. Along the “skeletal remains of decades-old oil canals” that once pushed through thick marshland, Louisiana has “$100 billion of energy infrastructure threatened by rising sea levels and erosion,” writes correspondent Catherine Traywick.
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“The industry down there has relied on the natural environment to protect its infrastructure, and that environment is now unraveling,” said Kai Midboe, the director of policy research at the Water Institute of the Gulf. “They need to step up.”
Now, Bloomberg reports, “the oil and gas industry is facing new pressures to bankroll critical environmental projects—whether by choice or by force.” The state had its own plans to address the threat, for citizens and energy alike, but “with a $2-billion deficit looming next year, the cash-poor state can only do so much to shore up its sinking coasts.”
The news agency notes that the Louisiana shoreline is receding by three feet per month at Port Fourchon, which services 90% of its deepwater oil production. “Statewide, more than 610 miles of pipeline could be exposed over the next 25 years, according to one study by Louisiana State University and the Rand Corporation. Private industry owns more than 80% of Louisiana’s coast.”