Louisiana's Oil and Gas Industry Continues Growing Along the Coast It's Helping Shrink

Golden Meadow, Louisiana, in Lafourche Parish. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)Golden Meadow, Louisiana, in Lafourche Parish. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)

The Louisiana coast loses a football field’s worth of land every 38 minutes. This staggering rate of land loss has been brought on by climate change and coastal erosion accelerated by human activities, including water diversion projects and damage done by the oil and gas industry. 

It is also a problem that is best seen from the sky. Thanks to the nonprofit conservation organization SouthWings, I was able to photograph the state’s troubled coast for DeSmog during a flight on November 15, 2016. 

Flying out along the Louisiana coast and seeing the tattered wetlands from above with your own eyes make the scale of the threat posed by coastal land loss feel strikingly real and immediate,” Meredith Dowling, SouthWings associate executive director, told me while discussing the group’s work. 

The organization offers flights, piloted by volunteers, with the goal of expanding the public’s understanding of the biodiversity and ecosystems of the American Southeast. “To have a pilot point at a map that shows where land should be and look down and see only water, that sticks with you,” she said.

Oil and gas industry site near the mouth of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)Oil and gas industry site near the mouth of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)

Dowling is based in New Orleans. For her, the state’s land loss is personal. 

Coastal land loss and climate change threaten the future of coastal Louisiana and all of us who call this place home,” she said. “Having independent eyes monitoring our critically important ecosystems and reporting bad actors to regulators helps protect us all from those who would illegally pollute our land and waterways.” 

During my flight, I photographed active and abandoned oil and gas industry sites that have been named in lawsuits, filed by parish governments, which are making their way through the court system.

Plaquemines, Jefferson, Vermilion, Cameron, and St. Bernard Parishes have filed multiple…

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