Mary Tutwiler

Federal study links coastal erosion to OCS energy exploration

by Mary Tutwiler

Environmentalists have been saying it for years. Oil companies have staunchly denied it. Now a new study from the federal Minerals Management Service says yes, oil and gas pipelines that cut through wetlands do cause coastal land loss. The report, according to the Times Picayune, studied dredging of canals for laying pipe to production platforms in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico, where the federal government holds sway. Dredging canals to lay pipe caused the greatest land loss, while building spoil banks with the dredged material altered flooding patterns in wetlands. The combination allows saltwater intrusion, which kills native vegetation, causing habitat changes and ultimately coastal erosion.

None of this is new information. The real question is how this study will affect the percentage of federal responsibility and ultimately federal funding for Louisiana's coastal restoration.