Advancing a Societal Impact Assessment framework for oil and gas operations in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Developing a framework to assess the social impacts of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico.

The primary goal of this project is to create a new integrated framework for assessing societal impacts and vulnerability of coastal communities exposed to oil and gas operations in the northern Gulf of Mexico. A secondary goal of the project is to enhance the communication and public awareness of risks associated with oil and gas infrastructure and future environmental change.

Knowledge of what makes communities more vulnerable to future environmental threats is critical for preparedness and mitigation. Information is even more sensitive when communities are also exposed to the risks and impacts of offshore oil and gas operations (O&G). Numerous studies from government agencies, academic researchers, and practitioners have identified the range of effects that O&G activities can have in local, regional, and national economies. However, methodological limitations, a lack of integration between disciplinary areas, and a narrow scope in social impact assessment (SIA) have constrained the understanding of the long-term consequences of O&G activities and of potential risks associated with climate change. 

To capture the entire range of impacts affecting communities, funds from this grant will support primary on-the-ground data collection, analysis, and instrument development. Researchers will work collaboratively with the Oil Spill Science Outreach Program from Sea Grant to generate information about social impacts, vulnerabilities, and risks that can aid in the design of solutions to make communities more resilient.  

As the first pilot in a series of new and technologically innovative monitoring strategies, this effort is part of the Harte Research Institute’s long-term work to include socioeconomic metrics in an observing system for the Gulf of Mexico. The project also advances National Academies Gulf Research Program goals by adopting an interdisciplinary and applied approach to develop actionable information and assessment tools that can directly improve community resilience.