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Refining ExpertiseHow Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges$
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Gwen Ottinger

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814762370

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814762370.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

The Battlefront

The Battlefront

1 The Battlefront
Refining Expertise

Gwen Ottinger

NYU Press

This book examines the case of New Sarpy, a small Louisiana town, and its dispute with a petroleum refinery over toxic chemicals that the latter released into the air, to demonstrate how experts subvert environmental justice challenges by negotiating the terrain of neoliberalism. More specifically, it explains how petrochemical industry scientists and engineers overcome critiques of their science and reconstruct their expertise by relying on discourses of individual responsibility and residential choice. The story of New Sarpy began with the Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy campaigning against Orion Refining and ended with local residents agreeing to a settlement with the company. The book explores how concerns for community image made previously contested expert knowledge seem restorative in the wake of community campaigns; how community–industry dialogue served as a venue for experts not only to demonstrate their technical knowledge but also to express their commitment to environmental quality; and how the demands of individual and corporate responsibility acted against residents' attempts at collective action.

Keywords:   environmental justice, neoliberalism, petrochemical industry, scientists, engineers, New Sarpy, Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy, Orion Refining, settlement, expert knowledge

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