Gwen Ottinger

Program Researcher, Center for Contemporary History and Policy, Chemical Heritage Foundation

Gwen Ottinger has a Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds bachelor's degrees in Science, Technology, & Culture and Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech.  As a graduate student, Ottinger was lured to southeastern Louisiana by the bucket, a homemade air monitoring device used by environmental justice activists, and she has spent the intervening years trying to keep the charismatic instrument from stealing the show in stories about expertise and environmental justice on the fencelines of large energy facilities.  The engineer-managers of St. Charles Parish petrochemical plants play a leading role in her forthcoming book, _Refining Expertise_ (NYU Press), which shows how they interact with residents of nearby communities to establish themselves as good neighbors and credible technical authorities without ever engaging the environmental health issues of most concern to residents.  In Ottinger's other work, including "Drowning in Data," the unanswered questions surrounding energy facilities' health effects appear as characters in themselves.  The story of the buckets will finally be told in her current project: by following the development of the buckets and the rise of rival technologies for community-based environmental monitoring, it aims to show how each helps fulfill environmental justice goals.