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Clean Energy Justice: Charting an Emerging Agenda

The rapid transition to clean energy is fraught with potential inequities. As clean energy policies ramp up in scale and ambition, they confront challenging new questions: Who should pay for the transition? Who should live next to the industrial-scale wind and solar farms these policies promote? Will the new “green” economy be a fairer one, with more widespread oppor- tunity, than the fossil fuel economy it is replacing? Who gets to decide what kinds of resources power our decarbonized world? In this article, we frame these challenges as part of an emerg- ing agenda of “clean energy justice.” Mapping this agenda highlights the equity challenges that will attend the transition to clean energy, and allows for more comprehensive, creative ap- proaches to legal and policy solutions.

A cleaner energy economy does not ineluctably translate into a more just economy. We identify four considerations that will be critical to ensure that clean energy does not entrench widening inequalities in wealth and power: (1) how to fund the transition; (2) who benefits from the upsides of the new clean energy economy, including green jobs and new technologies like rooftop solar panels; (3) who participates in decisions about the shape of the new clean energy economy; and (4) how and where new clean energy infrastructure is sited. Drawing from available data, we describe why there are real risks that the gains of clean energy might be unequally distributed, while the costs fall on rural communities and non-adopters of new technologies, thus exacerbating inequality while greening the grid. And through original em- pirical research, we highlight the challenges of full and equal participation in the esoteric, technocratic procedures of energy law.

The present moment is a critical one for bringing these diverse considerations together into this overarching agenda. The U.S. energy system is in the early days of a long transition away from fossil fuels towards clean energy. It is time for energy lawmakers and energy law scholars to better anticipate the distributive and procedural justice concerns that will attend this transition, and to forge new ways to address them.

Unconventional Oil and Gas Development Exposure and Risk of Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: A Case–Control Study in Pennsylvania, 2009–2017
Peer-reviewed

Background:

Unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) releases chemicals that have been linked to cancer and childhood leukemia. Studies of UOGD exposure and childhood leukemia are extremely limited.

Objective:

The objective of this study was to evaluate potential associations between residential proximity to UOGD and risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood leukemia, in a large regional sample using UOGD-specific metrics, including a novel metric to represent the water pathway.

Methods:

We conducted a registry-based case–control study of 405 children ages 2–7 y diagnosed with ALL in Pennsylvania between 2009–2017, and 2,080 controls matched on birth year. We used logistic regression to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association between residential proximity to UOGD (including a new water pathway-specific proximity metric) and ALL in two exposure windows: a primary window (3 months preconception to 1 y prior to diagnosis/reference date) and a perinatal window (preconception to birth).

Results:

Children with at least one UOG well within 2km2km of their birth residence during the primary window had 1.98 times the odds of developing ALL in comparison with those with no UOG wells [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06, 3.69]. Children with at least one vs. no UOG wells within 2km2km during the perinatal window had 2.80 times the odds of developing ALL (95% CI: 1.11, 7.05). These relationships were slightly attenuated after adjusting for maternal race and socio-economic status [odds ratio (OR) =1.74=1.74 (95% CI: 0.93, 3.27) and OR=2.35OR=2.35 (95% CI: 0.93, 5.95)], respectively). The ORs produced by models using the water pathway-specific metric were similar in magnitude to the aggregate metric.

Discussion:

Our study including a novel UOGD metric found UOGD to be a risk factor for childhood ALL. This work adds to mounting evidence of UOGD’s impacts on children’s health, providing additional support for limiting UOGD near residences. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP11092

REIMAGINING PUBLIC SAFETY IN PITTSBURGH AND ALLEGHENY COUNTY: A Community Vision for Lasting Health and Safety

As acknowledged by the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, racism is a public health crisis in this region. Yet, rather than addressing the needs of the most oppressed citizens, the city and county continue to pour excessive funds into the police, who have played a central role in creating a fundamentally unsafe and unhealthy space for Black residents. We must decenter the police from the lives of Black people. Through steep cuts to police personnel and funding, the city and county can instead use those funds to meaningfully support the health and safety of communities. Rather than sending armed agents to respond to people experiencing crises, we should respond with unarmed, trauma-informed responders trained in conflict resolution, de-escalation, and harm reduction. Rather than waiting for neighborhood conflict that is an all but inevitable response to the public health crisis of racism, we must support peacebuilders and healers in our communities. We must go beyond crisis intervention to address the long-term needs of our communities through decentralized community service centers that bring together holistic responses to the diverse needs that underlie crises. Instead of trying to reform institutions that have created the public health crisis of racism in the first place, we must reimagine the concept of public health and safety.

Asthma Prevalence and Control among School Children Residing near Outdoor Air Pollution Sites
Peer-reviewed

Outdoor air pollution (OAP) contributes to poor asthma outcomes and remains a public health concern in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh’s History of Poor Air Quality: A Viewpoint on Environmental Injustice in the Monongahela River Valley
GASP Guide to Local Air Pollution
Fossil Fuels, “The Dirty Facts”
American Lung Association, State of the Air 2021
Zeroing in on Healthy Air – A National Assessment of Health and Climate Benefits of Zero-Emission Transportation and Electricity

This American Lung Assoc. report shows the tremendous public health and climate benefits if the United States accelerates a widespread transition to a zero-emission transportation sector coupled with non-combustion, renewable electricity sources like wind and solar.

Asthma prevalence and control among schoolchildren residing near outdoor air pollution sites
Peer-reviewed

A three-year study that found many of the 1,200 elementary school children who live near industrial sources of pollution were exposed to levels of outdoor air pollution above thresholds set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.

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