My research is primarily concentrated in four areas: environmental justice, the equity and justice dimensions of the U.S. energy transition, public attitudes about energy and the environment, and state environmental regulation.
Environmental justice issues emerged on the public agenda beginning in the 1980s, spawning a new social movement that aligned the civil rights and environmental advocacy community, and leading to a multitude of policy initiatives at all levels of government. To date, nearly all of the empirical work in the vast environmental justice literature has focused on either race or class-based disparities in the location of polluting facilities or exposure to pollution. My work examines a third type of disparity: inequities in enforcement of environmental policies. This is an important area for research because environmental justice advocates have long argued that government is unequal in its enforcement of public health and environmental laws.
U.S. Energy Transition and Vulnerable Communities.[Project website]
This project examines equity and justice dimensions of the U.S. energy transition (i.e., the move away from fossil fuels to cleaner, renewable sources of energy). This research offers insights on what energy justice means as it relates to the energy transition and what individuals and communities on the frontline are facing, what vulnerability means in the energy justice context, what types of programs are in place to address these issues and how well local governments in particular are responding to local vulnerability, how well certain regulatory protections can help vulnerable communities. Most recently, we are examining how energy insecurity is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public Attitudes about Energy and the Environment.
I am working on several projects that examine public attitudes toward various energy and environmental issues. This work addresses both salient public policy issues and important theoretical questions in the public opinion literature. My research in this area seeks to understand how Americans prioritize environmental issues, what they expect of government in terms of addressing problems, and how Americans perceive energy options, energy infrastructure (e.g., power plants, pipelines) and climate change and energy policies.
State Environmental Regulation.
Much of my research focuses on how federalism shapes U.S. state environmental politics and policy. Most U.S. federal pollution control programs are based on a model of regulatory federalism, in which the federal government has primary responsibility to set national standards, while states have the authority to implement and enforce these standards within their borders. This decentralized regime of environmental protection provides states with extraordinary discretion to determine their preferred level of enforcement of important federal pollution control programs such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. My work leverages this variation in state regulatory behavior to understand the spatial and temporal dynamics of regulatory enforcement, with a focus on understanding and estimating the effects of the political, economic, geographical, and contextual factors that drive state enforcement decisions.