Energy Infrastructure as Neighborhood Dis(amenity)
Mentor: Dr. Martin Heintzelman
Department: Environmental Economics
Energy systems have substantial ecological and amenity impacts on local communities. These impacts often place affected communities in opposition to larger state, federal, and international forces. Wind turbines, for instance, have the potential to generate substantial regional and global benefits in terms of reduced emissions of both greenhouse gases and other criteria pollutants like Mercury, Sulfur Dioxide, and Nitrous Oxides. However, they also create visual and other disamenities for local residents and have potential adverse ecological implications through their effects on birds and bats. Similarly, recent developments in the extraction of non-conventional oil and gas resources are expected to have large economic and environmental impacts, both good and bad, on the global scale, but these developments and associated infrastructure are often opposed by local residents who fear adverse local health and ecological effects. These developments are especially interesting and important because they are all at the center of energy policy-making and controversy in all or parts of both Canada and the United States. Local communities have varying legal and practical abilities to engage in effective local policy-making affecting the development of these new energy resources. In addition, community level policies are often influenced by those of neighboring communities and these influences can work as both complements and substitutes depending on the context. In Summer 2016, I hope to engage an REU student to focus on the local impacts of new energy resources and infrastructure and related local policy-making in Canada and in interconnected regions of the United States. Focusing on local property values as a proxy I hope to examine the value of any disamenities, both direct and indirect, associated with new energy infrastructure. In particular, I expect to be focused on the impact of wind turbines and/or infrastructure associated with oil and gas transport in the United States. Recent accidents involving so-called "oil trains" may have changed the calculus for those living near rail corridors, and made them more aware of the risks they face. Simultaneously, proposed pipeline projects have faced stiff opposition, but are likely to be considerably safer than rail lines for the transport of oil. I hope to inform this tradeoff for policy-makers.