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environmental justice natural gas infrastructure methane spatial modeling

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Zachary D. Weller Department of Statistics, Colorado State University, 200 W. Lake Street, 1877 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1877, United States * Orcid , Seongwon Im, Virginia Palacios, Emily Stuchiner, and Joseph C. von Fischer


Natural gas leaks in local distribution systems can develop as underground pipeline infrastructure degrades over time. These leaks lead to safety, economic, and climate change burdens on society. We develop an environmental justice analysis of natural gas leaks discovered using advanced leak detection in 13 U.S. metropolitan areas. We use Bayesian spatial regression models to study the relationship between the density of leak indications and sociodemographic indicators in census tracts. Across all metro areas combined, we found that leak densities increase with increasing percent people of color and with decreasing median household income. These patterns of infrastructure injustice also existed within most metro areas, even after accounting for housing age and the spatial structure of the data. Considering the injustices described here, we identify actions available to utilities, regulators, and advocacy groups that can be taken to improve the equity of local natural gas distribution systems.


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