Using GIS to Explore Environmental Justice Issues: The Case of U.S. Petroleum Refineries

A central issue in environmental policy that is emerging both in the U.S. and internationally is whether the deleterious impacts of development, including the siting of transportation infrastructure, disproportionately impacts poor and minority populations. This paper demonstrates how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to gather data and characterize potential environmental justice issues in the context of areas surrounding U.S. petroleum refineries. Specifically, the paper develops a national database of U.S. refineries and then integrate GIS with specially-crafted Census data in order to examine current demographic characteristics (e.g., population, percentage white, black, and Hispanic, average income, vacant housing) of neighborhoods surrounding U.S. petroleum refineries, and how those demographics have changed in the period 1980 to 2000. The approach facilitates two types of analysis. The first is to use GIS maps to explore demographic profiles for individual cases. The second is to use the GIS tool to gather and aggregate data to generate descriptive statistics and facilitate statistical analyses. These aggregation is possible in a number of ways, such as based on the refinery size (i.e., production capacity) or location (i.e., urban/rural). The paper finds that there are unquestionably environmental justice issues in certain areas surrounding refineries, but that drawing conclusions at a national level is much murkier.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: CD-ROM
  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 17p
  • Monograph Title: TRB 86th Annual Meeting Compendium of Papers CD-ROM

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01042517
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 07-3408
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Feb 8 2007 8:06PM