Troy D. Abel

Western Washington University
Environmental Studies

1000 Olympic College Way, Suite 214
Huxley College of the Environment Peninsulas Program
Poulsbo, WA
98370 |  Visit Personal Website

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My scholarship focuses on the environmental governance challenge of informing policy with sophisticated social and ecological science while simultaneously increasing transparency and participation in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. Because we often see environmental problems and solutions in only technical or democratic prisms, environmental governance suffers. We do need better science and better democracy, but most importantly, we need a better integration of both. The messy convergence and resolution of these rationalizing and democratizing impulses is a prominent feature of my research programs on environmental justice, climate risk governance, and natural resource conservation.

Salazar, Debra J., Stacy Clauson, Troy D. Abel, and Aran Clauson. 2019. Race, income, and environmental inequality in the U.S. States, 1990–2014. Social Science Quarterly 100(3): 592-603
Abstract: Objective To examine state‐level environmental inequality trends over time by constructing a new, longitudinal data set and comparing change in environmental and economic inequality. Methods We use Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) RSEI (Risk‐Screening Environmental Indicator) database to create measures of exposure to industrial air toxins and inequality in exposure by race and poverty status. Measures were calculated for each of three periods: 1990–1994, 2000–2004, and 2010–2014. Results Exposure declined but inequality persisted. The geographic patterns displayed by race‐ and poverty‐related environmental inequality differ. But, states with higher levels of race‐based inequality had higher levels of exposure. Poverty‐based environmental and economic inequality exhibited a moderate, positive relation that was spatially patterned. Conclusion While environmental quality improved, we saw little progress in reducing environmental inequality. Though both race‐ and poverty‐based inequality remain, they result from different mechanisms. Future research should examine the relations between deindustrialization and economic, environmental, and political inequality.
Abel, Troy D., Debra Salazar and Patricia Robert. 2015. “States of Environmental Justice: Redistributive Politics Across the US.” Review of Policy Research 32(2): 200-225.
Abstract: In the 20 years since a president committed federal government agencies to achieving environmental justice (EJ), states have been at the forefront of policy development. But states have varied in the nature and extent of their EJ efforts. We use Guttman Scaling to measure state EJ effort and test hypotheses regarding the relative importance of problem severity, politics, and administrative variables to variation in state policy development. Our analysis offers a novel characterization of state policy intensity and demonstrates its scalability. Income-based problem severity, environmental group membership, and nonwhite populations were important predictors of state EJ policy intensity during our study period. The political geography of EJ policy also displayed a distinctive southern pattern and the EJ policy intensity model contrasted significantly with a model of environmental policy innovation. The findings suggest that state EJ politics are more indicative of redistributive policy than regulatory.
DOI: 10.1111/ropr.12119
Abel, Troy D., Jonah White. 2015. “Gentrified Sustainability: Inequitable Development and Seattle’s Skewed Riskscape.” Interdisciplinary Environmental Review 16(2/3/4), 124-157.
Abstract: This paper examines the tensions of sustainable development in Seattle, Washington, a commonly recognised urban environmental leader. Drawing on the perspective of sustainability as a conflicted process, this research expected a negative relationship between gentrification and environmental justice when affluent residents outcompete less affluent ones for neighbourhoods with fewer environmental hazards. The methods combine geographic cluster analysis and longitudinal air toxic emission comparisons to analyse socioeconomic changes in Seattle Census block-groups between 1990, 2000, and 2009 coupled with measures of relative potential risk and pollution volume. The property and development conflicts embedded within sustainability lead to pollution exposure risk and socioeconomic vulnerability converging in the same areas and reveal one of the 'Emerald City's' significant environmental challenges. Inequitable development and environmental injustice remain overlooked dimensions of sustainability that interdisciplinary research should address.
DOI: 10.1111/ropr.12119
Kraft, Michael, Mark Stephan, and Troy D. Abel. 2011. Coming Clean: Information Disclosure and Environmental Performance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Abstract: Coming Clean is the first book to investigate the process of information disclosure as a policy strategy for environmental protection. This process, which requires that firms disclose information about their environmental performance, is part of an approach to environmental protection that eschews the conventional command-and-control regulatory apparatus, which sometimes leads government and industry to focus on meeting only minimal standards. The authors of Coming Clean examine the effectiveness of information disclosure in achieving actual improvements in corporate environmental performance by analyzing data from the federal government?s Toxics Release Inventory, or TRI, and drawing on an original set of survey data from corporations and federal, state, and local officials, among other sources.
Abel, Troy D., and Jonah White. 2011. “Skewed Riskscapes and Gentrified Inequities: Environmental Exposure Disparities in Seattle, WA.” American Journal of Public Health. Published online ahead of print August 11, 2011: e1–e9.
Abstract: Objectives. Few studies have considered the sociohistorical intersection of environmental injustice and gentrification; a gap addressed by this case study of Seattle, Washington. This study explored the advantages of integrating air toxic risk screening with gentrification research to enhance proximity and health equity analysis methodologies. It was hypothesized that Seattle's industrial air toxic exposure risk was unevenly dispersed, that gentrification stratified the city's neighborhoods, and that the inequities of both converged. Methods. Spatial characterizations of air toxic pollution risk exposures from 1990 to 2007 were combined with longitudinal cluster analysis of census block groups in Seattle, Washington, from 1990 to 2000. Results. A cluster of air toxic exposure inequality and socioeconomic inequity converged in 1 area of south central Seattle. Minority and working class residents were more concentrated in the same neighborhoods near Seattle's worst industrial pollution risks. Conclusions. Not all pollution was distributed equally in a dynamic urban landscape. Using techniques to examine skewed riskscapes and socioeconomic urban geographies provided a foundation for future research on the connections among environmental health hazard sources, socially vulnerable neighborhoods, and health inequity.
DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300174

Substantive Focus:
Environmental Policy PRIMARY
Governance SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory SECONDARY
Policy Analysis and Evaluation PRIMARY