An Analysis of Urbanization and Hazard Mitigation Practices near Hazardous Liquid Transmission Pipelines

EPA Grant Number: F5C40601
Title: An Analysis of Urbanization and Hazard Mitigation Practices near Hazardous Liquid Transmission Pipelines
Investigators: Osland, Anna
Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through August 31, 2008
Project Amount: $95,894
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


In the last decade, the demand for natural gas, petroleum and other hazardous liquids has increased. Likewise, fatalities during transportation of these liquids have also risen. The increase in number of transmission pipeline incident fatalities accompanied severe environmental damage and property damage totaling over $100 million annually. Many transmission pipelines were originally placed in rural areas with extremely low human population density. However, due to the expansion of urban areas, many formerly rural regions have become hotspots for population growth. I will study how transmission pipeline relate to the environment and human safety. I will specifically focus on the following research questions:

  1. How much land near transmission pipelines has been developed?;
  2. What steps are local governments taking to reduce human, ecological, and property risk in areas near transmission pipelines?;
  3. How effective are local government programs and policies at reducing population growth near transmission pipelines?;
  4. and To what extent are low-income and minority populations exposed to transmission pipeline risks?


My research design consists of two parts:

  1. a quasi-experimental research design of three metropolitan areas that represent different degrees of how land use planning is implemented: Houston, TX (low), Atlanta, GA (moderate), and Washington, DC (high);
  2. and a qualitative case study of one community selected from each of the three metropolitan areas based upon the demographic and transmission pipeline incident exposure risk.

During the first part of the research project I will analyze land use patterns near hazardous liquid pipelines. In order to assess development near transmission pipelines, I will analyze US Census block groups that are transected by pipelines. I will use a geographic information system (GIS) to compare changes in 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census block groups. The transected block groups will illustrate the change in population within close proximity to transmission pipelines. I will use descriptive statistics to evaluate overall change in population. Additionally, I will use USGS DLM data to assess stream, river, and lake proximity to transmission pipeline hazards. Zoning overlays obtained from each local government will be used to illustrate potential property loss from pipeline disasters. I will also obtain information on planning practices in the three selected areas through a survey of local and (if available) regional governments in each of the three selected metropolitan areas. Each selected metropolitan area is composed of several smaller jurisdictions that regulate uses of land and conduct planning in each area. Supporting information will also be assessed through analysis of local comprehensive and hazard mitigation plans when available. These plans will be obtained electronically or with assistance of the local planning department. I will use descriptive statistics of US Census data to evaluate low-income and minority population exposure. Additionally, I will use chi-square tests to look at correlations with other variables and t-tests to evaluate the significance of minority population changes in block groups.

The three case studies will stem from analysis of demographic and transmission pipeline disaster risk results. The case studies will provide a deeper interpretation of the quantitative results and will indicate areas that warrant future study. I will choose one community whose risk exposure to transmission pipeline disaster increased during 1990-2000, one community whose exposure has not significantly changed, and one that has lowered risk exposure. I will examine these three communities in depth through additional interviews of policy makers and planners, detailed research on current and past construction near transmission pipelines, and an investigation of population change in areas adjacent to transmission pipelines.

Expected Results:

I expect to find that population encroachment on transmission pipelines is high and lack of local government planning leaves significant environmental, human and economic risk for transmission disasters. Since minority and low-income populations are at a higher risk for other types of disasters, I similarly expect to see high exposure risk for transmission pipeline disasters.

Supplemental Keywords:

Hazardous liquids, transmission pipelines, land use, urban planning, regional planning, disasters, low income, hazard mitigation, risk assessment, minority populations,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Waste, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Waste Treatment, Health Risk Assessment, Hazardous Waste, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Hazardous, hazardous liquid waste, hazardous waste management, risk assessment, aqueous mixtures, hazardous liquid transmission pipelines, urban environment, human health risk

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006
  • 2007
  • Final