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Multiple Dimensions of Environmental Justice and Oil and Gas Development in Pennsylvania

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Background: Community socioeconomic deprivation (CSD) may be related to higher oil and natural gas development (OGD) exposure. We tested for distributive and benefit-sharing environmental injustice in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale by examining (1) whether OGD and waste disposal occurred disproportionately in more deprived communities and (2) discordance between the location of land leased for OGD and where oil and gas rights owners resided. Materials and Methods: Analyses took place at the county subdivision level and considered OGD wells, waste disposal, and land lease agreement locations from 2005 to 2019. Using 2005-2009 American Community Survey data, we created a CSD index relevant to community vulnerability in suburban/rural areas. Results: In adjusted regression models accounting for spatial dependence, we observed no association between the CSD index and conventional or unconventional drilled well presence. However, a higher CSD index was linearly associated with odds of a subdivision having an OGD waste disposal site and receiving a larger volume of waste. A higher percentage of oil and gas rights owners lived in the same county subdivision as leased land when the community was least versus most deprived (66% vs. 56% in same county subdivision), suggesting that individuals in more deprived communities were less likely to financially benefit from OGD exposure. Discussion and Conclusions: We observed distributive environmental injustice with respect to well waste disposal and benefit-sharing environmental injustice related to oil and rights owner's residential locations across Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale. These results add evidence of a disparity between exposure and benefits resulting from OGD.

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