Essay / Academic Rant: Closing the Next Frontier: An Analysis of Offshore Oil and Wind Exploration Along the Atlantic Coast

The United States is moving to close the next great American energy frontier: the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). This move is part of an overall energy agenda to increase the United States’ energy independence through domestic energy. Since President Obama took office, the nation’s dependence on foreign oil has been at a 20-year low, and he has formed policies aiming to increase domestic energy production.[1]  In January 2015, President Obama proposed a plan for the Department of the Interior’s 5 Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program that has the potential to reopen the Atlantic coast for oil and gas drilling.[2] While this plan could stimulate domestic oil production and further the President’s energy independence political agenda, opening the Atlantic to drilling also has the potential to create serious negative externalities. Similarly, the Atlantic coast is a goldmine for offshore wind production with North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia holding 82 percent of the total Atlantic coast wind potential in the OCS.[3] Under the Obama Administration’s Smart from the Start initiative, Wind Energy Areas are being designated for development of offshore wind.[4]  The development of renewable domestic energy has the potential to reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels it also faces several technological and political barriers to implementation. Below, I will compare the policies and politics surrounding oil exploration and wind energy development in the Atlantic OCS, and determine which energy source can be considered a greater contributor to the United States’ goals of achieving energy independence. Continue reading

Academic Rant: Residential Segregation, Gentrification, and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice in the Nation’s “Most Sustainable Cities”

Sustainability and sustainable development are terms widely used and often misunderstood. Sustainable development is most commonly defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising those of future generations.[1] Many cities use sustainable development initiatives in response to climate change and diminishing resources. Leaders of these urban communities fight to negate the stigma of pollution associated with cities by incorporating open spaces, green jobs, and affordable, efficient housing into the urban space, as well as upgrading transportation infrastructure and waste management programs. Sustainable development places a focus on community-based decision-making, economic policies that account for both social and environmental externalities, the reduction of pollution and the general goal of creating clean and healthy communities. Continue reading

Inside Scoop: NRPA Innovation Lab

One of my favorite parts of my job with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation is the fact that I occasionally get to assist my bosses at their high-level meetings and events. A few weeks ago, on December 3rd-4th, I assisted my department as they hosted the National Recreation and Parks Association Innovation Lab. Philadelphia is a national leader in civic innovation, and the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) invited several Parks and Recreation departments from several cities including Baltimore, Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Detroit to discuss opportunities and barriers to civic innovation, and to demonstrate examples using Philadelphia’s amenities as a living laboratory.

The two-day event featured collaborative workshops, panel discussions, and presentations that can be viewed online, here. My favorite parts of the Innovation Lab were the tours and site visits highlighting examples of Philadelphia’s cross agency partnerships. We visited several sites that I haven’t paid much attention to as a native Philadelphian, but the tours and discussions made me look at these staple places through a new lens. At each stop of our tour bus (I was so excited to get on a tour bus around Philly) we were met at the site by a staple figure who could speak to the partnerships involved and the details of the completed or ongoing project. The sites I’ve highlighted below include:

Viaduct Park

Race Street Pier

Schulkyll River Trail

Bartram’s Garden Continue reading

Post-Disaster Property Rights: A Case Study on the Redevelopment of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward

The impacts of climate change have and will continue to deteriorate fee simple absolute property rights of littoral and riparian property-owners. Climate change has exacerbated and increased the frequencies of destructive storms that have effectively demolished homes, buildings and other private properties. Hurricane Katrina and its devastating impact on New Orleans is a prime example of the power of natural and climate-related disasters to essentially “take” or reduce private property owners’ fee simple absolute rights. Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans August 23rd through August 31, 2005 and flooded 80 percent of New Orleans up to 20 ft.[1] Seventy-one percent of homes in the city sustained damage (See Figure 1).[2] Consequently, Hurricane Katrina resulted in the greatest resettlement in American history with an estimated 1.5 million people abandoning their homes.[3] Since 2005, the City of New Orleans and various private groups have been working on rebuilding and repopulating New Orleans. Specifically, rebuilding efforts are targeted at the Lower Ninth Ward, which scattered a population of 14,000 people. In 2010, the Census reported 2,842 residents and as of 2013, only 30 percent of former residents have returned to the Lower Ninth Ward. [4] In 2000, population of the Lower Ninth Ward had 95 percent African-American residents, with an average household income slightly under $30,000 a year.[5] Homeownership in the Lower Ninth Ward was high, with approximately 54 percent of the homes homeowner-occupied.[6] Post-Katrina, approximately 82 percent of the residential units in the Lower Ninth Ward were damaged or destroyed.[7] The Lower Ninth Ward was the first neighborhood in New Orleans to receive remediation funding and was declared an area in need of revitalization: $60 million for street repairs, $50 million for rebuilding schools, and $14.5 million for a new community center, in addition to federal homeowner and rental assistance funds.[8] Post-Katrina, local, State and Federal programs and plans aimed at rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward has influenced the ability and conditions under which former residents can rebuild their homes. Since the Lower Ninth Ward hasn’t yet rebounded and hundreds of homeowners have chosen not to or have been unable to rebuild, the status of those refugees’ fee simple absolute rights can come into question.[9] Below, I explore the status of Lower Ninth Ward refugees’ fee simple absolute rights to their property since Hurricane Katrina and analyze how governmental response has facilitated or hindered owners’ ability to rebuild. Continue reading

Essay / Academic Rant: Sugarhouse Casino

Philadelphia, PA is now the largest city in the United States with a casino. SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia is a highly contested and controversial development. Since being awarded one of two gaming licenses in 2006, SugarHouse has been challenged by the City of Philadelphia, neighborhood associations, cultural groups, and local non-governmental agencies. Although many parties feared the entrance of casinos into Philadelphia would lead to more violence and neighborhood decay, there is still uncertainty as to whether the development has had the predicted negative impact on Philadelphia, and whether it’s as positive an economic resource as predicted. SugarHouse Casino and casinos in general were brought into the state to generate revenue and increase tourism into the state. The introduction of the gaming industry into Pennsylvania is a political move fueled by backdoor politics, money, and patronage.

casino

Figure 1. SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown, Philadelphia, PA. Continue reading

Essay/Academic Rant: The Market-Frankford Elevated Line

The Market-Frankford Elevated Line, also known as the El, the MFL, MFE, and the Blue Line, is one of Philadelphia’s oldest modes of public transportation.  The MFL is a high speed-rail spanning 13 miles running directly over city streets and underneath as a subway. It runs along Market St toward Northeast Philadelphia, which is the principal east-west axis and mass transit corridor in West Philadelphia (See Figure 1). The line is owned and operated by SEPTA—Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority.[1] The route spans three areas of Philadelphia: the Market St Elevated runs above Market St between 46th St. Station and 69th St Station in West Philadelphia. Upon reaching 46th St, the train runs underground Center City toward 2nd St. Finally, the train runs aboveground again toward Frankford Transportation Center in Northeast Philadelphia. The MFL is one of the most convenient and utilized forms of public transportation in Philadelphia with a long and complex history. Continue reading

Academic Rant: Rural Realities vs the “Black Metropolis” (Part 2)

Migrations and Urbanization

The Black Metropolis was formed as a result of migration from the rural south to large northern cities during the beginning of the twentieth century. At the turn of the century, about nine in 10 African Americans lived in the South, predominantly in rural areas.[1] Before the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North, the three states with the largest black populations were Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama.[2] Until 1960, the concentration of the black population in the South and in the rural areas of the South has made the total black population in the United States more rural than the white population.[3] In 1870, over 80 percent of the black population resided in the rural south, and as recently as 1940, nearly 50 percent still lived in the rural South.[4] The Great Migration drove a massive influx of black communities into Northern cities. Between 1910 and 1920, an estimated 6 million African Americans left the South and New York’s black population rose by 66 percent; Chicago’s by 148 percent; and Philadelphia’s by 500 percent.[5] Detroit also experienced a growth rate of 611 percent.[6] Continue reading