Geography & Environment Publications

Local Facility Hazard Risk Controversy and Non-Local Hazard Risk Perception

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Journal of Risk Research

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Facility siting disputes are as much about the socio-politics in a place as they are about the risks posed by the facility; yet not much is known about how localized controversy about one hazard effects the perception of other, non-local, hazard risks. Our exploratory study tests the idea that a local facility risk controversy (landfill expansion) is tied to an overall sensitivity to risks from a wider range of potentially hazardous facilities. We use logistic regression models of questionnaire survey responses from 205 residents living near two landfills that were recently expanded or proposed to be expanded. Psychometric risk variables, cultural theory of risk variables, and sociodemographic variables are used as controls to see if risk-in-place/context variables related to threat and governance (e.g. fairness and fiduciary equity) predict not only risk from the landfill but also risk from three other potentially hazardous facilities (incinerator, chemical, and nuclear). The risk-in-place/context variables are predictive across all hazards but there is little consistency in the mix of predictors across models. The results suggest that facility controversy is linked to how residents view risks from non-local facility hazards and that this effect varies by place. This points to the need for more research in this area, and is suggestive that risk-hazard controversy may foster localized risk-averse places or wider risk-averse communities.

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