Robin Saha

Photo of Saha, Robin

Robin Saha

Associate Professor

Office Hours:

For Spring 2016:  Wed. 10:30 am to Noon & Thurs. 12:30 to 2:00 pm, and by appointment

Personal Summary

Robin Saha is Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Montana and affiliated faculty with its School of Public and Community Health Sciences and UM Climate Change Studies Program. He is among the leading scholar-activists conducting quantitative studies of environmental inequality for a wide range of industrial facilities using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). His articles appear in leading social science journals including Demography, Social Problems and Environmental Research Letters. His teaching and research focuses on the intersection of environmental justice, health and policy with an emphasis on community engagement and empowerment. He and his students conduct research for and techical assistance to contaminated communities. Professor Saha works actively on tribal environmental issues. He also consults on environmental justice legal cases and conducts environmental justice analyses for a wide variety of governmental agencies and nonprofit advocacy organizations. He also works activilty on muncipal and campus sustainability issues particularly as related to climate change.

Education

Ph.D., Environmental Policy and Behavior, School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2002.

M.S., Natural Resources and Environmental Policy, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1996.

B.A., Environmental Studies and Planning, California State University, Sonoma, 1989.

Courses Taught

  • Environmental Politics & Policies (ENST 367)
  • Environmental Citizenship - Service Learning (ENST-CCS 476)
  • Environmental Justice Issues and Solutions (ENST 489)
  • Environmental Organizing (ENST 520)
  • Local Climate Solutions (ENST 535)
  • Montana Environmental Policy: Legislative Processes (ENST 594)
  • Environmental Justice Issues and Solutions (ENST 595)

Research Interests

My research is primarily devoted to first understanding different manifestations of environmental injustice, i.e., the unfair distribution of “goods” and “bads” in society, as well as the causes and consequences of racial, socioeconomic and gender disparities in environmental quality and access to environmental amenities. My research also seeks to develop effective means for addressing environmental injustices especially through policy change and collaborative community-engaged approaches that foster community empowerment.

I have used two basic approaches in this research.

One involves the development and application of accurate and reliable methods for assessing environmental inequalities, particularly in the distribution of environmental hazards such as polluting industrial facilities.  As part of this research agenda, I have helped enhance the capacity of various public interest organizations that work on environmental health and justice issues to conduct credible analytical studies of their own and use them to advocate for related policy reforms (see Recent Publications below), One can also learn about more my quantitative environmental justice research agenda and recent publications in UM's Research View (Pollution Prejudice: UM Researcher Studies How Waste Facilities Target Low Income, Minority Areas) and Environmental Research Letters News (Hazardous Industries Head to Declining Neighbourhoods).  My research and a report by the Center for Effective Government that I contributed to were also recently covered in connection with the Flint, Michigan, water crisis: in the Missoulian (UM Researcher’s Work Sheds Light on Disaster), Fortune Magazine (If You're a Minority and Poor, You're More Likely to Live Near a Toxic Waste Site), Huffington Post (How Flint's Crisis Could Help Fight An Injustice Plaguing Minority Communities) and Boston Globe (Flint Evokes the Public Health Racism of Past Years).

The other approach is the use of community-based participatory research (CBPR) with and for communities that are disproportionately impacted by various types of pollution, toxic contamination and the effects of climate change.  CBPR involves community members in all aspects of the research process and seeks to generate knowledge that can be used by and directly benefit impacted community. Students have been integrally involved and partners and collaborators as well in my community-engaged research, as part of service learning courses and independent and group projects outside of class. Projects and publicaions related to this CBPR are described and listed below.

I am also interested in applied policy research, including policy analyses that inform environmental policy making on various types of sustainability initiatives, and am conducting a study of pedagogies for developing civic competencies in students.

See "Current and Recent Graduate Student Reserach" topics below for examples of the types of community-engaged research, citizen science projects and policy analyses students have conducted with my mentorship.

Current Projects

Chippewa Cree Climate Adaptation Planning Project

Providing technical assistance and support for the development of a tribal climate adaptation plan for the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation, including a tribal climate adaptation planning resource guide for the Northern Plains. 

Burning Vulnerable Communities: Trash, Sludge and Biomass Incineration in Communities of Color and Low-Income Communities

In collaboration with the Energy Justice Network, the Clark Atlanta Center for Environmental Justice, and Earthjustice, Dr. Saha is conducting an environmental justice and sustainability analyisis of  currently operating municipal solid waste, sewage sludge and commercial woody bimass incinerators in the United States.  The study seeks: (1) to critically analyze the various promises of biomass and waste incineration and their effects on communities and the environment; (2) to examine the racial and socioeconomic composition of host neighborhoods; (3) to illustrate how individual communities are affected and their responses to the threats posed by biomass-waste incineration; and (4) to present zero-waste and waste reduction alternative to incineration and other climate justice solutions.

Recent Projects

Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazard. Washington D.C.: Center for Effective Government.  

I served as technical advisor and contributor to this report that examines the demographics of neighborhoods hosting the nation's most dangerous facilities that use and store large amounts of chemicals and are required to file risk management plans (RMPs) with the US EPA due to the risks of chemical leaks, explosions, and fires. The analysis found that people of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely to live in these hazardous fenceline zones than whites and people with incomes above the poverty line. The findings of this report reinforce results from numerous other studies that demonstrate that the health and safety of communities of color and people in poverty are severely and unequally impacted by living in close proximity to hazardous pollution sources and dangerous chemical facilities. The report also includes an interactive map of RMP facility locations and state factsheets and scorecards that identify the most hazarouds industries and facilites with poor chemcial incident track records and that rate states by the number of people at risk, levels of risk posed by facilities, the types and magnitude of disproportionate enviornmental risk posed to historically disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. Finally, the report includes recommendations to federal and state regulatory and industry.

Who’s In Danger? Race, Poverty and Chemical Disaster. Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, Coming Clean and Center for Effective Government.

I also served as served as technical advisor and contributor for this report that highlights the fact that more than 134 million Americans live in the danger zones around 3,433 facilities in several common industries that store or use highly hazardous chemicals. It asked "who are the people that live daily with the ever-present threat of a chemical disaster?" It found and reported that chemical facility "vulnerability zones" are disproportionately African American or Latino, have higher rates of poverty than the U.S. as a whole, and have lower housing values, incomes, and education levels than the national average. This environmental injustice of disproportionate or unequal danger is sharply magnified in the "fenceline" areas nearest the facilities. The report calls for action to prevent chemical disasters to protect workers, communities, businesses, and governments from the severe potential costs to life, health, and finances from chemical hazards that are often unnecessary.

More than 134 million Americans live in the danger zones around 3,433 facilities in several common industries that store or use highly hazardous chemicals. But who are the people that live daily with the ever-present threat of a chemical disaster?

 

- See more at: http://comingcleaninc.org/whats-new/whos-in-danger-report#sthash.94O3XDV9.dpuf

More than 134 million Americans live in the danger zones around 3,433 facilities in several common industries that store or use highly hazardous chemicals. But who are the people that live daily with the ever-present threat of a chemical disaster?

 

- See more at: http://comingcleaninc.org/whats-new/whos-in-danger-report#sthash.94O3XDV9.dpuf

More than 134 million Americans live in the danger zones around 3,433 facilities in several common industries that store or use highly hazardous chemicals. But who are the people that live daily with the ever-present threat of a chemical disaster?

 

- See more at: http://comingcleaninc.org/whats-new/whos-in-danger-report#sthash.94O3XDV9.dpuf

Missoula Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Analysis: Toward a Blueprint for Municipal Sustainability

In conjunction with the City of Missoula, Dr. Saha and environmental studies graduate students conducted the City of Missoula's first municipal greenhouse gas emissions inventory for municipal facilities and operations.  The report examined emissions in 2003 and 2008 and provided recommendation to the city to reduce emssions in the future.  The report was released in September 2010 and has subquently resulted in Missoula Conservatoin and Climate Action Plan, released in January 2013. 

Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism

Dr. Saha is a co-author of this report, which updated the 1987 landmark environmental justice report of United Church of Christ (UCC), Toxic Waste and Race in the United States.  Dr. Saha collaborated with Dr. Robert Bullard of Clark Atlanta University, Dr. Paul Mohai of the University of Michigan, and Dr. Beverly Wright of Dillard University.  The report, also commissioned by the UCC, is the first to use 2000 Census data, a current national database of commercial hazardous waste facilities, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to count persons living nearby and assess nationally the extent of racial and socioeconomic disparities in facility locations. The report includes numerous environmental policy recommendations and was recently featured during an unprecedented hearing before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental Health.  

A Community Responds to Living Adjacent to a Mining Waste Repository

Opportunity, Montana is a small, rural community located near the nation’s largest Superfund site and immediately adjacent to a major mining waste repository owned by ARCO (British Petroleum - BP).  Superfund clean-up wastes continue to be deposited here.  Faced with potential threats to human health, a recently formed community organization is currently working with Dr. Saha, his students, and with other non-profit organizations, environmental consultants, government officials, and BP-ARCO to ensure safe water and air quality for the community.

Blackfeet Child Asthma and Healthy Homes Partnership Project

In the United States, the quality of health and health care for Indians is consistently lower than that of other Americans.  Environmental threats, such as solid and hazardous waste, mining, and substandard housing contribute to poor health among Montana’s Indian population. From 2008 to 2011, supported by NIH funding through the Center for Native Health Parterships, Dr. Saha collaborated with the Indian Health Service, Blackfeet Community College (BCC), and the Blackfeet Housing authority in this healthy homes capacity building project to address child asthma and indoor air quality.  The project began as bio-contaminant student research project supported through an outreach grant by UM-EPSCoR.  University of Montana and BCC students tested homes on the reservation for toxic mold and conducted (CBPR) approach, this project identified environmental health risks associated with reservation housing, developed capacity of the Tribe to conduct housing asessment "green cleaning" workshop were conducted in collaboration with Womens' Voices for the Earth and an EPA Montana Indian Country CARE.

Tribal Environmental Management

Dr. Saha is on the Core Planning Team implementing and evaluating an U.S. EPA grant to host the8th National Conference on Tribal Environmental Management (NCTEM) to be held in Billings, MT, in June 2008.  The planning involves outreach to tribal environmental managers, environmental professionals, activists, academics, and others. Dr. Saha also speaks and consults on a various tribal environmental issues throughout Montana.

Current & Recent Graduate Student Research

Strategies for Increasing municpal carbon-free transportion; tribal environmental justice and federal law; net metering policy in Montana; sustainability assessment for Paws Up!; improving Superfund public participation; dental mercury regulation in Missoula, MT; addressing contamination in traditional foods in Alaska; green roof policies for Missoula; addressing non-compliance with federal asbestos building inspection requirements in Missoula, MT; achieving environmental justice for the community of Opportunity, MT; legislative hisotry and policy analysis of Montana's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law, The Montana Renewable Power Production and Rural Economic Development Act; advancing environmental education at the U.S. EPA.

Affiliations

  • Enviornmental Studies Program (home department)
  • Climate Change Studies Faculty Member
  • Joint Law/Environmental Studies (JD/MS) Program (EVST faculty advisor)
  • Program Faculty, University of Montana, School of Public and Community Health Sciences
  • UM Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy
  • UM Conflict Resolution Certificae Program
  • Montana Conservation Voters, Board Vice Chair

Honors / Awards

  • Recipient of Sustainable Campus Committee Greening UM Award, for outstanding participation in creating a sustainable campus, 2012
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellowship. 2003

Hobbies

Hiking, biking, gardening, yoga, cooking, and canoeing

Selected Publications

Mohai, Paul, and Robin Saha. 2015. "Which Came First, People Or Pollution? Assessing the Disparate Siting and Post-Siting Demographic Change Hypotheses of Environmental Injustice." Environmental Research Letters 10.11: 115008.

Mohai, Paul, and Robin Saha. 2015. "Which Came First, People Or Pollution? A Review of Theory and Evidence from Longitudinal Environmental Justice Studies." Environmental Research Letters 10.12: 125011.

Saha, Robin and Jennifer Hill-Hart. 2015. “Federal-Tribal Comanagement of the National Bison Range: The Challenge of Advancing Indigenous Rights Through Collaborative Natural Resource Management in Montana.” Pp. 143-188 in Mapping Indigenous Presence: North Scandinavian and North American Perspectives. Kathryn W. Shanley and Bjørg Evjen, eds. University of Arizona Press.

Christopher, S., Saha, R., Lachapelle, P., Jennings, D., Colclough, Y., Cooper, C., Cummins, C., Eggers, M., FourStar, K., Harris, K., Kuntz, S., LaFromboise, V., LaVeaux, D., McDonald, T. Real Bird, J., Rink, E., Webster, C. 2011. “Applying Indigenous CBPR Principles to Partnership Development in Health Disparities Research.” Family & Community Health 34(3): 246-255.

Saha, Robin, Kathryn Makarowski, Russ Van Paepeghem, Bethany Taylor, Michelle Lanzoni, Michael Lattanzio, and Owen Weber, 2010. Missoula Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Analysis, 2003-2008: Toward a Blueprint for Municipal Sustainability.  Missoula, MT. 

Saha, Robin and Paul Mohai. 2009.” Historical Context and Hazardous Waste Facility Siting: Understand Temporal Trends in Michigan.” Pp. 313-349 in Environmental Crime: A Reader. Rob White, ed. Portland, OR: Willan Publishing.

Saha, Robin. 2009. “Current Appraisal of Toxic Waste in the United States – 2007.” Pp. 237-260 in Urban Health: Readings in the Social, Built, and Physical Environments. H. Patricia Hynes and Russ Lopez, eds. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Bullard, Robert, Paul Mohai, Robin Saha, and Beverly Wright. 2007 [March].  Toxic Race and Waste at Twenty 1987-2007: Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism in the United States. Cleveland, OH: United Church of Christ. 

Mohai, Paul and Robin Saha. 2007. “Racial Inequality in the Distribution of Hazardous Waste: A National-Level Reassessment.” Social Problems 54(3): 343-370.

Mohai, Paul and Robin Saha. 2006. "Reassessing Race and Socioeconomic Disparities in Environmental Justice Research." Demography 43(2): 383-389.

Saha, Robin. 2006. “Survey Results.”  Pp. 79-99 in Improving the State Superfund Process. Montana Environmental Quality Council HJR 34 Study Report [November].   

Mohai, Robin and Robin Saha. 2005. “Reassessing Race and Class Disparities in the Distribution of Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facilities. In Conference Proceedings: Waste - The Social Context.  Edmonton, Canada: University of Alberta, May 11-14.

Estrada, Torri, Karen DeGannes, and Robin Saha. 2001.  “POWER Against the PEOPLE? Moving Beyond Crisis Planning in California Energy.” San Francisco, CA: Latino Issues Forum.

Saha, Robin. 2001.  “An Analysis of Environmental Justice Concerns in Downwind Areas Near the Hamtramck Medical Waste Incinerator.” Report commissioned by the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC), Hamtramck Environmental Action Team (HEAT), and Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS).

Saha, Robin and Paul Mohai. 1999 (May and October).  “Disparate Impact Analysis of Gilbraltar Wells #186 Deep Well Injection Site, Smith County, TX.” Report for counsel for Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sins (M.O.S.E.S.), Winona, TX, regarding U.S. EPA Title VI Civil Rights Complaint No. 03R-97-R9.

Saha, Robin. 1998. "Accessing and Using Demographic Data to Support Grassroots Environmental Justice Struggles." Detroit, MI: Environmental Justice Community Training Program the Maurice and Sugar Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice.

Mohai, Paul and Robin Saha. 1997.  “Public Policy, Social Welfare, and the Incidence of Airborne Pollution in Genesee County Revisited: An Assessment of Methodological Rigor.” Exhibit to Circuit Court of the County of Genesee, Michigan, for NAACP and Flint-Genesee United for Action, Justice, and Environmental Safety vs. Governor John Engler and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

In the News

Professor Saha was recently quoted in a U.S. News and Wolrd Report story about opposition by the Lummi Nation in Washington State to fossil fuel development. See "Pacific Northwest Tribe Hauls Totem Pole 4,800 Miles."

Read about Professor Saha's quantitative environmental justice research agenda and recent publications in UM's Rsearch View (Pollution Prejudice: UM Researcher Studies How Waste Facilities Target Low Income, Minority Areas) and Environmental Research Letters News (Hazardous Industries Head to Declining Neighbourhoods).  His research and a report by the Center for Effective Government he contributed to were also recently covered in connection with the Flint, Michigan, water crisis: in the Missoulian (UM Researcher’s Work Sheds Light on Disaster), Fortune Magazine (If You're a Minority and Poor, You're More Likely to Live Near a Toxic Waste Site), the Huffington Post (How Flint's Crisis Could Help Fight An Injustice Plaguing Minority Communities) and the Boston Globe (Flint Evokes the Public Health Racism of Past Years).