Qasim Mehdi

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Peter Wilcoxen


Air Quality;Collaborative Governance;Decarbonization;Electric Grid;Equity;Health Benefits


This dissertation consists of three essays related to environmental justice. The first essay examines the impact of decarbonization of the US electric grid on air quality and assesses how the health benefits of better air quality will be distributed among people of different ages and races. This work was done for the contiguous US at the county level. These benefits are estimated through three regulatory-grade models: Integrated Planning Model (IPM), Community Multiscale Air Quality Modeling System (CMAQ), and Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP). Air quality improvements and health gains (premature deaths avoided) are reported for the years 2030, 2040, and 2050. Most of the PM2.5 and O3 reductions are concentrated in the Eastern US. Black communities experience the largest improvement in air quality compared to all other races. For health benefits, I find that Whites have the largest benefits in terms of absolute numbers, but when appropriate race-specific mortality incidence rates are used and population-weighted race-age decomposition is conducted, Blacks have 20% larger gains compared to Whites in age group 25-74. Moreover, when premature deaths averted are converted to life years, I find that disparity in health benefits between age groups is sharply reduced, shifting 2.86 percentage points of the total gains from Whites to Blacks. Age-race decomposition analysis for decarbonization of US electric grid thus suggests improvement in environmental justice. The finding from this paper can help policymakers understand how health disparities are reduced with respect to age and race due to decarbonization. In the second essay I examine how improved air quality due to the decarbonization of the US power sector can reduce asthma exacerbation among children disaggregated by poverty status, race, and geography. These benefits are estimated through three regulatory-grade models: Integrated Planning Model (IPM), Community Multiscale Air Quality Modeling System (CMAQ), and Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP). Using spatial datasets that differentiate asthma prevalence by income, race, and state, I find that children in living in households with income below the poverty line receive a disproportionate share of the benefits. Within each racial group, households with child poverty have 50% larger reductions in asthma exacerbations than households without childhood poverty. Furthermore, Black people, both above and below the poverty line, have larger health gains than all other races and income groups. I also provide general methodological insights for quantifying the environmental justice impacts of regulatory policies. Environmental collaboration has become an increasingly common approach to the management of natural resources. Scholars and practitioners have tried to understand how collaborative structures impact performance using a multitude of single case studies and comparative studies. However, despite calls for the evaluation of collaborative performance, minimal quantitative research explores the connections between collaborative structures and performance using a large sample for analysis. I address this gap in my third essay by carrying out a fixed effects analysis that is used to examine the impact of several structural variations, including collaboration form, number and representational diversity of participants, and contributions of in-kind resources, on the cost-effectiveness of collaborative watershed projects in Oregon. The data for this project come from the Oregon Watershed Restoration Inventory (OWRI). My results indicate that collaboration form, participant numbers, and resource contributions affect cost-effectiveness, but representational diversity among participants does not. The findings from this article can help sponsoring and implementing agencies execute collaborative projects more cost-effectively. They also indicate the need for additional research exploring the relationship between collaborative structures, outputs, and outcomes.


Open Access