Like many others, Hurricane Harvey changed the course of Hailey Duncan’s life. The gargantuan Category 4 hurricane unleashed a torrent of damage on homes, businesses, and infrastructure, and further exacerbated already-dire socioeconomic conditions in parts of the Gulf South. At the time, Hailey was a graduate student studying Environmental Policy at Texas A&M University and witnessed the damage that communities, especially those in the Houston metropolitan area, suffered as a result of Harvey’s devastation. The climate-induced storm reaffirmed the need for her career to ensure equitable decisions were prioritized and made when it came to climate and environmental policy.
As the Texas Coast recovered from Hurricane Harvey, Hailey was offered the opportunity to focus her capstone graduate school project on the effects Harvey had on small communities and their governments. To be more specific, she chose to analyze the equitability of granting decisions made at the federal level and their supposed intention to trickle down to municipal governments.
As a result of her research, Hailey learned that many unincorporated communities in the Houston metro area didn’t receive funds because of jurisdictional issues. She says small cities’ inability to receive any federal dollars created an inequitable rebuild following the destruction.
“The people in these communities were people that reminded me of people like my family,” Hailey says. “Everyday people, that’s who was getting left out of decision-making.”
Seeing firsthand that important decisions made in real time weren’t equitable, Hailey decided to further pursue climate and environmental justice action in her professional career. Most recently, before joining PST, she worked for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign to stop the expansion of Liquified Methane Gas (LNG) on the Gulf Coast.
“Something I discovered in my work with LNG, and after working with community members from Freeport, Texas to find accountability for an explosion at a local LNG facility, is the clear regulatory gaps that exist with pipelines and energy infrastructure more generally,” Hailey says. “It was scary to see that communities aren’t always taken into consideration during the siting and regulation of pipelines and that there is often no one to educate them on the risks of the infrastructure.”
As society shifts to address the demands of the climate crisis, we have seen asks for different things out of regulators and the government, especially when it comes to climate change; Hailey says it is her personal goal to figure out how PST fits in and can work to shift policy that prioritizes affected communities first.
Hailey says she’s excited to apply her climate lens to pipeline safety because she notes that the two are inextricably linked and she’s looking forward to building bridges between those advocating for increased pipeline safety and those advocating for climate and community conscious decision-making.
“These are the biggest issues of our lifetime,” Hailey says. “And, not only is PST grappling with them, but we are asking the public, PHMSA, and the industry to grapple with them too in order to come up with equitable solutions.”
More About Hailey
Hailey joined the Pipeline Safety Trust in October 2023 as the organization’s Policy Advisor. She brings a passion for integrating climate and safety policy advocacy.
Hailey previously worked as the Campaign Manager at the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign. Her work focused on stopping the rapid expansion of Liquified Methane Gas (LNG) in the Gulf South.
Hailey attended Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Geography with a minor in GIS and a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) with a concentration in Environmental Policy.
Outside of work, you can find Hailey and her dog, Luca, hiking in one of the many urban forestry oases in the DMV area. She also enjoys exploring new restaurants, events, and sites in Washington D.C.