Green Criminology


"Green Criminology is the analysis of environmental harms from a criminological perspective, or the application of criminological thought to environmental issues. As elsewhere in criminology, this means thinking about offences (what crimes or harms are inflicted on the environment, and how), offenders (who commits crime against the environment, and why) and victims (who suffers as a result of environmental damage, and how), and also about responses to environmental crimes: policing, punishment and crime prevention. On a more theoretical level, green criminology is interested in the social, economic and political conditions that lead to environmental crimes; on a philosophical level it is concerned with which types of harms should be considered as ′crimes′ and therefore within the remit of a green criminology."
[Gary R. Potter, London South Bank University, United Kingdom, in "What is Green Criminology?" ]

Researchers affiliated with the CSCJ are on the forefront of the emerging field of Green Criminology. Drawing on multiple methodological approaches, we are examining a variety of issues from a critical criminological lens including oil and gas development, human/wildlife interaction, environmental justice, natural and technological disasters, and policies designed to mitigate harm to ecosystems and human health. Below are brief descriptions of ongoing projects in this area.

The Institutionalization of Equity and Environmental Justice (EEJ) at Colorado State University.

The path to environmental sustainability raises important equity and environmental justice concerns for public health and across all six focal areas of the School of Global and Environmental Sustainability (SoGES): Climate Change and Energy; Food Security; Environmental Institutions and Governance; Sustainable Communities; Land and Water Resources; and Biodiversity, Conservation and Management. As such, a Global Challenge Research Team (GCRT) was designed and funded by SoGES to explore how and why Equity and Environmental Justice (EEJ) are important elements of the study of the environment, public health, and sustainability. Principal Investigators: Dr. Tara O′Connor Shelley, Department of Sociology; Dr. Melinda Laituri, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability; and Dr. Dimitris Stevis, Department of Political Science.

Risky Air: An Analysis of Risk Perceptions, Punitive Attitudes, and Regulatory Support Towards Corporate Violations Of The Clean Air Act.

Using national survey data, this project examines how risk perceptions influence support for social control measures in the form of regulation and punishment for violations of the Clean Air Act. Theoretically, we build upon O′Connor, Bord and Fisher (1999) who argue that the relationship between risk perception and support for ameliorative policies hinges upon: (1) problem awareness, (2) belief in negative consequences for oneself and others, and (3) knowledge of the causes of the problem. Principal Investigators: Matthew Tullis, Dr. Tara O′Connor Shelley, and Dr. Mike Hogan.

Environmental Crime, Environmental Policy and Hydraulic Fracturing: The Role of Risk Perception and Exposure on Public Attitudes.

This project involves a national public opinion survey on environmental crime and environmental policy, with a specific focus on hydraulic fracturing. Aside from more general environmental crime and policy issues, we examine public perceptions about a number of risks and negative consequences associated with fracking-related activities that include but are not limited to: air and water pollution, land disturbance, noise and odor, road traffic, water depletion, and crime. We also examine perceived benefits associated with fracking-related activities that include but are not limited to: job creation, tax revenue, energy independence, and investment in community infrastructure. Principal Investigators: Dr. Tara O′Connor Shelley, Dr. Mike Hogan and Matthew Tullis.

  • Conference
    Dr. Tara O′Connor Shelley, Dr. Mike Hogan, former CSU Sociology professor Paul Stretesky, and former graduate student Mike Long (PhD, 2010) attended the inaugural ″Environmental Crime and its Victims″ conference in Delft, The Netherlands on September 17 and 18th.

Understanding the Nature of Citizen Complaints in the Case of Oil and Gas Activity in Colorado.

This three part research study systematically explores citizen perceptions and experiences with state and industry responses to problems and/or concerns related to oil and gas activity. This mixed methods research project highlights the strengths and limitations of regulation as well as the under-studied social impacts of oil and gas development in Colorado communities through qualitative interviews with citizens, an analysis of the nature and extent of all citizen complaints filed with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) from 2001 – 2013, and a statewide survey of individuals who have filed complaint paperwork with the COGCC—the agency responsible for regulating oil and gas activity in Colorado. Principal Investigators: Dr. Tara Opsal and Dr. Tara O′Connor Shelley.

Examining the Nature and Extent of Oil and Gas Inspections, Spills and Violations in Colorado.

There is little known about COGCC's regulatory activities concerning inspections, the detection and response to spills, and the issuance of violation notices. This longitudinal research project examines the nature and extent of these activities through the lens of Green Criminology and Environmental Justice theories. Principal Investigators: Dr. Mike Hogan, Dr. Tara O′Connor Shelley, Dr. Tara Opsal, Adam Mayer (Ph.D. Student), John Hilgendorf and Lauren Alessi.

Problems Related to the Oil and Gas Industry During a Flood Disaster: The Nature and Extent of Citizen Complaints and Satisfaction with Government Responses.

This study examines citizens′ perceptions and experiences with government and private industry response to damaged well facilities and sites of contamination. This qualitative research project relies on semi-structured interviews with individuals who owned, managed, or resided on or adjacent to properties that contained oil and gas facilities damaged by the Northern Colorado storms and floods of 2013. This project was funded by a Natural Hazards Center quick response grant (see the preliminary report here). Principal Investigators: Dr. Tara Opsal and Dr. Tara O′Connor Shelley.

Sense of Place, Risk/ Benefit Perceptions, and Fracking Policy Preferences among Coloradoans.

Colorado and several other states are currently experiencing a boom in oil and gas production driven in large part by unconventional drilling techniques like hydraulic fracturing or ″fracking″. Within Colorado, several municipalities have banned or passed moratoria on hydraulic fracturing while drilling has been embraced in other parts of the state. Though the politics of oil and gas drilling may seem highly polarized it is likely the Coloradoans hold nuanced and complex views about the ideal policy response to the oil and gas boom. In this project, we consider the role of sense of place, risk/ benefit perceptions related to oil and gas development, and the extent of local drilling as possible predictors of oil and gas policy preferences of Coloradoans via a representative telephone survey. Principal Investigators: Adam Mayer (Ph.D. Student) and Dr. Tara O′Connor Shelley.

Societal Reaction towards Invasive Species.

This project examines how Burmese pythons in Florida were turned into a ″threatening″ social problem through a process of problem construction relying heavily on the use of typifications and the co-mingling of two distinct issues: the presence of wild, invasive snakes in portions of South Florida and captive, pet python ownership. This societal reaction to Florida′s invasive python problem is then linked to the literature on moral panics, demonstrating how concepts from that approach may be applied to the study of invasive species and other human/non-human interactions. Principal Investigators: Chris Moloney (Ph.D. Student) and Dr. Prabha Unnithan.

Green Criminology Publications

    • 1. Opsal, Tara and Tara O′Connor Shelley. ″Energy Crime, Harm, and Problematic State Response in Colorado: A Case of the Fox Guarding the Hen House?″ Critical Criminology. Forthcoming.


    • 2. Crow, Matthew, Tara O′Connor Shelley, and Paul Stretesky. 2013. ″Camouflage Collar Crime: An Examination of Wildlife Crime and Characteristics of Poachers in Florida.″ Deviant Behavior 34: 635-652.


    • 3. Shelley, Tara O′Connor, and Michael J. Hogan. 2012. ″Public Perceptions of Corporate Environmental Crime: Assessing the Impact of Economic Insecurity on Willingness to Impose Punishment for Corporate Environmental Crime (pp. 282-299).″ In: The Routledge International Handbook of Green Criminology(Nigel South and Avi L. Brisman, editors), New York, NY: Routledge.


    • 4. Shelley, Tara O′Connor, Ted Chiricos, and Marc Gertz. 2011. ″What about the Environment? Assessing the Perceived Seriousness of Environmental Crime.″ International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 35: 305-323.


    • 5. Hogan, Michael J., Michael A. Long, and Paul B. Stretesky. 2010. ″Campaign contributions, lobbying, and post-Katrina contracts.″ Disasters: The Journal of Disaster Studies, Policy, and Management 34: 593-607.


    • 6. Stretesky, Paul B., Tara O′Connor Shelley, and Matthew S. Crow. 2010. ″Do Conservation Organizations Influence the Production of Natural Resource Violations?″ Organization and Environment 23: 398-416.


    • 7. Shelley, Tara O′Connor and Matthew S. Crow. 2009. ″The Nature and Extent of Conservation Policing: Law Enforcement Generalists or Specialists?″ American Journal of Criminal Justice 34: 9-27.


    • 8. Zahran, Sammy, Tara O′Connor Shelley, Lori Peek, and Samuel D. Brody. 2009. ″Natural Disasters and Social Order: Modeling Crime Outcomes in Florida.″ International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 27: 26-52.

    • 9. Stretesky, Paul B. and Michael J. Hogan. 1998. ″Environmental Justice: An Analysis of Superfund Sites in Florida.″ Social Problems 45: 268-287.