Does Planning Build Resilience in Hydraulic Fracturing Communities?
1 online resource (150 pages) : PDF
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Despite its long history in the United States and abroad, the unconventional drilling industry, and specifically hydraulic fracturing technology, remain controversial. While the competing demands of energy from oil and gas are contrasted with environmental safety and protection, it is likely that unconventional drilling will remain a source of social friction and a wicked problem. From the viewpoint of social resilience in hydraulic fracturing communities, social conflict represents a potential threat to the bonds that are formed within a community. This research seeks to understand the impact of planning in communities that have implemented unconventional drilling technology by using a metric of litigation as a proxy for conflict. By seeking to illuminate how conflict is affected by both municipal and industry planning efforts this research seeks to answer the question of whether planning can reduce conflict and build resilience in communities where unconventional drilling is occurring. If conflict through litigation can be reduced through planning in these communities, then resilience may be preserved, enabling these extractive communities to reduce their exposure to disruption. This research begins with a quantitative analysis of the counties in Pennsylvania to determine which counties have detailed comprehensive plans that address unconventional drilling. The comprehensive plan data was then compared to the civil lawsuit data for each county to determine which counties have both detailed comprehensive plans and low rates of fracking related civil lawsuits. Using this quantitative data, three counties were chosen as case studies for the second phase of this research. Two counties demonstrating a high level of planning and a corresponding level of social resilience were selected (Sullivan and Clinton counties). For contrast, one county with a high level of planning, but a low level of social resilience as measured by a high incidence of civil lawsuits per well was also studied (Lawrence). A series of semi structured interviews were conducted with community members and government staff to investigate the impact of planning in those counties relative to the unconventional drilling industry. While most unconventional drilling companies declined to be interviewed for this research, one company and an industry group were also interviewed. In Sullivan County, the social resilience appears to stem from the interconnectivity of residents, government, and industry that is encouraged by the strategic comprehensive plan and further nurtured through industry involvement in the community. In contrast, Clinton’s plan provides a guiding vision for the industry, encouraging development upon prescribed paths that promotes conscientious and environmentally and socially responsible activity. In contrast, Lawrence county’s plan addressing unconventional drilling but is stymied by a lack of reciprocal interconnectivity from industry, though the county as adapted by transitioning to related industry by leveraging their manufacturing know-how. Social resilience is notoriously difficult to measure, but this research does provide support for the theory that counties that engage in high levels of planning and also have fracking companies that are active in community engagement may have improved social resilience through the building of social bonds.
SustainabilitySocial sciences--ResearchLand use--Planning
FrackingHydraulic FracturingNatural GasPlanningResilienceUnconventional Drilling
Infrastructure & Environmental Systems
Boyer, RobertXiang, Wei-Ning
Furuseth, OwenTempest, BrettPeterson, Nicole
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2020.
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