Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
The process of natural gas recovery by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is a major scientific advance in unconventional energy development. Attention has largely been focused on its economic advantages and potential negative environmental repercussions, while less consideration given to its social dimensions. The purpose of this study was to explore the social consequences of fracking for communities in the Appalachian Basin's Marcellus shale. Research questions focused on the role of stakeholders and the resource needs of localities in shaping public policy. This study was guided by the tenets of the Boomtown theory along with key issues in fracking research such as environmental impacts, water resources, public health and safety, economics, and ethical concerns. An embedded case study research design was employed, using a purposive sample of 8 economic and policy subject matter experts from the 3 most prolific drilling counties in Pennsylvania. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews and were analyzed using open and axial coding with cross-case comparison. Results suggested that positive economic social consequences of fracking involved sustainability in providing generational and employment stability. Negative consequences, such as traffic, damaged infrastructure, and housing shortages, were temporary and manageable. Logistical and demographic information were valuable resources for community leadership, and stakeholders favored autonomy in decision making. The implications for social change include informing policy makers how to prepare the local workforce to be adaptable, establish sufficient infrastructure to support change, and educate communities to leverage opportunity in advance of new industry.