Development of unconventional natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale region of the northeastern United States has progressed rapidly over the last decade. The discourse surrounding such development recalls quarter-century-old debates about positive and negative implications for the well-being of such energy boomtowns. Potential support or opposition relates to trust in the industry and its regulators, perceived knowledge, and perceived impacts. Our research project takes advantage of the opportunity for a natural experiment in comparing these elements between two spatially adjacent sites with contrasting approaches to gas development: in Pennsylvania, drilling of unconventional natural gas reserves has been proceeding for nearly a decade, whereas, at the time of this writing, drilling has not begun in New York. A mail survey of a random sample of New York and Pennsylvania residents within the Marcellus region revealed important differences between sites. New York residents were more opposed to development, characterized the industry in a more negative light, and were more likely to have engaged in various forms of public participation. In contrast, respondents did not differ by state on their perceived level of knowledge, even though gas development is more advanced in Pennsylvania. Potential explanations for these findings are offered, as are implications for understanding newly emerging energy boomtowns.
Environmental Practice 14:287–298 (2012)