Fuel for Debate: Explaining Public Response to Hydraulic Fracturing
What drives local decisions to prohibit industrial land uses? This study examines the passage of municipal ordinances prohibiting gas development using hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in New York State. I argue that local action against fracking depended on multiple conceptions of the shale gas industry. Matching these alternative conceptions with prevailing spatial models of public response to industrial land uses—”not in my backyard,” “not in anyone’s backyard,” and “please in my backyard”—improves our understanding of where local contention might emerge and how it contributes to policy change. Results from event history and logistic regression analyses show, first, that communities lying above favorable areas of the shale did not pass anti-fracking laws because opposition to fracking was counteracted by significant local support for development. Fracking bans passed primarily in a geographic sweet spot on the periphery of targeted regions, where little or no compelling economic interest in development existed. Second, as fracking became the subject of a highly politicized national debate, local opposition increasingly reflected mobilization by political liberals. This trend is reflected in the increasing rate of ordinance adoption among Democratic-leaning communities outside the geographic sweet spot.
Fedor A. Dokshin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Cornell University. His research interests are in the areas of political sociology, social networks, environmental sociology, and computational social science. His primary research agenda examines why people mobilize to oppose or support new energy technologies and how political contestation affects policymaking, the emergence of new industries, and the distribution of environmental risk. His research develops behavioral measures using novel data sources including administrative datasets, online “digital trace” data, and large-scale text data. His published research appears in the American Sociological Review and Social Forces and his ongoing work is supported by the National Science Foundation.