Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

November 24, 2010

Marcellus shale: Socioeconomic baseline study completed

MarcellusThe Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, a partnership among eight northeastern Pennsylvania academic institutions, has undertaken a baseline socioeconomic study of the impact of Marcellus shale drilling.

Teri Ooms, executive director of the institute, shared initial information from the project that aims to provide data for a future longitudinal study on community changes in the context of Marcellus shale drilling. “The purpose of the project was to assess the current social and economic conditions relating to gas well development in the Marcellus formation,” she said.

The study surveyed 1,500 Pennsylvania households in areas with Marcellus drilling activity.

Ooms, co-principal investigator on the study, said the survey aimed to ascertain residents’ knowledge, attitudes and perceptions concerning the economic, social and environmental outcomes they foresee as a result of the development of the Marcellus shale gas reserves.

It also sought information on their attitudes about their communities and differences in their knowledge and perceptions attributable to demographics such as age, gender or education.

Residents expressed strong positive responses related to school quality, the natural environment, neighborhood friendliness and water quality in their communities, she said.

“However, they did not rate the availability of jobs or job training very well. They also believed their existing roads and streets were already in poor condition and that continued development of the [resource] would make it worse, and that traffic congestion was increasing,” Ooms said.

As for the impact of drilling in their community, “Most people believed that most of the aspects of their lives would remain the same,” Ooms said.

“They believed that the job opportunities would get better, however the environment and water quality and quantity issues would get worse.”

Attitudes toward drilling mostly were neutral, with the following exceptions, she said:

• 57 percent said that extraction of domestic natural gas resources should be encouraged to decrease reliance on foreign energy.

• 60 percent agreed that the negative impacts of natural gas extraction can be prevented if the process proceeds carefully.

• 48 percent thought that only a few people would benefit from natural gas development.

“It appears there was little consensus among survey participants concerning the safety and desirability of developing the gas industry in the region. Many had no clear opinion about the issues raised and the percentages of those holding positive and negative positions on most issues were somewhat similar,” Ooms said.

The study also included interviews with “key informants” in Pennsylvania communities and in areas of Arkansas and Texas (where shale gas drilling has been developed) that yielded some interesting results.

In the Pennsylvania interviews with academic, business and government leaders from five counties, researchers found more commonalities than differences, Ooms said.

The community leaders reported seeing new jobs and companies coming in, but tensions erupting due to concerns about mineral rights ownership and lease and royalty rates. Some reported the beginnings of gentrification, changes in the rural character of their communities and increases in the cost of living.

Road and traffic concerns were expressed across the board, she said.

Despite their concerns, all the interviewees wanted to see the industry move forward.

Some of the issues beginning to be observed in Pennsylvania — such as home prices rising faster than  income  —  already  were  being seen in the other areas, Ooms said. Interviewees in Texas and Arkansas reported their communities had dramatic population growth as well as increases in jobs, home values and household income.

Among the concerns reported by Texas interviewees were eminent domain, benzene emissions, problems with gas industry landmen and urban drilling, Ooms said.

In Arkansas, there were concerns over possible wastewater disposal issues, but no water contamination issues were reported, she said. There, the largest concern was road damage.

The study is available at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 43 Issue 7

Leave a Reply