Exploration and extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale have created considerable controversy. At the core of these debates are differing perceptions of the level and types of risks involved with the extraction activities, such as hydraulic fracturing, truck traffic, air emissions, and population growth. Risks described include the potential for human and environmental health implications, as well as community change and economic gain. This article explores the nature of perceived risks associated with Marcellus Shale development by using data from a household survey (N = 1,917) conducted in 2009–10 in Pennsylvania and New York counties located in the core areas of the Marcellus Shale region. The article describes a quantitative measure of risk perceptions. Statistical analyses of the data indicate that trust in institutions responsible for managing the risks associated with development and attitudes related to relationships between people and nature are associated strongly with perceptions of risk. Other associated variables include reported knowledge of environmental, social, and economic impacts, mineral rights ownership, demographic characteristics (gender, income), and state of residence. Implications of these findings are discussed, particularly as related to improving local discourse surrounding Marcellus Shale development.
Environmental Practice 15:108–122 (2013)