Panel Paper: Hydraulic Fracturing Practices Explored through County Demographics in Texas

Saturday, November 8, 2014 : 4:30 PM
Enchantment Ballroom D (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jenna McGrath and Juan Moreno-Cruz, Georgia Institute of Technology
This study explores the relationship between hydraulic fracturing activity and county demographics within Texas with a focus on marginalized counties. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the number of wells drilled using hydraulic fracturing to be more than 35,000 each year. As the number of natural gas wells drilled using hydraulic fracturing technology grows, so does the concern of fracking wastewater leakages, negative effects on home values, and environmental degradation. Environmental justice literature suggests that negative externalities are not expected to be uniformly distributed, but rather concentrated in marginalized communities.

Demographic data were obtained from the United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) using the 5-year (2007-2011) estimates. Drilling data were collected via examination of the Baker Hughes North America Rotary Rig Count. Indicators of county marginalization are defined as the proportion of non-white citizens, citizens not in the labor force, and citizens and families with incomes below the national poverty line, compared to non-marginalized counties. Statistical analyses were conducted using multiple regression analysis with total number of fracked wells at the county level as the dependent variable.

Results indicate that there is a significant relationship between marginalized counties and fracking activity. First, the expected likelihood of the total number of fracked wells within a county is expected to increase as the proportion of households below the national poverty line increases, holding all else constant. Second, the expected likelihood of total fracked wells per capita is expected to decrease, as the proportion of whites to non-whites in the population increase, holding all else constant.