Panel Paper: Local Government Capacity for Hydraulic Fracturing

Saturday, November 8, 2014 : 10:35 AM
Enchantment Ballroom C (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Thomas A. P. Sinclair1, Pamela Mischen2 and Rachael Mott1, (1)Binghamton University, (2)Binghampton University - SUNY
Gargan (1981, 652) claims that “local government capacity at any point in time results from the interaction of community expectations, community resources, and community problems.” For Gargan, capacity is inextricably linked to a particular local context. In Pennsylvania and New York, local government capacity is being tested with the introduction of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas. The intense debate surrounding fracking signifies that this is a community problem with community members arguing over whether fracking provides vital economic development or irrevocable environmental damage (or both). Residents who previously did not think much about local government are now looking to municipalities for solutions, changing expectations for local government. The level of community resources will impact, and likely be impacted by, decisions made to allow, prohibit, or limit fracking. In short, answering these fundamental political questions about what should be done about fracking, then leads to a series of capacity issues; how to regulate fracking, invest revenues, and develop necessary service and support infrastructures to ensure the economic well-being and quality-of-life for residents in the community.

This paper explores the capacity of local governments in two regions of Pennsylvania to respond to the economic, environmental and social consequences of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.  Through interviews with government officials, analysis of local government budgets, and document analysis of local newspapers (both articles and opinion pages), we identify the necessary types of capacity to manage such a complex phonomenon and explain how these capacities have developed along different lines within these two regions.