Fracking debate called complex, Researcher looks at social impact by Matt Hughes, November 8, 2012, Times-Leader
More divides backers and opponents of natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale than disagreements over the safety of its technical processes or its potential economic benefit; people’s homes, ways of life and social identity hang in the balance, according to ethnographic researcher Simona Perry.
“This has become much more than just a technical or economic issue,” Perry said Wednesday. “The issue has become embedded in the beliefs, attitudes and perceptions around the local and notion of a culture, of what a place means and what health means.”
Perry is an applied anthropologist who for the past three years has been studying how Northeastern Pennsylvania residents perceive the natural gas development happening around them, in conjunction with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. and her own consulting firm in Maryland. … Proprietary, sometimes hazardous chemicals have been used in hydraulic fracturing since the process’ inception decades ago, and the tax incentives, public subsidies and regulatory exemptions that have allowed the shale gas boom follow a long history of political influence by the fossil fuels industry. What is new about the shale gas boom, and what has most affected residents of the communities it touches, Perry said, has been the enormous scale and rapid pace of development, its close proximity to private homes, workplaces, churches, schools and other social centers, and the larger storyline of energy independence and climate change surrounding domestic gas development. “Individuals that are living in the midst of this type of development … are being asked to sacrifice, everything in some cases, for some greater good,” Perry said. … “I think the next step is to stop debating and to solve these problems,” Perry said. [Emphasis added]