Public Perceptions of Hydraulic Fracturing in Three Marcellus Shale States

May 2015

Extraction from the Marcellus Shale—one of the most robust natural gas deposits in North America—represents the potential for economic growth and environmental degradation. There is little federal oversight concerning natural gas extraction resulting in dramatically different regulatory policy approaches in the nine states and one Canadian province in the Marcellus Shale region. These policy approaches span from how to appropriately tax the extracted gas to whether the drilling practice should be permitted.

The policy differences between states in the Marcellus Shale region are intensified due to the physical presence of natural gas wells in border counties; residents in New York and Maryland can look across the state line and see active drilling in neighboring states. Further, a key environmental argument against hydraulic fracturing—the contamination of ground water—is conceptualized differently across the states located at the intersection of the Marcellus Shale and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The active cross-pressures from environmental and business advocacy groups—as well as divergent regional policies—have resulted in New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania having concurrent, but fundamentally different, policy debates concerning the regulation and extraction of the natural gas within their borders.