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9.1.5: Community Impacts in the Media

  • Page ID
    15683
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    Activity 1

    When reading about community impacts of shale gas development, treat each article or story like a scientific research paper. Look for causation, correlation, data, evidence, and the use of experts to evaluate the claims made. Let’s look at some newspaper articles related to social impacts of shale gas development and try to figure out whether they suggest causality or correlation, and whether their claims are backed by data and/or evidence.

    Exercise 1

    After reading, think about how you would answer the questions below. Click for the answer to see how your thoughts compare to the answers provided.

    Questions

    1.What does the article say is a result of shale gas development?

    Answer

    The article says that shale gas development has led to an increase in crime incidents. Therefore, twenty-five state troopers have been reassigned to the Marcellus Shale region.

    2. What data/evidence/experts do they use to support this statement?

    Answer

    The article quotes two experts: State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, Lt. Col. George Bivens. However, no data or evidence is provided.

    3. Is this correlation or causation?

    Answer

    Without data or evidence, we cannot say if either correlation OR causation exist. IF there has been an increase in crime incidents in the region, we could only say that there is a correlation between shale gas development and an increase in crime.

    4. What are other potential correlations that would lead to the same result?

    Answer

    An increase in crime could also be caused by population growth, an increase in the population living in poverty, or a spike in unemployment, just to name a few.

    5. What data/methods would be needed to establish causation?

    Answer

    In order to establish causation between shale gas development and an increase in crime, you could conduct longitudinal research (comparing data before and after Marcellus shale development began), use a comparative case study (compare two places with similar characteristics – one that has Marcellus Shale development and one that does not), and/or “control” for other potential causes, such as the ones listed above. Each method strengthens your research, and combining all three would be best!

    Reading

    Read Drilling Boom AP (8 minutes).

    Exercise 2

    This time after reading, type your answers to the questions in the boxes provided. Again, click for the answer to see how your answers compare to the answers provided.

    Questions

    1. What does the article say is a result of oil and gas activity?

    Answer

    The article says that a sharp increase in crime/arrests (drunk driving, bar fights, prostitution, protection-from-abuse orders, and others) has been caused by natural gas workers who have migrated to new areas for work. .

    2. What data/evidence/experts do they use to support this statement?

    Answer

    The article cites law enforcement officials, a District Attorney, and disease control staff as experts on the topic. In many instances, the article notes a “spike” or “rise” in arrests without providing any data. Data is provided, however, in some cases. For Sweetwater County, Wyoming the article cites population increase and arrest numbers taken from “state figures”. Bradford County arrest numbers are cited from a District Attorney, and the Sheriff in Williston, North Dakota provides arrest figures. In addition, data on North Dakota’s rates of sexually transmitted diseases is provided, although the state’s Disease Control Chief notes that three years is not enough data to establish a trend.

    3. Is this correlation or causation?

    Answer

    This article has established correlation, but has not provided enough information to establish causation. Although some longitudinal data has been provided, it does not always capture conditions both before and after production began. There is no control group or case study comparison to similar areas without natural gas development, and no evidence that they have controlled for additional factors.

    4. What are other potential correlations that would lead to the same result?

    Answer

    Population increase alone could be causing changes, or the rates in the areas provided could be on-trend with the state or national averages, and not unique to areas experiencing natural gas development. (There are many other possible answers).

    5. What data/methods would be needed to establish causation?

    Answer

    In order to establish causation between shale gas development and an increase in crime, you could conduct longitudinal research (comparing data before and after Marcellus shale development began), use a comparative case study (compare two places with similar characteristics – one that has Marcellus Shale development and one that does not), and/or “control” for other potential causes, such as the ones listed above. Each method strengthens your research, and combining all three would be best!

    Reading

    Find one additional media article pertaining to community impacts of Marcellus Shale development. Again, use the questions above to evaluate the data presented.


    9.1.5: Community Impacts in the Media is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Marcellus Matters via source content that was edited to conform to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.