Current research on Marcellus Shale Development draws on important concepts from previous energy development research, including the boomtown impact model. The western United States saw a period of rapid energy development in the 1970s and 1980s. Many coal, oil, and natural gas development projects were located in rural, isolated towns which were unprepared and unaccustomed to the rapid population growth and industrial development taking place. Sociologists, studying these communities, created the boomtown impact model, sometimes called the social disruption hypothesis. The model generally predicts that small communities facing rapid population growth and industrialization will see their services and infrastructure stretched thin, increases in mental health problems, and changes to their quality of life (Jacquet & Kay 2014).
In this section, you will learn about the boom-bust cycle and its impacts, and evaluate whether shale gas development fits within the boomtown impact model.
You will begin with a reading that outlines the perceptions of impacts from community members over time and across space using qualitative data from interviews. As you read the article, complete Activity 2.
Brasier et al Boomtown (35 minutes)
Activity 2: (15 minutes)
Divide a piece of paper into three categories: Boom Stage, Bust Stage, and Recovery Stage. As you read the “Background” section (pages 34-38), fill in each section with its corresponding characteristics from the literature.
Check to see if your responses identify or give consideration to the points below for each stage of development. (Some characteristics don’t fit neatly within one stage or the other.)
- Strain on physical infrastructure
- Strain on community services
- Housing shortage, rise in purchase and rental prices
- Bolstering of social and economic cohesion
- Long-term residents report highest levels of community satisfaction through this stage, as with all stages
- Adaptation begins
- Residents create new interpretations of their area and energy development
- Residents form new relationships to their communities
- Indicators of well-being (community satisfaction, trust in other residents, social ties) return to pre-boom levels