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We Didn't Start the Fire: Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania Before the Marcellus Boom

Ladson, Marcy J. (2019) We Didn't Start the Fire: Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania Before the Marcellus Boom. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The Pennsylvania Marcellus natural gas boom that began in 2005 caused a game-changing
increase in global energy resources. It also caused significant national controversy, as the threats
of gas drilling to land, water, and health became a big story. Why did the gas industry expand so
quickly in a state with long experience of the environmental degradation and regional poverty left
in the wake of extractive industry of all kinds? The Marcellus gas drillers successfully capitalized
on the use of new drilling technologies and new geological knowledge, but these were not the only
factors at play. In addition, the industry’s landscape of opportunity included the existing physical,
social, and legislative structures that made Pennsylvania a drilling-friendly region. Those
structures are the legacy of energy extraction in the Appalachian region, especially during a
previous state gas boom in the 1970s and 1980s. The negative impact of gas drilling on people and
the environment during that earlier boom prompted the passage of Pennsylvania’s 1984 Oil and
Gas Act, the legislation still in place when the Marcellus boom began. However, the 1970s energy
crisis and the advantages of natural gas compared to coal had established gas extraction as
primarily a public good. Only in defense of state and national park land did grassroots citizen
campaigns and mainstream environmental organizations present serious objections to drilling.
Although the 1984 Act established restrictions to protect people and the environment, the
desirability of gas helped keep regulations relatively lenient. This study focuses on a variety of
stakeholders in gas-rich areas of Erie, metropolitan Pittsburgh, and rural Appalachia, during the
last third of the twentieth century. These actors, in coping with the impact of gas drilling then,
helped shape the development of the current gas boom, with all its significance for the future of
fossil fuel use and global climate change.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ladson, Marcy J.mjl115@pitt.edumjl115
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMuller, Edward
Committee MemberWarsh, Molly
Committee MemberWebel,
Committee MemberDieterich-Ward,
Date: 26 September 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 April 2019
Approval Date: 26 September 2019
Submission Date: 6 August 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 225
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: natural gas, Pennsylvania, energy, Erie, Appalachia, Pittsburgh, Allegheny National Forest, drilling
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2019 14:08
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2019 14:08


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