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The Fracker’s Figleaf : Booms and Busts of Sustainable Communities and Cohesive Water Governance Public Deposited

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  • The Marcellus Shale Natural Gas play in Pennsylvania, since its inception, continues to be a source of contention for multiple Pennsylvania stakeholders. The issues that relate to natural gas extraction have seemingly impacted every community within the Marcellus Shale region in some form. As in most common pool resource communities the concept of community stability seldom reflects community welfare concerns. Thus, the Marcellus Shale exemplifies the forester’s fig leaf with cycles of boom and bust which translate to socio-economic impact upon the community. The exploitation of the natural gas resources that lie beneath the region have left an indelible mark of environmental degradation and loss of well-being upon the community. In essence, there clearly has been evidence of some haves and have-nots as a result of the extraction of natural gas in the region. Coupled with this social capital disparity is the ongoing concern of environmental degradation. This aspect is due to the use of hydro-fracking technology to extract the natural gas. Fracking (a term commonly used in the industry), which is short for hydro-fracking, is the process in which oil and gas companies drill into the ground to extract natural gas from the shale rock that lays thousands of feet underground. Once the natural gas has been reached, gallons of water, sand, and extensive list of synthetic chemicals are injected into the well under high pressure. There are more than 50 known chemicals that may be added to the water that is used. These chemicals generally represent less than 1% of the total composition of the fracking fluid. Subsequently, a portion of the water used in the drilling process is returned to the surface. The water (called flowback or frackwater which are general terms used within the industry) upon return to the surface represents a serious a contamination concern for groundwater, streams, and soil. Thus, the context of this environmental degradation paradigm amplifies the need for socio-economic and ecological sustainability. This paper will serve to illuminate the geology of the Marcellus Shale in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania and specifically, the issues of water withdrawal from waterways within the Lycoming County, Pennsylvania region for the purpose of natural gas extraction. In addition, the socio-economic issues will be explored as well as the issues of mineral rights, landowner royalties, and water quality/quantity protection. Also, the issues of frackwater disposal will be presented. Lastly, the recommendation of a Water Action Team approach will be discussed as a plausible solution for bridging and bonding the various stakeholders into a cohesive and collaborative water management alliance.
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  • Groh, F. 2018. The Fracker’s Figleaf: Booms and Busts of Sustainable Communities and Cohesive Water Governance.
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  • Table of Contents Chapter 1: Introduction……………………………………………………………………………2 1.1. Lycoming County, a historical perspective 7 Chapter 2: Geology of the Region 8 2.1. The Marcellus Shale and its natural gas composition 11 2.2. Hydro-fracking Methodology and Process 15 Chapter 3: Context of the Issue 17 3.1. The Geopolitical Context 21 3.2. The significance of drilling: natural gas as a natural capital resource with socio-economic implications 23 3.3. The Issue of Mineral Rights………………………………………………………………25 3.4. The Economic Incentive 28 Chapter 4: The Economic Negative Externalities of Hydro-fracking 35 4.1. The Application of the Coase Theorem 37 Chapter 5: Stakeholder management issues of natural resource extraction and questions of sustainability 39 5.1.Community Autonomy Concerns 44 5.2. Social-human capital Implications 46 5.3.The economic capital tradeoffs of natural gas extraction upon the community 50 Chapter 6 : The essence of the frackwater problem: natural and social capital impacts 51 6.1. Water Usage 65 6.2. Impact of water usage upon the Watershed: the relevance of the River Continuum Concept 68 6.3. The Groundwater Contamination Issue: spills, retention ponds, recycling 76 Chapter 7: Frackwater Treatment Processes 82 7.1. Alternative to processing flowback water, deep well injection 85 Chapter 8 : Pipelines and Compressor Stations 87 8.1.. Compressor stations 89 Chapter 9: Threats to Forest Area and Wildlife 90 9.1. Other Forest Impacts due to Shale Gas Development 95 Chapter 10: Groundwater Contamination Issues 100 10.1. Considering the need for Collaboration amongst Stakeholders 102 10.2. The role of governmental agencies and activist groups 104 10.3. The Water Action Team Approach 106 Chapter 11 : Conclusions and the Future 115 11.1. The relevance of the forester’s fig leaf paradigm to natural gas extraction 118 References 120
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