McLaughlin, Danielle M., & Bethany B. Cutts (2018, August). Neither knowledge deficit nor NIMBY: Understanding opposition to hydraulic fracturing as a nuanced coalition in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania (USA). Environmental Management, 62(2), 305-322. (Link:

Abstract: The expansion of unconventional sources of natural gas across the world has generated public controversy surrounding fracking drilling methods. Public debates continue to reverberate through policy domains despite very inconclusive biophysical evidence of net harm. As a consequence, there is a need to test the hypothesis that resistance to fracking is due to the way it redistributes economic and environmental risks. As in many other communities, opposition to fracking is common in central Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, (USA) but the rationale underpinning opposition is poorly understood. We test the prevailing assumption in the environmental management literature that fracking opposition is motivated by knowledge deficits and/or not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) politics. This study uses Q methodology to examine emergent perspectives and sub-discourses within the fracking opposition debate in central Westmoreland County, PA. Q methodology offers a systematic and iterative use of both quantitative and qualitative research techniques to explore frequently overlooked marginal viewpoints that are critical to understanding the fracking problem. The analysis reveals four different narratives of factors amongst people actively involved in locally opposing fracking, labeled (1) Future Fears; (2) NIMBY (3) Community Concerns; and (4) Distrust Stakeholders. The conflicts that emerge across these four factors are indicative of deeper discourse within the fracking debate that signifies diversity in motivations, values, and convictions, and suggests the inadequacy of relying on knowledge deficit and/or NIMBY explanations to fracking politics.

Danielle M. McLaughlin <> is at the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH (USA). Bethany B Cutts <> specializes in human dimensions of the environment and geospatial analytics in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, College of Natural Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC (USA).

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