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Scale, shale, and the state: political ecologies and legal geographies of shale gas development in Pennsylvania

Abstract

Recent work on legal geographies has arguably paid far too little attention to the environment as both an object of governance and a terrain of struggle with respect to the law. Conversely, political ecology as a field, with its focus on informal and extra-legal dynamics, has arguably engaged too little with the legal geographies that are central to environmental conflicts in many locations. This paper examines and theorizes the legal geographies that have been essential elements of the recent boom in extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. Specifically, it examines the ways in which laws and the authority of the state more broadly have been changed, deployed, and invoked, particularly through the passage of Act 13, to enable the extraction of the gas in the shale and its circulation as a viable commodity. This analysis of the relevant multiscalar legal geographies illustrates the productivity of a more direct engagement between political ecology on one hand, and legal geography on the other.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    These include the National Environmental Policy Act (1970), the Clean Air Act (1963), the Clean Water Act (1972), the Safe Water Drinking Act (1974), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (1980), and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (1986). The original dates of passage are cited here; many relevant revisions have been enacted.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers at the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Eleanor Andrews.

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Andrews, E., McCarthy, J. Scale, shale, and the state: political ecologies and legal geographies of shale gas development in Pennsylvania. J Environ Stud Sci 4, 7–16 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-013-0146-8

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Keywords

  • Political ecology
  • Legal geography
  • Natural gas
  • Hydraulic fracturing