In the mid-2000s, a nascent technological development in the field of unconventional gas development made the vast amounts of natural gas trapped underneath (primarily southern and western) New York and (western and central) Pennsylvania – once thought to be impossible to retrieve – potentially accessible. This development brought both significant opportunities and large anxieties (primarily in the state-level stakeholders) in both states. Despite similarities in geography, demographics (e.g., primarily rural, lower income, blue collar communities) and the need for economic development (e.g., jobs), Pennsylvania and New York have taken nearly diametrically opposed positions on this emerging technological development: hydraulic fracturing.
From the early 2000s, Pennsylvania was an early adopter, continued supporter and economic beneficiary of fracking (and unconventional oil and gas extraction writ large). New York also showed early enthusiasm with fracking – and the associated economic development opportunities for upstate – but also held long-standing anxieties and hesitancies (ostensibly) regarding environmental risks and drinking water contamination concerns. Moving beyond traditional arguments based on public opinion polls and community outreach, the Golay-Williams Model argues that the Pennsylvania/New York divide on fracking is explained by behaviors and actions of state level stakeholders that have influenced individual, local and federal dynamics for accepting fracking. The same positive and negative stakeholder dynamics are present in both New York and, but the Golay-Williams Model suggests a specific underlying structure and explicit causality of a few key decisions at a few key times that initiated different feedback processes and resulted in the disparate response present today.
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