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Variation in Public Discourse about Fracking across Space: Evidence from a Computational Text Analysis

Sat, August 11, 8:30 to 9:30am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 5, Salon G

Abstract

The study analyzes thousands of individually authored public comments submitted in the context of a contentious regulatory review of shale gas development in New York State to examine the set of concerns that residents expressed about the proposed development and the geographic distribution of those concerns. After documenting the prevalence of different topics of concern, we show that the topics have unique geographic signatures. Many topics concentrated in comments from individuals who live near proposed development and were largely ignored by individuals who lived far away. Several topics had the opposite geographic signature, concentrating in comments from residents who live far away from development. Beyond this proximity effect, geographic clustering of specific topics suggests the presence of regional, place-based effects on how shale gas development was understood by local residents. We emphasize the importance of considering the multiple social bases that underlie opposition and support for energy development.

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