RFF Initiative

The Community Impacts of Shale Gas and Oil Development

RFF experts are helping to improve understanding of the benefits and costs of shale gas and oil development in local communities and crafting recommendations to improve community–industry relations.

Many local communities support shale gas and oil development because of the expected economic benefits, but they  may experience a variety of impacts, such as noise and light pollution; congested, damaged roads and increased traffic accidents; overpopulated schools; and air and water pollution, among others. Is any given community better off with or without shale gas and oil development? What policies, regulatory systems, and other tools can help improve community outcomes?

RFF experts and colleagues are working to help communities answer these questions and better understand the benefits and costs of unconventional oil and gas development, as well as assess which regulatory, voluntary, and market actions can maximize benefits while minimizing costs.

Current projects include the following:

  • Developing a risk–benefit matrix to link shale gas development activities to local impacts (expanding on RFF’s existing risk matrix focused on environmental impacts); reviewing and possibly expanding an industry model of some of these impacts;
  • Identifying best-practice protocols for community–industry interactions;
  • Exploring how gas and oil development impacts K-12 education;
  • Estimating the costs of road expenditures linked to truck traffic resulting from shale gas well development;
  • Examining the risks associated with the solid waste generated from shale gas development;
  • Modeling ways to minimize both producer costs and community risk of impact (via truck traffic and/or spills) for wastewater processing; and 
  • Modeling optimal siting of well and pipeline infrastructure to account for both private costs and potential environmental impacts.