Fracking's Future in a Coal Mining Past: Subjectivity Undermined

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Abstract

This paper presents initial research on a community of renters in Southwestern Pennsylvania whose homes are adjacent to a hydraulic fracturing site and containment pond. The community is nestled in a rural section of the county where abandoned and working coal mines are neighbors to fracking's new industrial process of energy extraction, which residents describe as moving in like “aliens.” Most have family members who work(ed) in the coal industry, and the identity that emerges from their community of practice, and the attendant institutions and structures that shape their commentary of complaint and benefit are fundamentally informed by factors associated with labor. Coal miners are a more localized, populous, networked labor force with deep roots in the area, while the fracking-related labor is diffuse, disaggregated, and transient. Residents seek ways to frame their concerns and articulate their unease from a position as outsiders, and while buy-in on jobs as a natural outcome of the natural gas industry is high despite evidence to the contrary, critiques about health and the environment are tentative.

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