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Abstract

Recent advances in gas and oil drilling technology have led to dramatic boomtown development in many rural areas that have endured extended periods of economic decline. In Pennsylvania's Marcellus gas fields, the recent development of unconventional shale gas resources has not been without controversy. It has been variously framed as a major opportunity for economic revitalization at the local and regional levels and energy independence at the national level, but also as a significant environmental risk, with uncertain and uneven economic benefits. We use data from a survey conducted in 309 school districts located within Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale region to study the ways local stakeholders perceive both risk and opportunity associated with gas extraction from Marcellus Shale. Our analyses indicate that there is a strong positive association between perceptions of risk and opportunity associated with gas extraction. Further, the intensity of perception of both risk and opportunity is directly associated with the amount of local drilling, suggesting the complexity of local contexts within which local stakeholders evaluate rapid boomtown-associated community change. In total, these findings complicate the framing of unconventional gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale region, and indeed boomtown growth overall, as fundamentally polarizing issues.