Public response to energy projects affects the emergence of new technologies and the distribution of their risks and benefits. Here we use thousands of individually authored comments submitted during a regulatory review of unconventional shale gas development in New York State to reconcile previous, inconsistent results about the relationship between proximity and opposition to energy projects. We find that members of the public opposed unconventional shale gas development for different reasons, which varied systematically with proximity to unconventional gas wells. Public discourse in proximate communities was diverse, invoking environmental, social, economic and political impacts, and was anchored by concerns specific to a particular place. By contrast, a few nationally salient environmental concerns dominated public discourse in communities farther from development. Our results demonstrate that public response reflects the mobilization of alternative constituencies with unique understandings of the issue. Distinguishing among these is critical for understanding the nature of public response.

Nature Vol 6, nº 10

Fedor A. Dokshin

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