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Residents’ perception of hydraulic fracturing and their engagement in hydraulic fracturing in Lethbridge, Fox Creek, and Rosebud, Alberta, Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Truong, Duyen
  • Alberta has been dependent upon oil and gas extraction for over a hundred years, resulting in a particular set of political-economic conditions. Up to date, 93 percent of all the conventional oil in Alberta has been extracted. Therefore, to maintain resource rents, unconventional sources of oil and gas, previously considered too uneconomical to develop, have dominated production. Unconventional gas, including shale and coalbed methane, can only be accessed with a drilling technique involving horizontal, multi-stage, hydraulic fracturing, called fracking for short. In Alberta, over 80 percent of new wells drilled today are fracked, and there has been a growing record of resulting environmental and health problems. Among the more vivid of impacts is seismic activity. In Fox Creek for example, scientists confirmed that volume and geological factors account for ~96% of the variability in the induced earthquake rate near Fox Creek. Health impacts have also raised alarm. For over a decade, the residents of another small town, Rosebud, sought recourse from the provincial government for the contamination of water wells, also believed to be the result of fracking. The scientific record has corroborated these concerns, with several studies finding significant water quality, and ecological and human health impacts as a result of fracking. With increasing evidence of negative impacts from fracking, understanding public perspectives on fracking and the engagement of residents in political activities to express their views are fundamental. Applying a social capital approach, which has generated a substantial body of research indicating that trust, networks and self-efficacy play important roles in civic engagement, this research aims to explore the impact of these three social capital attributes on resident perspectives and engagement in fracking opposition activities in Lethbridge, Fox Creek, and Rosebud, Alberta, with the use of survey research methods. Results of local residents’ perspectives on fracking and level of engagement in fracking were explored using a household survey of residents in Lethbridge (n=184), Fox Creek (n=29), and Rosebud (n=13), three regions in Alberta where fracking has either been undertaken or proposed. Participants completed a questionnaire that measured their trust levels in different information sources and media related to fracking as well as in government representing local interest in fracking. In addition, residents’ social networks, self-efficacy, and concerns for the negative impacts of fracking, factual knowledge about fracking, and socio-demographic information were also included in the survey. Similar to findings of other emerging technologies, our logistic regression results suggested that males were more likely to support fracking. Trust and factual knowledge about fracking were also positively associated with fracking support. However, trust was expressed differently toward specific government organizations across the three study sites, signaling the importance of local historical context to fracking attitudes. I found social capital, including trust and self-efficacy, and concerns for the impacts of fracking, all strongly predicted social engagement in fracking in the three study sites. Annual household income, education, and working in the energy sector also shaped residents’ participation in fracking. Furthermore, trust in particular institutions influenced personal and collective engagement differently. These findings reaffirm that residents’ responses to fracking are strongly shaped by local community context. The political-economic context defined by Alberta’s historic role as a petro-state nonetheless shapes the nature of political mobilization and affects the trust and efficacy of residents. Institutional trust had the strongest effect on shaping local residents’ perspectives on fracking, even when controlling for gender, income, factual knowledge about fracking, and sector of employment. However, levels of institutional trust toward a set of specific government entities varied substantially by location, suggesting that historical experiences with those entities with respect to fracking development strongly influenced local residents’ trust, and this in turn affected their attitudes toward fracking.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2020
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-xnf2-9y08
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.