Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Title:

Who Are Those Guys? A Qualitative Analysis of Transient Gas Workers in the Marcellus Shale Region

Abstract:

The Marcellus Shale is a geological deposit containing significant natural gas reserves beneath portions of five Northeastern states (Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland). Pennsylvania’s Marcellus region is experiencing rapid natural gas development by international oil and gas companies who contract a predominantly male, migratory workforce. The scale and pace of this development is altering the social, economic, and environmental conditions in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus communities. Most research on energy booms uses a ‘social disruption’ lens to examine the impacts on residents; however, we know very little about the mostly transient energy workers who are blamed for community disruption in boomtowns. In this presentation, I include a brief synopsis of the social disruption literature. Next, I explain how organizational structures and occupational cultures within energy companies may alter communities. To understand the community perspective, I use representative survey data from residents in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region, and data from case-study research in 16 Pennsylvania counties. Drawing on ‘oilfield’ research, and qualitative interview and observation data from my dissertation research, I discuss how the lives of energy workers are structured by their employer and constructed among employees. I conclude by discussing how organizational structures and occupational cultures combine to create a traditional masculine breadwinning norm that may result in work-family conflicts. When these conflicts occur, they may spillover into communities as social disruption. This presentation provides conceptual, theoretical and empirical knowledge useful to public audiences, and interdisciplinary fields studying natural resources, work, family, community, and gender.

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