Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Social Work

Major Professor

Sondra J. Fogel


Community Development, Environment, Fracking, Macro Practice, Phenomenological, Rural


As the landscape of the United States changes and world resources face depletion, shale gas development has become a major social justice issue. Social workers may be called upon to help support communities undergoing change from industry as well as the environmental and social justice concerns that are arising in areas with rich natural resource supplies.

This research examines how a rural population perceives change when industry enters an area. It explores community change and social justice concerns that are occurring with shale gas development in order to help determine implications for social work practice.

Using a phenomenological approach, this work examined the perceptions of 20 residents of the Pennsylvania community of the Laurel Highlands who live within 10 miles of where fracking has occurred. In depth interviews were carried out with this population to explore their perceptions of community change from shale gas development.

Residents of the Laurel Highlands report anxiety about the future of their environment, including negative impacts to the air and water. They are angry about the outsourcing of local natural resources to other areas in both the United States and abroad. Residents feel a loss of power and sense of control due to shale gas development and the large corporations which support its growth. These factors are negatively impacting their quality of life. Shale gas development and the changes it brings are influencing residents' decisions about investing in the Laurel Highlands as well as staying in the area long term. As a result of these factors, community action is increasing to help build support during industrial development in the area. This work examines these themes and concludes with a discussion of how social work practice can help assist rural residents with their changing communities.