Shale gas and agriculture

A dairy farm in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania that has leased its mineral rights for shale gas development. (Fall 2017)

This project, which stems from my dissertation research, examines the rapid rise of shale gas development via hydraulic fracturing, and how it is reshaping U.S. agricultural systems in rural regions. The lack of a comprehensive federal shale gas policy has created a highly uneven landscape of state regulations, with neighboring states such as New York and Pennsylvania adopting opposing policies. With this region as a timely and compelling case study, I use shale gas development as a lens to understand U.S. agriculture in times of transition. I employ political economy and environmentality frameworks to navigate the environmental knowledges, policies, institutions, and subjectivities which shape competing shale gas discourses.

I have developed and deployed critical Q methodology as part of this project. I use critical Q to ask how the Marcellus shale boom is reshaping farmers’ environmental attitudes, conducting a comparative analysis between New York and Pennsylvania as bordering states with divergent regulatory approaches to shale gas. According to my analysis, divergent state-level regulations in the Twin Tiers shape, but do not fully determine, participants’ environmental worldviews. Rather, I illustrate that participants are embedded within institutional networks governing environmental knowledge production, circulation, application, and erasure. My analysis demonstrates how farmers respond to external economic incentives, structural vulnerabilities, and internalized norms of “good” agricultural practice when deciding whether to lease their subsurface mineral rights.

In addition to several manuscripts currently in review or being drafted, I am currently drafting a book proposal based research from this project, tentatively titled Land Rich, Cash Poor: Struggling American Farms and the Marcellus Shale Gas Boom. The book will examine the role farmer-landowners play in facilitating the enclosure of the shale gas frontier, its subsequent reorganization by industrial interests, and what broader intersections of food and energy production mean for American agriculturalists.


Sneegas, G. 2016. “Media representations of hydraulic fracturing and agriculture: A New York case study.” Extractive Industries and Society 3(1): 95-102. DOI: 10.1016/j.exis.2015.11.011


Sneegas, G. 2019. ”Land rich, cash poor”: Negotiating tensions and trade-offs between farming and shale gas development. Interdisciplinary Speaker Series, University of Tennessee Sociology Department, January 30.

Sneegas, G. 2019. “Land rich, cash poor”: Extractivist ideology and structural vulnerability at the intersection of farming and shale gas development. Annual Meetings of the American Association of Geographers, Washington, DC, April 3-7.

Sneegas, G. 2019. Shale gas development, governance, and food-water-energy entanglements. Panel Title: “Political Ecologies of the Food-Water-Energy Nexus.” Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference, Lexington, KY, February 21-23.

Sneegas, G. 2018. Agricultural Production and Shale Gas Development. Penn State Cooperative Extension, Shale Gas Development Webinar Series, November 15.

Sneegas, G. 2018. Using Critical Q Method to study environmental governance and subjectivity among farmer-landowners in the Marcellus Shale Basin. Fourth Annual Environmental Politics and Governance Conference, Stockholm, Sweden, June 28-July 1.

Sneegas, G. 2018. Producing (extra)ordinary death on the farm: Deathly knowledges and dead calves. Annual Meetings of the American Association of Geographers, New Orleans, LA, April 10-14.

Sneegas, G. 2017. Producing farmers, consuming expertise: Land grant colleges and the production of neoliberal environmentality in the context of shale gas development. Panel Title: “Making a Resource I: Science and Legal Frameworks of Shale Fuels.” Annual Meetings of the American Association of Geographers, Boston, MA, April 5-9.

Sneegas, G. 2016. “Drilling down” with alternative methodologies: Applications for Q method at the intersection of hydraulic fracturing, agriculture, and subject formation. Annual Meetings of the American Association of Geographers, San Francisco, CA, March 29-April 2.

Sneegas, G. 2015. Fracking the farm: Tensions and tradeoffs between governance, hydraulic fracturing, and dairy. The Future of Food Studies Conference, Harvard University, Boston, MA, October 23-25.

Sneegas, G. 2015. “I sit with the Walmarts”: Representations of fracking, risk, and class in the Pennsylvania and New York dairyscape. Annual Meetings of the American Association of Geographers, Chicago, IL, April 21-25.

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