No Fracking Way: An Empirical Investigation of Local Shale Development Bans in New York

42 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2017 Last revised: 14 Nov 2018

See all articles by Caroline Cecot

Caroline Cecot

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School

Date Written: September 1, 2017


Across the United States, local governments and states have adopted measures to restrict shale development that uses high-volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling (collectively, fracking) within their borders, hindering a national energy policy that relies on continued access to natural gas trapped within shale formations. This Article takes an empirical look at what might motivate these local anti-fracking measures by analyzing the behavior of New York towns from 2010 through the end of 2013. Before New York’s highest court recognized a town’s authority to ban fracking and before the state officially banned fracking, more than a hundred shale-rich New York towns adopted bans or moratoria on fracking. The results show that towns most likely to adopt bans were those with residents that were more vulnerable to potential water contamination and those with little history of prior oil-and-gas development. Moratoria adoption, in contrast, was largely associated with residents’ environmental preferences. The results suggest that, at least when deciding to ban fracking, towns weigh the local costs and benefits of the practice, relying on their knowledge of local conditions and vulnerabilities. The results, then, lay the groundwork for state and federal efforts to reduce local opposition by facilitating responsible shale development, with provisions for taking into account local knowledge and incentives for optimal activity levels, acceptable risk-taking, and comprehensive remediation.

Keywords: shale development, fracking, bans, risks

JEL Classification: Q51, Q58, R52, R58, K10

Suggested Citation

Cecot, Caroline, No Fracking Way: An Empirical Investigation of Local Shale Development Bans in New York (September 1, 2017). Environmental Law, Forthcoming, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 17-41, Available at SSRN: or

Caroline Cecot (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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