Despite calls to increase federal oversight of hydraulic fracturing (HF), the U.S. Congress has maintained a regulatory system in which environmental regulatory authority is devolved to the states. We argue that this system is characterized by a long-standing “policy monopoly”: a form of stability in policy agenda-setting in which a specific manner of framing and regulating a policy issue becomes hegemonic. Integrating theories on agenda-setting and environmental discourse analysis, we develop a nuanced conceptualization of policy monopoly that emphasizes the significance of regulatory history, public perceptions, industry–government relations, and environmental “storylines.” We evaluate how a policy monopoly in U.S. HF regulation has been constructed and maintained through a historical analysis of oil and gas regulation and a discourse analysis of eleven select congressional energy committee hearings. This research extends scholarship on agenda-setting by better illuminating the importance of political economic and geographic factors shaping regulatory agendas and outcomes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Public Administration
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law