Environmental Knowledge Cartographies: Evaluating Competing Discourses in U.S. Hydraulic Fracturing Rule-Making

Jennifer Baka, Arielle Hesse, Erika Weinthal, Karen Bakker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this article, we evaluate competing environmental knowledge claims in U.S. hydraulic fracturing (HF) regulation. We conduct a case study of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) rule-making process over the period from 2012 to 2015, which was the first attempt to update federal oil and gas regulations in thirty years. Our study addresses a gap in the energy geographies and environmental governance literatures, which have yet to evaluate systematically HF-related decision-making processes at the policymaking scale. We mobilize theoretical insights from science and technology studies on boundary objects and critical environmental discourse analysis to conduct a “cultural cartography” of the BLM’s rule-making process. Our analysis of a subset of 1.4 million public comments submitted to the BLM, combined with fifteen stakeholder interviews, focuses on (1) who participated in the rule-making process; (2) the types of knowledge claims advanced in support or opposition of the rule; and (3) how these claims affected the rule-making process. In contrast to recent literature that finds increased “horizontality” of environmental knowledge production, we find a clear hierarchy that privileges government knowledge—including federal government–sponsored research and existing laws—above all other categories of evidence cited. As such, we argue that government knowledge—which in this case brought disparate stakeholder groups together to debate HF regulation—functions as a key boundary object in the rule-making process. We conclude with a discussion of implications for both research and policy. Key Words: boundary work, Bureau of Land Management, hydraulic fracturing, regulation, rule making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1941-1960
Number of pages20
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Volume109
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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