In recent decades, the production of natural gas from unconventional reservoirs (i.e., tight gas sands, coalbed methane resources, and gas shales) has become commonplace within the U.S. energy industry. The Newark East Fort Worth Basin field–called in the vernacular, the Barnett Shale–in north-central Texas is one of the largest unconventional natural gas fields (by production volume) in the United States. Unlike many conventional energy development projects, which typically occurred in small rural areas, much of the Barnett Shale production is occurring in and around a highly urbanized geographical setting. In spite of recent efforts to assess the economic effects of Barnett Shale production, little attention has been directed toward understanding the social impacts associated with this immense unconventional energy development. In this article we use key informant interview data collected in two Barnett Shale counties to investigate the reported positive and negative outcomes of unconventional energy development, as well as the similarities and differences in perceptions between respondents from each of the study counties. We then discuss practical applications and future research implications of our findings.

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