Fracking in Pennsylvania: A Spatial Review of Impacts on the Soundshed, Viewshed, and Land Cover

Kelly A. Collins, Gettysburg College
Rutherford V. Platt, Gettysburg College

This poster was presented at the 2016 American Association of Geographers' Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA, March 29 - April 2, 2016.

The thesis associated with this poster presentation is available here.


The largest source of natural gas in the US is the Marcellus Shale, largely located in Pennsylvania, and it is believed to hold about 141 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in its shale deposits. Prior research on spatial effects of fracking points out that hydraulic fracturing directly changes and impacts the local environment and landscape features around well-sites. My study examined the impacts of well sites on land cover, the soundshed, and the viewshed. Through tools implemented in ArcGIS, we completed an in depth analysis of both the viewshed and soundshed impacts through a random sampling of sites throughout the entire state that we can classify as rural, urban, and state forest. Using this data, we compared the spatial distribution of land cover change, well soundshed, and well viewshed to the location of important natural resources in Pennsylvania, which includes hiking trails, wetlands, protected areas, streams, and roadless areas. We found that the majority of producing wells are currently found in forested areas within 1320 feet of a stream or wetland. We also found that for wells that are permitted, but not yet drilled, 67.1% are to be concentrated in areas within 1320 feet of a stream and 45.9% are permitted within forested areas. The preliminary results for the rest of the data suggest that significant percentages of the soundshed and audioshed around the well and compressor station sites will be impacted as a result of their presence.