With the installation of project infrastructure, drilling of a well, and the arrival of out-of-town workers, many of the impacts that communities experience due to shale development begin at this stage, although they may differ in intensity in later phases of the process. Your community might see an increase in traffic, road dust, and noise – and perhaps experience a change in the viewshed – as project infrastructure is installed. One of the most dramatic effects in many communities, particularly in small towns and rural areas, is the arrival of outside contract workers, who can bring changes to the economy, social structure, and health profile of the local community over the life cycle of the project.
Population Influx and Boom-and-Bust Effects
In extractive sector industries such as mining or conventional oil and gas development, it has long been recognized that the establishment of a project – or even the prospect of one – can lead to a population increase in local communities as non-residents move to the area for jobs and other benefits afforded by the project (a phenomenon also known as in-migration). While there are economic benefits to be gained from this population growth, depending on the profile of the community and the level of in-migration, it can strain local infrastructure, services, and government capacity to respond to changes.
Moreover, when the project ends and benefits dwindle, the trend can be reversed as the local economy declines and people leave the area. As described under Quality of Life – Economic Impacts below, if not planned for and managed appropriately, this boom-and-bust cycle can leave the community in a worse economic situation than at the outset. Early planning to manage and mitigate population influx is essential, as is planning for the effective management of tax revenues and royalties to help communities prepare for the long term and the end of the project life cycle.
While many health issues associated with natural resource extraction in the exploration stage are related to population influx, others are tied to the presence of project infrastructure. Both types of impacts are discussed below.