What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

LOCAL OFFICIALS

Quality of Life—Economic Impacts

It is important to note that local governments may experience a shortfall in funding in the early stages of development due to new demands upon local infrastructure and services, while the government might not receive additional income from production taxes for 2-5 years. 1 Local officials could therefore begin discussions with state legislative and executive branches during the early stages of shale development on how to design a tax structure that allows local governments to receive funding in a manner that meets their communities’ infrastructure and service needs.

The economic impacts of shale development begin to materialize in Stage 3—Exploratory Drilling and are addressed in detail there.

Quality of Life—Noise Impacts

The permitting stage is a good time to consider how to avoid or mitigate many potential impacts, given that siting is a critical aspect of managing the impacts of noise. Some states require a noise mitigation plan as part of the permitting process. Truck traffic to and from the site is another major source of noise that stakeholders can seek to mitigate in this early phase. Local officials can therefore play a role in establishing speed limits for truck traffic, as well as designating appropriate truck routes.

The health impacts of noise are addressed under Quality of Life—Noise Impacts in Stage 3 when sound levels from the project could begin affecting residents.

Quality of Life—Visual Impacts

As with noise, the permitting phase—when plans are reviewed regarding siting and design of the project—is an important time for addressing visual impacts (see Quality of Life—Visual Impacts in Stage 3 for an overview). There are statutory requirements to protect significant scenic, historic, and recreational locations, including at state and federally owned sites. State regulators might conduct environmental impact assessments (EIAs) at this stage, and they could seek the input of municipal authorities on topics such as potential visual impacts. 

For local officials, particularly those in tourist areas with high-value scenery, it can be useful to 1) conduct an early assessment to identify area resources of high visual sensitivity; 2) gather input from residents on their concerns regarding siting; and 3) review local land use ordinances. When there are significant cultural, historic, or natural resources near the planned development site, it may be helpful to conduct modeling or computer simulation of the viewshed, or the landscape/scenery visible to the eye from a fixed vantage point. 2

Notes:

  1. Headwaters Economics, “Oil and Natural Gas Fiscal Best Practices:  Lessons for State and Local Governments,” (November 2012), 3.
  2. See Cornell University study of modeling for the Cayuga Heights and Ithaca overlooks:  Sarita Rose Upadhyay and Min Bu, “Visual Impacts of Natural Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale Region,” Cornell University (Fall 2010), 33-34.