Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair

Daniel Renfrew

Committee Co-Chair

Jennifer Steele

Committee Member

Joshua Woods


The advent of horizontal hydraulic fracture drilling, or 'fracking,' a technology used to access oil and natural gas deposits, has allowed for the extraction of deep, unconventional shale gas and oil deposits in various shale seams throughout the United States and world. One such shale seam, the Marcellus shale, extends from New York State, across Pennsylvania, and throughout West Virginia, where shale gas development has significantly increased within the last decade. This boom has created a massive amount of economic activity surrounding the energy industry, creating jobs for workers, income from leases and royalties for landowners, and profits for energy conglomerates. However, this bounty comes with risks to environmental and public health, and has led to divisive community polarization over the issue in the Marcellus shale region. In the face of potential environmental and social disruption, and a great deal of controversy surrounding 'fracking,' the oil and gas industry has had to undertake a myriad of public relations campaigns and initiatives to legitimize their extraction efforts in the Marcellus shale region, and to project the oil and gas industry in a positive light to residents, policy makers, and landowners. This thesis describes one such public relations initiative, the Energy in Depth Northeast Marcellus Initiative. Through qualitative content analysis of Energy in Depth's online web material, this thesis examines the ways in which the oil and gas industry narrates the shale gas boom in the Marcellus shale region, and the ways in which the industry frames the discourse surrounding natural gas development. Through the use of environmental imagery, appeals to scientific reason, and appeals to patriotism, the oil and gas industry uses Energy in Depth to frame the shale gas extraction process in a positive way, all the while framing those who question or oppose the processes of shale gas extraction as irrational obstructionists.