Energy Impact Geographies: Local Dynamics of Resource Development

Energy Impact Geographies: Local Dynamics of Resource Development

Organizers: Kathryn Bills Walsh (Montana State University) & Kristin K. Smith (Montana State University)

Discussant: Dr. Jennifer Baka (The Pennsylvania State University)

Sponsored by Energy and Environment Specialty Group

Energy transformations, from the Shale Revolution to the growth of industrial renewable energy projects, have created new geographies of energy production across the United States and the world (Zimmerer 2011). These new geographies rework economies, governance, infrastructure, and community institutions into distinct assemblages that enable industry and are typically, to use Appel, Mason, and Watts’ (2015) terms, “chaotic,” “unplanned,” and “mind-boggling.” We employ Haggerty et al’s (2018) concept of impact geographies to make sense of this complexity by focusing on the social and local impacts of energy development.

Despite the growth in critical energy geography scholarship, the inner workings of impact geographies are often overlooked and taken for granted. In the U.S., sites of extraction and development are subject to environmental permitting processes but are not required to undergo community or social impact assessment. As a result, host communities must develop strategies to manage industry impacts and demands, including those related to infrastructure, fiscal management, landscape change, and social service provisioning (Walsh and Haggerty 2018; Smith and Haggerty 2018). Further, impact geographies have the potential to become sites of opposition to energy development and/or places where power imbalances between industry and community are made visible (Kroepsch 2016; Malin et al 2018; Neville et al. 2017). Thus, the ways that host communities navigate industry, who benefits, and who bears the burdens are examples of processes within the “black box” of resource development and consumption that need articulation (Bridge 2009).

In this session, we will attend to the underlying work and systems that enable impact geographies and how industrial development impacts host communities. We ask:

1. How do energy industries create new geographies and what roles do local government, citizen group and NGOs, and/or individuals play in shaping these new geographies?

2. How are these new geographies experienced by local stakeholders?

We welcome (but are not limited to) case studies and/or critiques that explore:

  • Planning and local government responses to energy development
  • Political-Industrial Ecology approaches to researching impact geographies
  • Experiences with creating, financing, maintaining, and/or living with energy infrastructure
  • How dimensions of property ownership influence energy development projects
  • Innovative governance strategies for managing the impacts of energy development
  • Corporate social responsibility and/or social licence to operate
  • Other social and community impacts of energy development

If you are interested in participating in this session, please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words to and by October 17th. We will reply to all submissions on October 19th, at which point we will collect your AAG PIN. (For references click here).