Property Values and Risks: Evidence from Shale Development


The profitability of extracting oil and gas trapped within the nation’s extensive shale formations has generated a boom in the oil-and-gas industry. Operators are pushing to drill close to populations and sensitive resources, and many states are facilitating such extensive drilling with laws that preempt local land-use control. On one hand, shale production has the potential to enrich local land owners who can collect lucrative royalty payments from operators. On the other hand, shale production is not without potential local risks. Some of these risks are speculative, and the magnitudes of the risks are uncertain. 

Using property sales data from Washington County, Pennsylvania, this paper finds that an additional horizontal well within a mile of a property tends to increase the property’s value. This positive effect, however, is diminished for properties that rely on private water wells for drinking water. In addition, all properties with nearby horizontal wells lose value as the number of recent environmental, health, and safety well violations increases in the county.