The power to plan: mineral rights leasing, data justice, and proactive zoning in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

Kirk Jalbert, Douglas Shields, Matt Kelso, Samantha Rubright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, has historically experienced far less unconventional oil and gas development compared to neighboring counties in the Marcellus Shale. However, a series of aggressive moves by drilling companies to place well pads in populated areas are upending perceptions of likely energy development trends and the extent to which communities are prepared for industrial-scale extraction. We argue that these perceptions were partly due to misaligned beliefs amongst residents about where drilling companies were investing resources to acquire mineral rights leases, as well as a municipal officials’ confusion over outdated zoning codes. We examine the Allegheny County Lease Mapping Project, a data transparency effort that systematically gathered and reorganized leasing data to better communicate development patterns to the public. Findings from the project were used to provide technical assistance to municipalities in passing protective zoning ordinances. These efforts are evaluated for their ability to facilitate procedural justice by rearrange information asymmetries and enabling communities to plan for more desirable futures, thus contributing to a growing field of research in data justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-176
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019


  • Data transparency
  • environmental justice
  • land use planning
  • oil and gas extraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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