A Comparison of Hydrocarbon-Related Landscape Disturbance Patterns Along the New York-Pennsylvania Border, 2004–2013

Scientific Investigations Report 2019-5096
By: , and 


Executive Summary

The New York-Pennsylvania area has a long history of hydrocarbon extraction, and the addition of shale gas extraction methods contributes to landscape disturbance borne by previously developed oil and non-shale gas resources. The main unconventional extraction method used to extract shale gas from the Marcellus Shale located in New York and Pennsylvania is hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” although other conventional methods are used extensively. All forms of hydrocarbon extraction disturb the surrounding landscape to some extent, primarily in the form of land clearance and degradation, road construction, and pipeline development, although the effects of these disturbances are not fully understood.

In this study, landscape-change metrics and indicators are used to analyze change in a 10-county region along the New York-Pennsylvania border—the New York counties of Allegany, Steuben, Chemung, Tioga, and Broome, and the Pennsylvania counties of McKean, Potter, Tioga, Bradford, and Susquehanna. This 10-county region was selected due to the differences in policies between the States of New York and Pennsylvania. While fracking occurred extensively in Pennsylvania over the past 10 years or more, the State of New York issued a temporary moratorium against hydraulic fracturing in 2010—citing repercussions that might affect air quality, water quality, and public health—and officially banned hydraulic fracturing in June 2015.

The quantification of landscape disturbance due to hydrocarbon extraction activities is presented in this report as land-use and land-cover (LULC) change between 2004 and 2013 and defined using specific disturbance categories (including well sites, roads, and pipelines) to compare the disturbances and changes, by county, on both sides of the New York-Pennsylvania border. The quantification was accomplished by gathering the signatures of disturbance from high-resolution aerial images, comparing the derived totals of disturbance, and then computing landscape metrics in a geographic information system (GIS) environment.

The collected data represent a summation of landscape disturbance from oil and gas development, as some of the data represented were established decades earlier. The Analytical Tools Interface for Landscape Assessments (ATtILA) software was used to calculate land-cover area and landscape metrics for each shale gas, non-shale gas, oil, and other infrastructure types associated with hydrocarbons across each county and both five-county regions in the study area. The three primary metrics used to describe changes in forest structure were (1)forest area, (2) interior forest area, and (3) forest edge area. The changes in metrics were subsequently evaluated using the Pearson correlation coefficient.

Overall, the disturbed-area footprint in the Pennsylvania region is considerably larger than the disturbed-area footprint in the New York region (13,687.9 hectares [ha] in Pennsylvania; 3,840.5 ha in New York). Disturbance per site is similar, with 1.2 disturbed ha per site in New York and 1.6 disturbed ha per site in Pennsylvania.

In the New York-Pennsylvania 10-county region, hydrocarbon-development and extraction disturbance strongly correlate with a reduction in the percentage of forest for the entire region. This observation also appears to be true in the New York five-county region for forest area. This form of disturbance in the New York five-county region shows significantly correlated changes in forest metrics (–0.4 percent total forest area), particularly in the percentage of interior forest (–1.2 percent total area) and forest edge (+0.7 percent total area). On the other hand, gas and hydrocarbon-development and extraction disturbance (1.0 percent total area) in the Pennsylvania five-county region strongly correlates with a total decline in forest area and agricultural land area (–0.8 percent combined total area) but not with either land-cover class separately.

Suggested Citation

Roig-Silva, C.M., Milheim, L.E., Slonecker, E.T., Kalaly, S., and Chestnut, J., 2019, A comparison of hydrocarbon-related landscape disturbance patterns along the New York-Pennsylvania border, 2004–2013: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5096, 23 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20195096.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Mapping and Measuring Disturbance Effects
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title A comparison of hydrocarbon-related landscape disturbance patterns along the New York-Pennsylvania border, 2004–2013
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2019-5096
DOI 10.3133/sir20195096
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center
Description Report: v, 23 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State New York, Pennsylvania
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details