Framing Dynamics and Political Gridlock: The Curious Case of Hydraulic Fracturing in New York

Jennifer Dodge, Jeongyoon Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


‘Fracking’ was on New York's agenda since 2008, yet no decision was made about it until late 2014. The gridlock is an intriguing puzzle given that the Marcellus shale is considered a ‘world class’ energy supply, and development has been aggressive in other US states. While policy scholars typically conceptualize gridlock as policy stability, this paper examines it as a dynamic process by which competing discourse coalitions engage in interactive framing processes that (re)structure the discussion. This suggests that the interaction between contending coalitions influences gridlock. Yet, we lack knowledge about interactive framing between competing coalitions during policy controversies. Our main finding is that a central mechanism of gridlock is the production of conflict through interactive framing dynamics that deny a shared discursive space capable of ushering in a consensus, or reasoned agreement. In New York, this contest evolved from a policy consensus about the economic benefits of fracking to policy negotiation that incorporated environmental threats, and to prolonged policy controversy in which competing discourse coalitions contested notions of fracking in relation to energy production, environmental protection, public health, economic development, and governance. While a ban has been instituted, the failure to bridge discourse coalitions suggests that controversy will persist unless meaning disputes are resolved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-34
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy and Planning
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • discourse coalition
  • environmental policy
  • fracking
  • framing
  • interpretive policy analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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