Resource and Communities LogoEnergy development shapes rural landscapes and communities in multiple and often profound ways. The pace and scale of innovation in energy technologies tends to outpace the rate of innovation in policies and practices that effectively address local impacts. In the academic community, concepts and methods to understand outcomes of energy development at relevant scales also lag behind the pace of change in energy landscapes.

Our work focuses on the capacity of citizens and local officials who are operating within the challenging circumstances of energy communities. We do this through research about experiences with energy development, about policy and governance and their outcomes, and attention to the design and conduct of impact assessment. We are also committed to outreach and extension work through key partners like the MSU Local Government Center

Our Work

colstripThe "Transitions in the West" research program focuses on the link between policy and the long-term well-being of energy communities. Specifically, we are working to understand how the policy environment enables or constrains opportunities for communities negotiating transitions in energy development regimes, such as downturns in the coal and oil and gas economies. We released a report describing the policy environment governing transition at Montana's Colstrip Steam Electricity Station on July 25, 2017.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant 1632810.

bakkenThe "Escaping the Resource Curse" research project seeks to develop governance and investment frameworks to leverage the benefits of energy development for rural prosperity. We are currently conducting original research in three shale development areas; the Marcellus (Pennsylvania), Bakken (North Dakota & Montana), and the Powder River Basin (Wyoming).

This project is funded by the USDA NIFA (Project #2014-05498) and also benefits from support from the Institute on Ecosystems and Montana State University. 

networkingThe Energy Impacts Research Coordination Network is a cross-disciplinary committee of faculty from research institutions across North America. It seeks to overcome topical, disciplinary, and geographic silos in order to facilitate breakthroughs in understanding the social and community impacts of energy development. 

To join, visit

Colstrip field tripThrough innovative coursework and hands-on field trips, we seek to introduce undergraduate and graduate students to the complexities of energy communities and landscapes. In the past we have taken field trips to the Colstrip Power Plant and to NorthWestern Energy, Montana's largest energy utility.

Visit the Earth Sciences Department for more information.