College Students Getting Educated on Marcellus Shale
The EID Marcellus team has, over the past week, been visiting college campuses across the great state of Pennsylvania to engage with students on the important subject of responsible natural gas development. It is exciting for me, as a fairly recent college graduate, to see other students, hundreds of them in fact, taking an interest in the Marcellus Shale.
Interacting with them this week myself was a thrill, especially given the important role domestic natural gas development will play in this country’s future. It might very well determine the employment of these students for decades to come, a point I stressed in my remarks at my alma mater, Lock Haven University. I wish something this important was around during my collegiate days there, but being able to share what I’ve learned over the last year working with Energy In Depth was such a great opportunity for me and, I hope, for them.
First Stop: Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, PA
The Marcellus Shale Coalition asked Tom and I if we could head to Northampton Community College last week to participate in a leadership seminar organized by a group of students there. These students did a phenomenal job putting together a diverse panel discussion comprised of industry representatives, activists, chemistry and green technology experts. Representatives from Wilkes University’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Research even participated.
I have to acknowledge, first of all, the quality education students are receiving at Northampton Community College. This was particularly evident by the caliber of very thought-provoking questions, challenging each panel member and raising this forum’s threshold from just another classroom assignment to a very informative and, at times, heated debate.
From the industry’s perspective, this qualitative ability to ask constructive questions is a sign this generation of college graduates will be prepared to work in the oil and gas industry. We got the same impression talking to some of the students afterwards. It was essentially all questions and answers but done very fairly and we even enjoyed lunch with some of our anti-natural gas friends. This is surely one of the benefits of such events – that they bring everyone together to reason respectfully. You can watch this panel presentation in its entirety in the following video:
On to Bloomsburg University in Columbia County
Hours after engaging students from Northhampton Community College, Tom and I met up with fellow team member Bill desRosiers at Bloomsburg University. Again, I must thank the Marcellus Shale Coalition for also setting us to participate in this panel discussion. Tom presented and fielded questions from the audience in the company of regulators from the Department of Environmental Protection and Dr. Tony Ingraffea from Cornell University. Bloomsburg University geology department representatives organized and moderated the event. You can see, in the following videos, Tom and then Ingraffea discussing natural gas development in Pennsylvania.
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There was also a lively question and answer session, kept in check by the moderator when a few Occupy Well Street friends attempted to silence panel members not following their way of thinking. DEP set the record straight on a variety of topics from EPA regulation in Pennsylvania to isotopic signatures, as can be seen in the following videos. Pay particular attention to the second video where the DEP, utilizing its database of over 14,000 water wells, pushed back on the infamous Duke study, which claimed methane migration increased near active drilling sites. Keep in mind, this Duke study only analyzed 60 water wells. The DEP is confident, based on its much larger sample size, that casing practices used by the natural gas industry are not causing methane migration anywhere near the degree suggested by the Duke study.
Tom noted this baseline water testing was improving water quality in Pennsylvania and the fact natural gas development generates more water than it consumes. Some of our anti-gas friends didn’t want to hear it, of course, but that’s fine because many did and we received many favorable comments from students afterwards. Tom and Alex Lotorto also got to meet and exchanged pleasantries, which, once again, reflected the value of these events in engaging each other on the important issues.
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Last, But Not Least, Lock Haven University
Finishing out the EIDmarcellus tour de Pa. colleges, I headed to my alma mater, Lock Haven University. A former teacher and mentor invited me to present on my professional experience working in communications for the oil and gas industry. While this was more of a general presentation, I did focus on the unique communications challenges associated with Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania. After all, it’s what I live for these days, and we had a very lively discussion on the subject. One of the outcomes was that several of the students starting realizing there is more to the story than the latest headline and the importance of digging for the facts and the other side.
Interestingly, several of the students were from urban areas and had know idea whether their homes were heated by natural gas or not. Getting them to accept the simple fact they needed to know was thought provoking for all and made the whole thing worthwhile. It also demonstrates why it is so critical to engage urban consumers as well as students in the natural gas discussion. Once they realize it’s their comfort we are trying to supply it tends to change their opinions. If you are a student or faculty member at a college or university please feel free to contact anyone on the EID Marcellus team to come speak at your institution.
We thoroughly enjoy any opportunity to present, debate, or just answer questions about the Marcellus Shale and natural gas development, so please contact us if you’d like our participation. Next week is Trinity College in Connecticut!