Appalachian Basin

How Will Natural Gas Development Impact the Southern Tier & Vestal? Part II

The Vestal Gas Coalition recently held an essay contest on natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale, sponsored in part by EID Marcellus.  The result was some very thoughtful examinations of the opportunities and needs surrounding natural gas development in our region.  The winning essay was reported here.  This is Part II.

We noted in our earlier post that the Vestal Gas Coalition decided to sponsor a scholarship  for seniors at Vestal High School this year. Students were asked to submit an essay as on “How will natural gas development impact the Southern Tier and Vestal?” as part of our mission to foster fact-based education on natural gas development, based on criteria consistent with a college level research paper.

The main criteria for the Vestal Gas Coalition essay contest, taken verbatim from our application, were as follows:

BE SURE to submit an essay; do not simply list facts.  Show that you know and understand the subject. Your essay should be factual and draw conclusions on the facts presented. It should use rational arguments and deductive reasoning. Make sure to provide support for your reasoning.  You may set the scene by presenting and linking facts, then drawing conclusions.  This contest is intended to produce essays that show that you have read, researched, and understood the subject. 

The scholarship was, as we note earlier, originally released with a 1st place award set at $600 and a 2nd place set at $400 but plans changed when submissions were received as Stephen Howland of our Executive Committee explained:

Based on the quality of the submissions we received, we decided to expand our awards to include a 3rd place, and to more than double the amount of money awarded to $2,500. The quality of the essays, the documented facts and references, and their ultimate conclusions were excellent and well presented.

Once again, these were the results; third place in the amount of $400 was presented to Geno Rocco, the 2nd place award of $900 was presented to Connor McKercher, and Saiema Alam was the recipient of the 1st place VGC Scholarship in the amount of $1,200.

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Members Examine Vestal Gas Coalition Map

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Saiema’s essay was published two weeks ago and here is the essay offered by Connor McKercher, a Nazareth College business student:

Natural gas development will provide a desperately-needed shot-in-the-arm to the currently declining economy of the Southern Tier and Vestal. My parents talk of growing up in a Vestal that was twice as big as it is today. Their graduating class was more than double that of mine, housing developments were being built, and the economy was thriving due to rich defense contracts and the lure of jobs in engineering, technology, and manufacturing.

That’s entirely different than the Vestal and Southern Tier that I know. My time here has been filled with school and town budget cuts, foreclosure and for sale signs, and not enough money…ever…for anything. Anti-fracking lobbyists tend to characterize pro-frackers as people who are only concerned with the money that will flow into our region. To that I say, what’s wrong with that?

Money is what our society is built on. Without it, we cannot provide for our basic needs such as food and shelter. For most people, money comes to them in exchange for services provided. In other words, they have a job. Without paid employment, our society will break down and cease to function as we know it. Natural gas development will bring jobs to the Southern Tier in the way of “drilling and engineering jobs as well as jobs in water treatment, construction and pipeline creation, and in the railroad and trucking industries.”

There will also be a growth in indirect jobs within supporting industries such as healthcare, hospitality and retail, and education. Broome County has experienced a decline in population of -6.3% from 2000 to 2009. If our population grows, so does the need for these types of services, which in turn, will generate more employment opportunities for everyone who lives in the region, not just those who will benefit directly from land lease revenues.

Another benefit to all who live here will be the tax relief that is expected to accompany natural gas development. Property taxes on gas wells, referred to as ad valorem taxes, generate revenue that stays in the local area. In fact, it is estimated that if Broome County had just one natural gas well, it would generate $301,703 in property taxes according to the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York.

When you consider the potential scale of the Marcellus Shale gas pocket and multiply that times the estimated property tax revenue generated by each well, the positive economic impact on our area is easy to calculate and hard to ignore, particularly for those of us who are concerned with the long-term future of this community.

My family has been in this area for more than a hundred years. My grandparents came off the boat from Ireland and settled in DuShore, Pennsylvania. They migrated to the Binghamton area in the early 1900’s and worked for industry giants like Endicott Johnson and IBM. Those giants have been laid low and for the past ten years my family has struggled to stay in the area in its present economic condition.

As I graduate and leave the area to attend Nazareth College, I wonder whether I will return. Like most kids my age, I’m not certain what my future holds. But I do know that with New York State in its current budgetary crisis, and without the development of natural gas, the opportunities to make a make a living here in Vestal and the Southern Tier and enjoy some quality of life, seem very slim.

Congratulations to all three winners for their excellent work!

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