Natural Gas and the New York Family
As women living in the Marcellus Shale region of the United States, it is important to understand what natural gas means to our families. Having seen the film Women of the Marcellus, I decided to look into what it is like to try to raise a family in an economically deprived area with an abundant natural resource under our feet.
Raising a family isn’t easy. Between picking the perfect school systems, to making sure kids have what they need as far as food and clothing, being a parent is certainly tough work. People living in upstate New York face an even more difficult task because the economy is depressed — very depressed, in fact — and the cost of living, especially taxes, is high. It’s a cliche, but true, that parents always want to give their kids everything they can and more than they have.
Parents in upstate New York face a unique situation, though. They have an economy virtually demanding children leave the area to prosper, yet parents could give their family nearly everything it needs by just harvesting the natural gas under their land. Governor Cuomo, unfortunately, seems determined to play Rhett Butler (look it up if you’re my age) and, frankly, doesn’t care.
The most obvious way natural gas can help an upstate family is in providing the income that would come from leasing and royalties. There would be some amount of money given as an upfront bonus payment for a family leasing their land, and then royalty checks to the landowner later as wells begin producing. The production stage can last for several years. Although royalties decline over time, this is ideal for a family who is trying to finance or save for college, preserve the farm, invest or re-invest in their enterprises, or who are just trying to make ends meet.
The school districts in upstate New York struggle too, and that’s no secret. We saw it in Sanford last week when the superintendent of the Deposit School gave a budget presentation. There are several towns, unfortunately, who have had to combine districts because there just isn’t enough student population to justify keeping them open. Some examples of this are Unatego (Unadilla/Otego), Bainbridge-Guilford, and Maine-Endwell. The problem is exacerbated by above average poverty across the upstate portion of New York, as this chart demonstrates:
The economic contributions of natural gas toward solving this problem go well beyond leasing and royalties. We’re speaking, of course, about the Ad Valorem Tax, although our friends who oppose natural gas seem to be blithely unaware of it, so we’ll mention it yet again. This tax is important to New York State and is imposed on natural gas at the well head, paying huge benefits to communities where the wells are located. Watch the presentation on the Ad Valorem Tax below to get up to speed, especially if you’re one of those recalitrant anti-gas folks.
So how does this make a difference? The more money a town sees, the more can be funded at the local school district. It’s really that simple. The Elk Lake School District in Pennsylvania doesn’t have to worry about increasing their taxes like nearby Deposit, New York does. They have natural gas wells on their property, and they have not had to raise their school taxes in years. The only reason they can do this is because of natural gas.
Some people, such as Deposit landowner Sandra Davis, have made the choice to stay in the area and pray something comes along to help them. Sandra is a mother of two, with one more on the way. Her husband works long, hard hours in Syracuse, New York. He leaves their home at 4 am and doesn’t return home until 6 pm. He doesn’t get to spend a lot of time with his growing family because he has to provide for them and put food on the table. They live on farmland which, if leased, would enable them to spend more time together and relieve some of their financial pressure. See what she had to say at 16:35 in the following video.
The school systems are but one sector that could benefit from natural gas development. This resource is also helping support, and even build, local hospitals where it is allowed. We see advertisements daily looking for hospital help, whether it be nurses, assistants, radiologists or individuals to fill other positions. Ever ask yourself why? In our area, it is tough to keep the best of the best healthcare professionals. We don’t have the money to offer, and they don’t see enough patients to keep them busy.
One prime example of this is a lady I interviewed last week. She wants to move to the “country” from Long Island. She fully supports natural gas and has plenty of reason to do so. I asked her what she would do for a profession if she moved here. She is a registered nurse looking for employment. We were at a local hospital and she shook her head in answer to my question. I asked why and she said, “I could never work here, the place is empty.”
Coming from the city, it’s clear the hospitals won’t be nearly as crowded, but she was shocked at how quiet it was. She quickly decided she would be applying to Binghamton City hospitals instead.
Who can blame her or others for wanting to live in a busy, growing, dynamic area? Why would a world class doctor practice there instead of in a different hospital? What does this mean for your local hospital? What does it mean if, God forbid, you needed to use their facility? Quality institutions demand quality economies, the kind natural gas development has delivered to the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania where the Elk Lake School and the Endless Mountains Health System are located, to name just two beneficiaries. It’s easier to get by with little help from friends such as Cabot Oil and Gas. John Lennon wrote a song along those lines. I wonder why Yoko Ono doesn’t paraphrase that one on a billboard.
Yes, while Yoko Ono is stealing lines from famous songs to run a cheap trendy campaign to deny upstate New Yorkers economic opportunity, there are thousands of families trying to make ends meet, trying to send their kids to college and even working 80 hours per week trying to put food on their tables. Opponents of natural gas sit back, relax, and watch as they use and consume products made from natural gas. Governor Cuomo rests his head at night turning a blind eye to the families who are on the brink of leaving New York State.
Who is looking out for these folks? Does Albany even care?