Marcellus Shale

There Will Be Jobs

Michael Benjamin
Former Member of the NY State Assembly

Roustabout may become the next hot job in New York.  The term brings to mind films classics like Giant and There Will Be Blood.  Once approved, Southern Tier shale gas wells and pipeline projects will need hundreds of roustabouts.

The median salary for a roustabout is $38,000 and higher depending on experience. An entry-level gas field roustabout with a high school diploma earns an average starting salary of $22K.

Unemployment in New York State stands at 8.7%, while unemployment in Southern Tier counties averages 8.9% and the city jobless rate is 9.8%.  New York needs a full employment jobs plan.  Issuing final regulations approving natural gas exploration will move us one step closer.

Jobs in the oil and gas industry are projected to grow 6.4 per cent between now and 2016.

Geologists, engineers, administrative assistants, sales and marketing reps, financial analysts, fleet mechanics, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, machinists, and pipefitters would be in demand.

Graduates of our city technical and trade high schools would have another source of employment. Upstate community colleges are starting to offer three-week training classes.

People, such as Ray Lewandowski, an ex-offender, a commercial truck driver and a single-parent, are deserving of second chances and high-paying work.

The gas industry willing hires combat veterans.  The next time actor Mark Ruffalo holds up his bottle of “dirty” Dimock water, remind him of the homeless vet who’d benefit from a job developing shale gas in
upstate New York.

At a recent gas industry job fair held in Binghamton, New York, attendees learned of job and business opportunities for wetland and wildlife specialists, truck drivers, pipe suppliers, and software engineers.  There were jobs for those who test our water, treat and transport wastewater and keep gas well operators honest.

Roadway improvements – paid for by the gas companies — will create opportunities for small businesses, including MWBE firms. Many of the rural roads in the Southern Tier haven’t been upgraded because the counties could not afford to do so.  In Pennsylvania gas companies are paying to upgrade or repair rural roads, thereby saving the state and county governments millions of dollars.

Counties and municipalities will reap additional tax revenues which will halt rises in property taxes, fund public employee pensions and improve funding for local schools. Already, New York’s Chemung County has seen a rise in tax revenues due to economic spillover from gas development activities across its border with Pennsylvania.

Natural Gas Development Is Already Taking Place in Chemung County and Neighboring Pennsylvania

Tourism will increase as previously unknown or inaccessible areas are opened up by roads built by the gas companies. The impact on tourism in Pennsylvania has been limited due to the lack of enough hotel rooms accommodating the influx of gas workers, tourists and sportsmen. Unfortunately, boom times also attract the criminal element. State Police and County Sheriffs will be prepared to handle upticks in crime.

Under its “bad actors” provision, applicants for waste transport and other permits are checked by DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement for prior convictions.  The DEC can deny permits to unscrupulous operators or those who have committed crimes or are suspected of organized crime ties.

New York should be undeterred in approving well-regulated gas development and extraction in the Southern Tier.

Commerce opened up Western New York in the 1830s. Visionaries like Governor DeWitt Clinton, who was ridiculed for his Erie Canal plan, understood that securing prosperity required bold action. The next time Governor Andrew Cuomo walks through the Hall of Governors he should pause in front of Governor Clinton’s portrait and commit to following his bold example.

Our state needs an economic stimulus capable of generating thousands of good-paying jobs and millions of dollars in additional revenues that will reduce future deficits and ensure the success of Governor Cuomo’s approach to leaner, smarter government.

Opening up the Southern Tier to shale gas exploration will ignite a new era of prosperity in New York.

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