Marcellus Shale

WELC Welcomes Everyone and Says “Get It Done” Now!

With over 60 people in the audience the Women’s Energy Leadership Coalition held a meeting last night in Oneonta, New York, Otsego County. The meeting began with a social hour and buffet style dinner which helped people in attendance get to know each other and gave people time to carry on casual conversation. After dinner, Uni Blake made some opening remarks explaining what WELC is about and why it began.

The Women’s Energy Leadership Coalition was just an idea in the heads of six women a year ago before they created this extraordinary group of strong women from different walks of life. The idea that led to the creation of WELC branched from a conversation about energy development in New York State.

Many people mentioned they felt alone at town board meetings just a short year ago. They felt as if they were the only ones in the room speaking in support of natural gas and they were frankly scared to do so at some meetings. People sometimes just need to know there is another friendly face in the audience. It’s nice to know you aren’t the only one feeling the way you do!

This concept inspired the video “Silent No More” which was produced by Aaron Price. The video interviews six women (the same six women who began this group). In the film, all the women not only discuss what natural gas means to them, their families, and their friends/neighbors, but also to communities as a whole. The women discuss how the people against natural gas often try to intimidate members of the public and, sadly, how it sometimes works. They noted examples of business owners who took signs out of windows supporting natural gas because they feared they would lose business if they didn’t and, of course, no one can afford to lose business in this tough economy!

Unsurprisingly, the main point brought up by each of the six women was the need for jobs.  The job growth created by natural gas development would be substantial enough to keep their kids in the area in which they were raised and, of course, close to their parents.  They want their kids to be able to find jobs and raise their own families in the very same town they grew up in.  Natural gas development can help families stay together and what mother doesn’t desire that?

Five of the six women featured in “Silent No More”  were in the audience at the WELC meeting. They all spoke and provided encouraging messages to the audience. On top of all their positive messages, they reminded the audience they didn’t want anything bad to happen to their land, water, air or families either!  Unlike many natural gas opponents, they had actually researched the issue and knew there was nothing to fear but fear itself, and, like Shelly DePue, came to the conclusion that it is fear that is toxic, not natural gas development or hydraulic fracturing.  After they spoke, they showed the film and it was received.

The topic of economics was brought up several times. Not only is there direct job growth in the natural gas industry but there is also much job growth that comes about indirectly. The direct jobs created by the industry aren’t just those involving physical development or hydraulic fracturing of a natural gas well.  There are also welders, landmen, people researching titles, office positions, and many other occupations.

The guest speaker of the night was Sonia Lindell, Communications Specialist for the Business Council of New York State. She discussed the variety of jobs involved and the amount the state could grow from these jobs directly and indirectly generated by the natural gas industry. She had a great powerpoint presentation which she shared with the group. One slide compared Bradford County, Pennsylvania to Tioga County, New York. I’m sure you can guess what the comparison showed! In Bradford County the economy is increasing, jobs are being added and in Tioga County, New York the economy is decreasing and jobs are being cut.  What more is there to say?

She also stated the natural gas industry provides good paying jobs.  On average, the majority of the jobs, if not all of them, pay better than average. Natural gas is expected to bring up to 54,000  full time, good paying jobs directly created by natural gas development in New York, when development finally proceeds. This doesn’t count the jobs that will be indirectly created.  In addition, natural gas development is expected to bring nearly $2.4 billion in new investments to New York state.  In area’s like the Southern Tier, which has long been economically depressed, this is welcome news.

There was a question and answer period at the end of the meeting where the focus was on getting involved by speaking, writing and calling of Governor Cuomo.  The group hopes to continue adding friendly faces of both women (and men) to their numbers. Call someone involved, check it out, get involved yourself!

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