Appalachian Basin

What Natural Gas Meant to One Family – Everything!

I’m sure many, if not most of you, are watching the Olympics.  NBC claims record ratings!  The games sparked an interesting event at a day care/preschool in our area and it led me to an interesting conversation.

The day care held a “reading Olympics.”  Some 10 books won a gold medal, 7 books read earned a silver and 5 books yielded a bronze.  I was asked to come and help present the medals.  It was so much fun and, as I have done a million times in my life, I also got to read to the kids.

That was incredible fun.  But, a conversation I had with a young couple while we were having refreshments made me think of this forum and some of what we have all been talking about here on the Energy In Depth – Marcellus blog.

This article is not about Truthland or Gasland or the EPA or DEP.  It’s about family.

A young couple was there with their son. The dad is Josh; the mom is Ellie.  The boy is Scotty.

Josh told me he worked for an oil and gas company.  “What do you do,” I asked.  “I’m a laborer, I do just about everything.”  “How long have you been working for the company?”

“Three years” The answer came from Ellie.

I laughed. “Are you counting the time?”

“No,” said the wife, “I am thinking about how our life has changed and just want it to stay that way.”

“What do you mean?”  I needed to understand the rather strong answer.

Ellie seemed anxious to explain.  “We got married about 8 years ago.  Josh had a job in Scranton.  But I will never forget that day, they all got called into a meeting and were told the company was closing. Remember that day Josh?”

“I’ll never forget” the young man looked at me with a kind of painful look.  “They told us they were required to give us 30 days or something like that,  they told us the state would come in to explain benefits and stuff, but we all left that meeting like the world collapsed.”

“The world did collapse,”  said Ellie.  “We were able to collect unemployment benefits, we got some benefits to help with health insurance, but it was terrible; just terrible.  I watched my husband search for work and there was none. I could see it making him feel bad every day. We had a baby and Josh; well, I think Josh thought he was not doing a good job supporting us or something.”

Ellie put her hand on her husbands shoulder about the same time Scott came running over with a chocolate chip cookie in each hand.

“I heard about the natural gas they found up north and I went looking for a job.  I have a background in construction and doing some maintenance and I got a job!  I couldn’t believe it, I was so happy and relieved.  I remember we went to church that Sunday just thanking God for a job.”

Ellie chimed in. “The company was and is great. We have a good pay and benefits, Josh has been promoted and I just feel like our life is stable.”

I got to ask both a question.  “There are a lot of people who say the oil and gas companies are a threat to the environment and are doing damage.  There are lots of critics who would like to see them leave.  Any comment?”

Josh spoke first, but I could see his wife straining to add her two cents.

Marcellus Industry Job Opportunities Chart – Indiana County Center for Economic Operations

“Look, Frank, I’m not an expert. I’m not a scientist.  I’m a worker.  But, I can tell you this, the company I work for is a good company.  They are worried about me being safe on the job, they make all kinds of donations to the community and I have never seen anything or any work that is careless.  They  expect me to do a good job and I take a lot of pride in what I do.”

Ellie jumped into the conversation “What would we do without them?  The gas industry has given us hope, we’re not going to throw that away, right, Josh?”

Since I first wrote for Energy in Depth, I have had people on both sides of the issue write to me.  I have been insulted, told I’ve been lied to, told to do more in-depth research to get the real facts and on and on.

I stand by what I said, because it’s what I believe.

The natural gas boom has given us new opportunity.  We need to be watchdogs for our environment and our future, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  This is our time.  For families like Josh and Ellie and Scott, lets work together to make this work.

Oh, by the way, the book I read to the kids is Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”  Looks like Josh is going somewhere and I’m happy for him.


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