A Great Night in Susquehanna County Learning About Opportunities Provided by Natural Gas
Wednesday night I was able to attend a Friends of Natural Gas event at Blue Ridge High School in New Milford, PA where I have to admit, the presentations were quite a relief following last week’s Magical Mystery Tour. Now don’t get me wrong I like my entertainment as much as the next person, but when I am looking to learn about the potential impacts of natural gas production, I want the facts, not an unfounded sob story meant to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience. Luckily I am not alone in hunting down important facts as around 30-40 people came out to hear what these informed speakers had to say.
The topics covered a variety of impacts and we even got to hear from some industry representatives. Now, the antis can scream all day not to trust anything said by those associated with the industry because they’re “paid”, but when I want to know something I want to hear it from people with experience. I don’t ask my doctor to explain air traffic controlling to me, I ask my dad who taught it in the Army for 20 years, and vice versa with medical questions. Know what I mean? So I was glad to see that Helen Humphreys from Williams and Janice Lobdell, formally with Talisman and now with Cabot, were there to answer audience questions. These two women know the industry inside and out and didn’t shy away from any issues like our anti-friends do on a fairly regular basis.
So what did the speakers talk about?
Well first we heard from those with experience in workforce training. If you have been following my posts, you can probably tell that this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. If we want to see a local workforce, like the industry is trying to create, education is absolutely imperative. A lot of the jobs in the field are highly technical and require specialized training. Rick Marquardt from Lackawanna College and William Squier from the Susquehanna County Career & Tech Center were there to discuss what types of programs their facilities are providing to educate adults and high school students on the new opportunities the natural gas industry is bringing to Pennsylvania and hopefully soon to New York!
Lackawanna College has an Associates Degree program that allows students to gain hands-on industry experience and prepare themselves for this growing workforce. The first graduating class this year had 100 percent job offers! Let me say that again, 100 percent job offers!! What other industry or academic program in Pennsylvania can tout that statistic. You guessed it, none. The college is also starting a certification program that will focus on a very important part of the industry- working on compressor stations. With programs like these, local residents can develop the knowledge and tools they required to fast track into higher leadership positions within companies and help us to see more individuals from Pennsylvania and New York running the site operations. Check out the following two videos where Rick discusses how the industry is contributing to Lackawanna College and how the two are working together to ensure the graduates have the skills and training they need to succeed.
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William Squier works with around 330 high school students and between 15-20 adults each year to train them for future employment. And they are looking to expand not only their enrollment to 500, but their facilities as well. The industry has offered monetary donations–over $13,000 last year–to help pay for supplies the students need like uniforms, tools and equipment. They have bought ad space in the school yearbook and sponsored graduation gifts for the students. Companies like Williams serve on advisory committees and have also had extensive meetings to help shape the program so these kids can obtain local employment upon graduation or can learn about post-secondary majors that provide transferable skills if they wish to come back after school and work locally. Check out the following video where William discusses how their facility is educating the youth of Susquehanna County.
Local business owner Bill Kelley of Taylor Rental in South Montrose was also on hand to share his experiences as a company that provides supplies for the natural gas industry. He said that he and his son (business partner) used to worry about what was going to happen in off months of supply buying, but the natural gas industry’s presence has dynamically changed that environment. “You can stay here, raise your family, get some benefits. There are opportunities.” He talked about the difference in dealing with the companies, saying it does take some getting used to because they take a little longer to pay their invoices than is the case in normal dealings, but if you listen, have what they need and develop a good relationship with the bank, it all works out in the end. Bill has taken his business from a point where it was just him and his son to a point where he now employs 20 people, can offer them benefits which he was never able to do before, and sells supplies he had never heard of three years ago. Take a look at him here talking more specifically about the impacts he has seen on his business as a result of the natural gas industry.
Aaron Price, director of Gas Odyssey was there to show some clips from the film and give the NY landowner perspective on drilling. His video was met with applause as it showed a few NY farmers discussing what they want to see happen in the next year. The clips also showed scenes from Susquehanna County business owners and citizens who are witnessing the boom happening all around them. He is seen here describing why he made the film.
As I have already mentioned, the industry was also represented. Janice Lobdell of Cabot discussed everything from employment (400 out of 500 Cabot employees are in NEPA!), issues with dust, noise and traffic, road repairs, methane, and other items. She said that Cabot has invested over $1 billion into their Marcellus Shale operations and they aren’t going anywhere for a long time. The Marcellus is producing more than any of the companies originally projected (so much for a ponzy scheme) and Janice said, “We [America] could meet our own demand! This is huge!” Please check out the following playlist of parts of Janice’s presentation.
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Holly Humphreys of Williams was also on hand representing the industry. Her focus was on how Williams gives back to the communities they are a part of and how they become a part of that community through local hiring and other outreach efforts. She said that the company and the community beefit in the long-term by local hiring practices. Williams does a lot of giving to the community probably more than most folks realize and certainly more than the anti’s would ever tell you. As I mentioned earlier, Williams works with Lackawanna College and the Susquehanna County Career & Tech Center to help develop training programs. They also assist in raising money for the Blueberry Festival which provides funding for a much needed local library. What’s more, in every community and every state that Williams operates they make significant donations to local chapters of the United Way. Williams prides themselves on their community-oriented practices and like many companies in their industry consider it a critical part of their success and corporate culture. Another topic discussed at the event were questions about the housing situation in communities with drilling. Some areas are experiencing increased rent and shortages in their housing supply, Holly acknowledging that she herself is in temporary housing. Companies like Williams and Chesapeake don’t want to drive up rental prices so they are examining alternative housing means that seek to alleviate some of this problem. See Holly here discussing how natural gas companies decide what charitable organizations to become more involved with.
On top of these great informational presentations, the speakers were available to answer questions at tables outside of the auditorium. They brought along a lot of information about their businesses, schools, movies and companies. The America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) and Friends of Natural Gas also had tables with information displayed. And yours truly, was there with a table set up with information from Energy In Depth such as our Gasland and Duke study debunkings, our 3 string well casing (which Bill will be carrying in from now on!), samples of pond and site liners, and even some sawdust used to dry drill cuttings. I also gave away some movies from the American Clean Skies Foundation that I reviewed last month. A lot of people stopped by my table and asked questions. I really enjoyed the conversations I had with participants at the event whose lives have changed positively thanks to industry’s presence! All in all, I’d say it was a pretty productive night.
Friends of Natural Gas will be hosting two more “What’s Next” events in July. The first will be in Westfield, PA on July 12 and the other will be in Troy, PA on July 26. I am sure they will have more great speakers and we will be there, so if you are in the area, come out and check it out.
Oh and one anecdote that is worth sharing. At the event I was called for not “tweeting” the event by some of our loyal Twitter followers. My cell service was cutting in and out in the auditorium and I am very sorry for those of you who had hoped to follow along from home. I promise to tweet at any and all future events as long as my cell phone allows! Thanks for letting us know you appreciate the feeds Bill and I have been doing! We promise to keep up the good work.