Last month the stopped a group of five men operating an all-terrain vehicle near a local roadway.
According to the police report, the vehicle, which was loaded with seismic testing equipment, was used by “five Hispanic males who all spoke broken English” employed by Dawson Geophysical Company. One of the men had just recently turned 17 years old.
The operator of the vehicle did present a U.S. passport card to the police officer and after the officer gave a warning that the vehicle could not be used on the roadways, the parties went about their business.
Aside from the minor issue with the township ordinance, there is no indication that any of the men were doing anything illegal. Although this encounter would seem to be the end of the story, it is actually only the beginning.
Based in Midland, Texas, Dawson Geophysical Company performs seismic testing to determine the best places to drill for natural gas. This testing can be done several ways: by using ‘thumper’ trucks on rural roads, by dropping seismic equipment from helicopters, or by using explosives such as dynamite. According to the interactive map on Dawson’s website, the only crews presently active in southwestern Pennsylvania are dynamite crews.
to prevent the township from enforcing its ordinance regulating seismic testing. , but Dawson’s aggressiveness got peoples’ attention, and —the company that hired Dawson to do the seismic testing.
Let me be clear—I am not implying, and I do not have any information to believe, that any laws were broken by Dawson or anyone else by the employment of the “five Hispanic males who all spoke broken English.”
Everywhere you look, there are billboards, television and radio commercials, newspaper and website banner ads- you name it—from Range Resources. Range even bought the ‘premiere sponsorship’ of the Golden Quill awards, which covers newspapers, radio, television and online journalism in western Pennsylvania.
For a company that doesn’t sell any product to the public, they sure do an awful lot of advertising.
So what exactly is Range Resources advertising? Why, jobs, of course. The promise of jobs in the natural gas industry has somehow morphed into the implication that the drilling process is beyond question, beyond criticism and ultimately beyond the Constitution, , a law largely written by the gas industry which would have permitted unprecedented industrial uses in residential areas.
Let me be crystal clear: I want as many local people to benefit financially from the development of Marcellus Shale as possible. I want landowners to receive royalties. I want local restaurants to thrive. I want farmers to be able to pay for new equipment in cash. I want every single Range Resources ad promising local jobs for our kids to be reality.
But the police report in the Dawson incident listed addresses in Texas, New Mexico and Nebraska for the five men involved; none gave a Pennsylvania address. This, coupled with the constant stories from constituents, including many who work in the natural gas industry but are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs, should make us question if we really are getting all of the local jobs Range is promising.
I was elected to represent the people of Pennsylvania, not Texas, New Mexico or Nebraska; and therefore feel compelled to ask out loud the question so many have been whispering for years now: Are we getting the jobs we have been promised from Marcellus Shale, or are we only getting a taste while companies continuously bring in workers from other places?
While it is undeniable that some local people are working in the oil and gas industry, the conventional wisdom from within the industry is most locals can’t pass a drug test or lack the necessary work ethic, both of which may be more rural legend than verifiable fact.
The industry has been highly resistant to the ready and qualified workforce provided by organized labor, presumably for financial reasons. I repeatedly hear about how our workforce hasn’t been properly trained yet for many gas industry jobs. There is no shortage of excuses, some of them very reasonable, many extremely abstract and nebulous, but none answer the question I have based on the aforementioned situation with Dawson Geophysical and Range Resources:
What kind of work done by a 17-year-old from Nebraska couldn’t be done by someone from around here?
I had three teenage kids arguing over who could mow my lawn this summer; are we really supposed to believe there was no one willing to do the job locally so we had to go all the way to Nebraska to find a willing employee?
There are laws in Pennsylvania prohibiting or strongly regulating “employment near explosives” for minors; and according to Dawson’s own website, their active crews were dynamite crews. Do you think a 17-year old really knows his legal rights or how to report them to someone if they were being violated?
Come to think of it, is it wise to send crews of people into our communities, presumably with dynamite, to conduct seismic testing without the ability to clearly communicate with residents if the need arises?
If there is an accident in your neighborhood, are you supposed to just sit tight and hope the spokesman from Range Resources answers the phone? Some constituents working in the industry have even suggested to me the reason some jobs don’t utilize local workers is because some locals may not be comfortable with the way certain things are done in their hometown, hence the constant shuffling of out-of-state workers.
Without a clear and common sense answer, speculation by the public is unavoidable.
Is it a financial issue preventing the hiring of more locals? I’m no economist, but perhaps if a company spends a little money actually hiring local workers, then maybe that company wouldn’t need to spend so much money on advertising trying to convince people they’re hiring local workers.
Did anyone else see Range Resources as a sponsor of the Olympics? Or how about plastered all over Pirates and Penguins telecasts? If there really is a need for local workforce development, wouldn’t those dollars be better spent actually developing a local workforce instead of trying to convince us that you are?
It all comes down to this: Don’t spend tons of money on ads gushing about potential jobs for local workers if you aren’t going to fully commit to a truly local workforce. If there are problems with the local workforce, let us know so we can address and correct them. Don’t move companies up here from Texas and then use them over local vendors and small businesses. Don’t prop up a couple of locals on ads and billboards in an attempt to paint a picture.
It’s been seven years since the first Marcellus Shale well was drilled in Pennsylvania—there is no reason we should still be seeing so many Texas and Oklahoma license plates.
This isn’t bashing the natural gas industry—it’s standing up for the Pennsylvanians who are ready, willing and able to share in the financial benefits of the Marcellus Shale boom but can’t seem to find these jobs we all keep hearing about.
The people of Pennsylvania aren’t stupid, and we aren’t blind. You can spend all the money you want on ads, but nothing you put in a billboard or on a commercial will undo the reality unfolding right before our eyes.