Why Aren’t There More Marcellus Shale Jobs for PA Workers?

State Rep. Jesse White asks: '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?'

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.

Roger August 17, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Victoria, the point is pretty clear. Jobs are solely based upon facts. Suddenly, here the conversation turns to opinions. Even in a later post, Rep White speaks about facts. The problem here is the piece was penned for the purpose of discrediting the NG industry. There are so many oddities to the piece, as pointed out by others, that soon Rep White finds himself stumbling over the items in the piece. For example, nationalities of workers are not opinions. But, the way the piece is framed, apparently Rep White's opinion is different than others about this basic fact. The afternoon putting this together would have been better spent weeding the garden. It was just one more attempt to discredit the NG industry with a new twist. Rather than succeeding, the piece reveals potholes in the argument.
Roger August 17, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Soph... beat me to it! Wow, the intend of 0% unemployment in PA shows how little some of our elected officials understand economics, marketplace and the workforce. This is wild!
Jon August 17, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Industry just admitted that fracking contaminates groundwater while pushing new "environmentally friendly" technique: http://www.texassharon.com/2012/08/16/breaking-industry-video-admits-fracking-contaminates-water/ I thought there was no way fracking contaminates groundwater? This is what we were told.
imout August 17, 2012 at 02:04 AM
That video admits nothing other than "some studies suggest fracking may contaminate water." It does not site their studies for adequate review. Given that the company's video is hyping the company's new licensed technique, I think it is just salesmanship for their new untested technique. The EPA, being more stringent in their regulations than ever, approves of fracking, a proven 60 year old technology without a single recorded case of water contamination. There is a lot of fear mongering out there. Yes there is risk, but I think it is so slight that the benefits far outweigh any potential risk. New fracking techniques such as the one you posted should be explored and if safer and practical should be used. Responsible gas development is what I think we all want.
cecil resident August 17, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Sorry Jon but your link is a progressive site show me something by an unbias group
cecil resident August 17, 2012 at 02:25 AM
you are right Sophistahick (really like your name) every industry has its risk always has always will. Years ago everyone was against high tension lines today new housing plans have them right in the middle of their complex., mines contaminate the streams, etc. Gas wells are not new to this area Cecil Township and the City of Mcdonald had them everywhere decades ago and they didn't have the regulations we have today. The wells people are using today where not contaminated some of those wells are still producing today.
Texan August 17, 2012 at 02:49 AM
The police report was wrong. The 17 year is actually 27.
imout August 17, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Classic! Representin' a wrong premise. Facts. They're a stubborn mistress,
Victoria Adams August 17, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Okay, so can we all just acknowledge that 'Sophistahick' is almost certainly employed in public relations for the energy industry? The link provided was to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which is funded by Range Resources. Please tell me people are smart enough to see through her routine.
Jesse White August 17, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Hang on a second. I have the police report in my hand with all the information, so Texan is either saying that I lied (which I absolutely did not) or the Cecil Police Department provided false information (which they would have no reason to do), and now it's being taken by people on here as fact. If you want to be taken seriously on this, you're going to need to give me some real information on who you are, how you know this, and what the truth is, or otherwise I'm respectfully calling BS.
Texan August 17, 2012 at 03:46 AM
I will respectfully decline telling you who I am, but I would recommend that you independently verify your facts.
Victoria Adams August 17, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Illegal aliens, doing seismic testing for the natural gas industry in PA. Anyone want to argue with the Department of Justice about whether this is a real concern or not? http://westmorelandtimes.com/news/2012/05/firm-and-field-operations-supervisor-charged-with-harboring-illegal-aliens-for-work-in-pennsylvania-31051203080277001/
cecil resident August 17, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Rep. White don't like people who don't post their names said we can't be believed
cecil resident August 17, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Victoria that was one company and not Dawson who did the testing in Cecil Township. Their is always a bad apple in the barrel.
Amanda Gillooly August 17, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Rep. White - would you be able to email me a copy of the police report to include as a PDF file on this story? If not, I can request it from Cecil Township. Just figured I would ask you first. Let me know if you get a chance! Thanks!
cecil resident August 17, 2012 at 05:01 AM
What does using a link for the Marcellus Shale coalition prove that she is she is their PR. you used a link that has nothing to do with Dawson and the picture Rep. White posted
Roger August 17, 2012 at 10:44 AM
Rep White appeared and spoke at Heritage Park in McDonald when a plague was unveiled regarding the history of O & G, His words (from the O-R), --- State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, said that the timing of the commemorative plaque couldn’t be more on point. “You could take what they said about the oil boom and change a couple of words around and instead of 1891, it could be 2012,” White said. White said that the energy boom that was created by the discovery of the Marcellus Shale formation in Washington County closely resembles what the area went through during the original oil boom during the Industrial Revolution. ---- So, what is the case? "Where are the jobs?" or "the energy boom?" The assessment of the current NG industry cannot be characterized by both statements. More stumbling...
Jesse White August 17, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Due respect, you really don't want to play this one out to its full conclusion. The lecture by the historians preceding my remarks discussed how the community struggled with 'roustabouts' coming in from other places to work, and how the boom lasted a very short time before it went bust when the oil companies pulled up and moved to other places. Please do not take my words and run them through your own filter to prove your points.
imout August 17, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Victoria, I can acknowledge that you are not smart enough to know who I am. 1. I am a male. 2. I am a concerned WPA citizen. C. I follow the Marcellus Shale news and all news carefully. 4. I have a degree in Physics and as I have an interest in physical science have studied the Marcellus. E. I make my living owning and operating a small manufacturing business (outside the oil/gas industry) employing 36 WPA people. 7. I carry a hatchet in the trunk of my Mercedes because I find it handy. 8. I'll bet I almost certainly know more about the Marcellus and how to create WPA jobs than you.
Billy August 17, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Sophistahick 11:26 am on Thursday, August 16, 2012 You must have had some pretty bad experiences. Good companies, and I believe most are good, try to retain employees because the costs of training new hires and the intangible costs of high turnover are much higher than paying seasoned employees a fair rate. I have had some yes, I would like to agree with you about good companies and your reasoning as well but when a company can pick up lock stock and barrel and move to another country kind of diminishes the argument of trying to retain employees or cost. Might add there are some federal initiatives that give companies a break in training of employees.
imout August 17, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Representin', you were positing many things in your article most of which have been shown in the comments as false or objectionable. For example, there are may jobs being created for PA folks, just not the organized labor folks you proudly support. The age of a worker doesn't matter as long as he follows regulations which you said you have no reason to believe otherwise. If he is 17 or 27, your position, and everyone else's doesn't change. It is immaterial. Funny, but immaterial. The problem you have is that you have been called to task for your rumors, allegations, and innuendo in complaining that the gas developers should take their money and spend it on union labor rather than on advertising. Again, I'll ask, if that is true and the PA government also advertises to non customers, then should not PA let us keep more of our own money rather than pay taxes to support one of the most bloated legislatures in the nation? Why can't you admit that you were wrong in your article's premise? Or is it that you are too heavily vested in your ideology to see the truth?
Billy August 17, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Mana what is their basic skill testing? I would imagine anyone that could test out very close to entering the Nuclear field in the US Navy should be smart enough to figure out a BIG DRILL PRESS!
cecil resident August 17, 2012 at 05:48 PM
The age of 17 was brought up and then the issue of dynamite usage which Rep. White doesn't answer is if he was involved with the usage of dynamite ( said illegal in Pa.) on this job or Cecil Township. He feels everyone else should back up their words but this is the 4 times it was brought to his attention and he won't answer.
cecil resident August 17, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Rep. White with due respect everyone knows that the boom with thousands of workers won't last for decades but it doesn't mean that it won't create long term jobs also. Young people who choose not to go to college can also learn a trade that can be use in other industries and trades. Their are still some of the older oil wells in this area today running and employing people.
cecil resident August 17, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Rep. White with due respect you knew that Dawson did not use dynamite in this area they stopped with the thumper trucks. If the testing continued they planned on using that type of testing but it didn't happen and if he really was 17 year olds he is permitted to work, by your own addmission they were doing nothing wrong. You choose to answer my question by posting something that didn't happen. Your article at best was misleading.
Jesse White August 17, 2012 at 07:13 PM
These attacks are getting absurd, so I'll address them one more time and be done with it. The 17 or 27 issue is not a question- it is fact- information clearly typed on a police report. Unless 'Texan' can provide any evidence to back up his anonymous and baseless claim, any attempt to say otherwise is either an attempt at spin or a straight-up lie. It matters because there are labor laws for minors that could apply. More misdirection: I never said the gas industry should only hire union workers- that conclusion was manufactured by anonymous posters trying to deflect the issue. I merely answered a direct question that organized labor could provide an immediate, well-trained, drug-free workforce if called upon to do so. As to Dawson's operations in Cecil, I got the dynamite info from Dawson's own website. The orange dot means dynamite crew, and there is an orange dot over this town on the map provided by Dawson themselves. Look for yourself if you don't believe me: (http://www.dawson3d.com/about/locationsmap.html) So if dynamite is illegal in PA, by THEIR OWN ADMISSION they are breaking the law if what they posted on their own website is true. I have provided documented facts and asked fair questions. The anonymous posters here have attacked my motivations and credibility, created baseless rumors to discredit me and have not produced one shred of evidence to back it up. The only thing they haven't done is answer my original questions. I wonder why?
cecil resident August 17, 2012 at 07:13 PM
One more question Rep. White did you get permission to post their picture on a public site?
Dave Smith August 17, 2012 at 08:42 PM
I agree that this conversation has seriously degraded. Perhaps the next time an article is written, including cold facts like the number of Pennsylvania residents who are employed in the NG industry as a function of the total number of people working in the industry would be beneficial. It would be difficult to refute these facts if they are tied to reputable sources. People tend to have opinions. No doubt there are a lot of Texas and Oklahoma plates in Western PA so it would be easy to believe that the jobs are going to people from out of state. Knowing how many PA residents are working would be a way to confirm or deny the assertion. No doubt people from Texas already possess the skills needed to drill oil and gas wells so they would be first in line for the jobs. One would expect that hiring local people would be the most economical way to do business in the long run, however. I'm sure folks from TX and OK would rather live in their respective states.
JB August 17, 2012 at 08:47 PM
I have little faith the EPA is truly out to protect us. Take a look at the waste coal power plant proposed for Robinson Township. The EPA fast-tracked their original permit before new regulations went into effect. They are big-government/big-business. And while we're on that point, what about all of those waste-coal piles that continuously leech into our environment. Not one person here can claim they like seeing them all over our area. If you don't happen to have them, take some time and drive around Robinson township ... especially the more rural parts. As someone who has grown up around them and lived with them all of his life, I can say that it is not pleasant. I pass at least 8 of them on my twenty-minute drive home from work. Our area has been and continues to be used and abused and, to an outsider, it would appear that we don't care ... and I feel alot of people here don't. But I do ... and I fear that there is too much unknown about the entire natural gas industry and in another 50 or 100 years, we will be in exactly the same position as we are now with the coal industry - left with scars and blemishes all over the landscape. I'm sure that will be very appealing to our children and will really help to keep the young people here. I feel that is part of the reason people my age have left ... there aren't tons of jobs here and the area simply looks like a wasteland.
Amanda Gillooly August 17, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Dave, I agree. The conversation has seriously degraded. For this reason, I am shutting off the comments section for this story. If anyone would like to write a signed letter to the editor, feel free to email it to me at amanda.gillooly@patch.com. Thanks everyone!


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