The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

April 29, 2012

Gas drilling job-training programs popping up at community colleges

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Rick Allen moved to upstate New York to escape the rat race and tension of Washington, D.C., but when he arrived in his hometown, the 49-year-old electronics technician couldn’t find a job.

“I happened to walk into the workforce center and saw a sign on the wall for natural gas training,” Allen said. “I never knew anything about natural gas.” With encouragement from his daughter and a job counselor, he signed up for the 72-hour course at Corning Community College to augment his computer repair experience with knowledge of natural gas drilling. 

Within days of graduating, he landed a job as a computer technician for Superior Well Services in Owego, 65 miles south of Syracuse near the Pennsylvania border. 

“The Lord has blessed me with a good situation here,” said Allen, who’s working 80-hour weeks as a computer technician for a company that cements gas well casings. “It’s challenging, it’s new. I love it.”

In anticipation of the shale gas boom spreading northward from Pennsylvania, educators in New York have begun training programs giving workers the skills industry needs to fill entry-level positions.

Janet Hertzog of Broome Community College in Binghamton said the school is ready to start a three-week, intensive program to certify roustabouts, or general laborers on a drilling rig. “It’s tough work but it pays well, for someone willing to work 14-hour days for three-week stretches.”

The median salary for a roustabout is $38,000 but overtime can drive it higher. Geologists, who must have at least a four-year degree, start around $40,000 and can advance into six figures with experience.

Broome is one of five community colleges in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York participating in a coalition called ShaleNET. Funded by a three-year, $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, ShaleNET focuses on recruiting, training and placing people in high-priority, entry-level natural gas jobs.

A little farther west, Corning Community College began its natural gas industry course in March 2011 in partnership with Chesapeake Energy and other companies. About 80 people have taken the course, said Lori Gwin, a business training specialist at Corning. Students pay $975. Gwin did not know how many of those students have gotten industry jobs. 

Other public colleges and universities across the northeastern shale states are moving to add staff, academic majors or job-training courses in fields related to natural gas.

The University of Buffalo’s School of Law was the first school east of the Mississippi to offer a course on oil and gas law about a decade ago, and the University of Pittsburgh’s law school added the subject this spring. 

“There’s enormous interest among students,” said Kim Connolly, director of the environmental law department at Buffalo. “We’re going to add a full-time professor for oil and gas law due to the high demand.” 

Gary Lash, a geology professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, said he hasn’t seen an increase in overall geology enrollment. “However, more students are expressing interest in shale geology since the Marcellus has focused attention on shale gas,” he said.

Lash and Penn State’s Terry Engelder, who published a paper in 2008 calculating the enormous amount of gas that could be extracted from the Marcellus Shale, have been credited with helping spur the shale gas rush in the massive formation which underlies parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. 

Lash said he’ll help set up a Shale Resources and Society Institute at the University at Buffalo next fall. The program will conduct peer-reviewed research and provide information to the public and policymakers on issues related to hydraulic fracturing.

New York hasn’t allowed new shale gas drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, since the state Department of Environmental Conservation began reviewing it in 2008. A coalition of opposition groups is pressing to ban it, saying water supplies would be threatened by fracking, which frees gas by injecting a well with huge volumes of chemically treated water.

Even if fracking never comes to New York, Hertzog said workers on both sides of the Pennsylvania border are eager to gain the skills to be hired on rigs in that state, where the industry is booming. The skills would also be applicable to jobs with natural gas utilities in New York.

New York’s four-year review has forced some jobs to leave the state, said Dennis Holbrook, executive vice president for Norse Energy, a smaller gas company operating almost exclusively in New York. Norse is a member of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, a trade group that already has worked with community colleges to promote education and training in essential industry skills. 

“It’s far better to hire locally,” Holbrook said. “You want to build up a base of support in the community.”

The ShaleNET curriculum was developed in conjunction with gas companies. According to the organization’s website, the drilling of a single well requires 400 people working in nearly 150 occupations. One of the criticisms made by industry critics is that many of the best-paying jobs are going to workers brought in from Texas and other big oil and gas states. ShaleNET aims to develop a well-trained local workforce. The Pennsylvania Labor Department counted about 28,000 industry jobs in the Marcellus in 2011.

The DEC’s impact review of shale gas drilling predicts that related construction employment will range from 4,408 to 17,634 jobs, depending on how quickly development ramps up. With the price of natural gas at a historic low due to an oversupply, development is expected to proceed slowly if DEC begins issuing drilling permits this year.

Industry critics say the job numbers are exaggerated and local employment will crash when well-drilling activity moves to other states.

Click here to subscribe to The Star Beacon print edition.



Click here to subscribe to The Star Beacon replica edition.

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Potential for heart attack, stroke risk seen with marijuana use

    Over a five-year period, a government-mandated tracking system in France showed that physicians in that country treated 1,979 patients for serious health problems associated with the use of marijuana, and nearly 2 percent of those encounters were with patients suffering from cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke, and circulation problems in the arms and legs. In roughly a quarter of those cases, the study found, the patient died.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cleveland women held captive seek Joan Rivers’ apology

    Attorneys for two women held in a Cleveland home and abused for a decade say Joan Rivers should apologize for comparing living in her daughter’s guest room with the captivity they experienced.

    April 24, 2014

  • Fracking foes challenge earthquake assurances

    A citizens group said Wednesday it isn’t taking the word of state regulators that new permitting guidelines will protect public health after earthquakes in northeast Ohio were linked to the gas drilling method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
     

    April 24, 2014

  • U.S. weighs clemency for inmates jailed 10 years

    The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release — and expecting thousands to take up the offer. It’s an effort to deal with high costs and overcrowding in prisons, and also a matter of fairness, the government says.
     

    April 24, 2014

  • Lower-income teens don’t get enough sleep

    African-American high school students and boys in low- to middle-income families reported short, fragmented sleep, and that could play a role in their health risks, researchers reported Monday.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • Health agencies try to counter mumps outbreak

    Health agencies trying to stem a large and growing mumps outbreak are advising college, school and even day care leaders to make sure central Ohio students are immunized and to separate them from those who haven’t been vaccinated and those who are infected.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • An ocean of broken hearts

    Lee Byung-soo says he knew, when he saw his 15-year-old son’s body in the tent. It could not have been more horrifically obvious. But he wanted so much for him to be alive.

    April 22, 2014

  • Biden conferring with Ukranian leader over what to do
    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev on Monday for talks with Ukraine’s embattled interim leaders as Russia’s top diplomat blamed Washington for instigating the crisis that threatens to escalate into armed conflict between the two former Soviet republics.
     

    April 22, 2014

  • Panel’s role in Cleveland police ruling questioned

    A lawyer for families of men killed in separate 2012 shootings by Cleveland police — including a 137-bullet chase under federal investigation — is questioning a grand jury’s role in a recent county prosecutor’s ruling.

    April 21, 2014

  • Gender gap under Ohio governor nearly $10 an hour

    A newspaper investigation has found the average pay gap between men and women in the offices of four of Ohio’s five elected statewide officials has grown to as much as almost $10 an hour, as it’s shrunk to under a dollar across the rest of state government.

    April 21, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video