Thursday, June 30, 2011

Towanda Area (PA) Ground Zero For Drilling Boom and its Opponents

Main Street, Towanda, PA
Non-stop traffic compliments of the natural gas industry
Photo: Carol Manuel

I have heard from the locals that it often takes upwards of 25 minutes to go about two miles through downtown Towanda these days.  Welcome to Boomtown and the Occupation of the Gas Drilling Industry where gas reigns supreme.  The people who deal with leases have virtually taken over the court house.  Try to find a place to sit down in the hallway these days.  And every eatery is thriving.  You will find roughnecks in most of them. Well, they do deserve a good meal.  But they don't change clothes or boots.  What are they bringing in with them?  Some say drilling chemicals. 

Traffic concerns are many.  Elderly citizens are intimidated by the traffic, both when walking and trying to drive in their cars.  School bus drivers are hampered by heavy traffic and road closings. Emergency vehicles have encountered problems in answering calls for help due to road conditions.

Unemployment has gone down according to Commissioner Mark Smith.  However, Michael Lovegreen, District Manager for the Bradford County Conservation District, recently told me that he has had to let people go in his office because he cannot compete with the pay offered by gas drilling-related jobs.  When the boom is over, the unemployment may very well rise to even greater proportions.  Not only that, but what kind of jobs are currently available?  Are they jobs with decent pay?  I talked with a 31-year-old man in June who is living with his parents because his pay working for a company that prepares well pads (I won't mention the company just in case someone could identify him and cause a problem) doesn't pay enough and the rents have gone sky-high as a result of the influx of gas workers.

As for the gas drilling jobs providing a great  future for our young people, where is the moral outrage in encouraging them to seek jobs in oil and gas?  These are very dangerous jobs in regard to health and mortality.  Constant exposure to toxic chemicals is only one issue.  Wouldn't it be better for all of us if our young people could be trained in green technology jobs which would lead to energy sustainability? 

Read the article in the Rocket-Courier (the fourth in a series of five articles) by Rick Hiduk.

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