Marcellus Shale Coalition rep talks shale at Mansfield

MANSFIELD – “Our Energy Future is Your Job” was the title of a presentation by Eric Cowden, community outreach manager for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, at Allen Hall on the campus of Mansfield University Thursday.

Cowden spoke to the relatively sparse crowd about what the coalition is and about job opportunities in the industry.

“There’s a lot of opportunity out there, and if you are looking for opportunity, the sky is the limit,” Cowden said.

The Marcellus Shale is huge, Cowden said, stretching from New York state south into West Virginia.

In both Tioga and Lycoming counties, he said, more than 600 wells have been dug since 2010, and Bradford County has around 1,000 wells.

He explained that the coalition, formed in 2009, has 300 member companies, 50 being full members, which consist of the gas producers such as Shell, and the remaining 250 consisting of support industries.

There are three main industry segments, he said, upstream, midstream and downstream.

“Upstream is exploration and production, midstream is gathering using pipeline, and downstream is selling and distribution,” he said.

In the industry, safety is the most important rule, Cowden said.

“A No. 1, first and foremost to have the safest possible workplace,” he said.

Because of the Marcellus, he said there is a constant increase in industry jobs from 2009 to 2011 and 2012 when drilling in the region “peaked and then it starts to level off.”

Professions include equipment operations, operators, and maintenance and more, he added.

“There is a huge diversity. It is so important to note the person moving that earth to build the pad is just as important as the geologist,” he said.

Another lucrative job market exists in well services, Cowden said.

“As long as that well is in production it will always need servicing,” he said.

“It takes 150 occupations with over 400 people just to complete one well,” he added.

According to the state department of Labor and Industry, there were 231,969 employees in Marcellus and related industries as of March, 2013.

The coalition offers job postings from all 300 of its members on its job portal on

Through ShaleNet, there are 3,730 job postings statewide.

The industry also uses and values “state of the art environmental protection, transparency, local work force, good community relations, public dialogue and sustainable and economic business practices.”

To dispel the common misconception that there aren’t enough regulations on the industry, Cowden pointed out that the industry is “highly regulated and highly sophisticated.”

“Some talk about how the industry is under regulated, but there are many different regulations in place at all these levels,” he added.

The agencies making the regulations not only provides “peace of mind but there is lots of opportunity in the jobs market here,” he said.

During midstream operations, there are various environmental permits for construction of pipelines, such as erosion and sediment control, stream crossing permits, and Pennsylvania natural diversity inventory clearances, which identify aquatic and land species that may be endangered and provides a series of checks and balances.

The state has benefited as much as individual landowners who lease to the industry, he said, adding that the rumor that the industry pays no taxes just is not true.

“Overall taxes collected since 2006 were $1.8 billion. The industry invested $700 million in roads, and in 2011, $177 million was paid in royalty payments to the state for leases,” he said.

The industry also has paid $40.5 million in permitting and enforcement fees to increase the state Department of Environmental Protection personnel since 2009, and $400 million in Act 13 impact fees were paid in the first two years.

The Impact Fee money is split between the state and local municipalities with the lion’s share going to counties with the most impact from drilling.

“Local government that has shale play in their counties receives over half at $216.4 million, other communities in the state get $144 million and the rest goes into a legacy fund,” he said.

“Of that, townships that have gas plays get $112 million, counties $75 million and boroughs and cities $12 million,” he said.

Locally, Tioga County has received $9.1 million in two years and Lycoming County $8.4 million.

Act 13 is not just about the impact fee, Cowden added.

“It also provides municipal uniformity and environmental standards such as setbacks for streams, both surface and subsurface,” he said, which is currently being litigated in the state Supreme Court.

Act 13 provides standards and uniformities across the state that are “equivalent or stronger to what was in place before,” he said.

There is now “increased record keeping for transportation of waste water fluids, which are processed, mostly in a closed loop system now, and the industry uses a high recycle rate because of Act. 13 regulations,” he added.