Meuser Muses on the Marcellus Shale and Its Contributions
External Affairs Coordinator, Coterra Energy
Host, Shale Gas News
[Editor’s Note: Congressman Dan Meuser has a big chunk of the highly productive Marcellus Shale in his district. He came to Lackawanna College to learn more about this treasure and muse on its contributions to the welfare of his constituents.]
Congressional redistricting in Pennsylvania last year extended the area covered by U.S. Congressman Dan Meuser to the Commonwealth’s border with New York state. The 9th Congressional District now includes four counties especially rich in natural gas from the Marcellus shale. Coterra was pleased to hear that, after a brief visit from Dan in February, he was eager to return to the Marcellus region to learn more.
Among his stops on the first trip was the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas (LC PNG) in Wyoming County and then an active gas pad a short drive north into Susquehanna County, where Coterra holds approximately 183,000 net acres of the Appalachian Basin. That’s where the congressman met Coterra production foreman and LC PNG alumni Ben Whitaker.
Ben explained to Dan how the school had given him a lucrative second career and how LC PNG continues to supply qualified workers for the gas fields. Out of about 60 current field employees working for Coterra, Ben estimates that 15 of them came from LC PNG. Ben was also a featured speaker at a round table discussion during Dan’s second visit, which was coordinated by Coterra and LC PNG administrators.
The goal was share more about how local industry and the school have worked together to supply local skilled workers for many sectors of the natural gas industry and other businesses. Other presenters included Lackawanna College president Jill Murray, Commonwealth Charitable Management CEO Christine Clayton, and Ryan Stalker of Williams Companies.
Dual enrollment is a growing part of the success of the PNG program, and Commonwealth Charitable Management matches various funding streams with high school students that allows them to take college level courses in high school and obtain credits that they can transfer to college upon graduation. Coterra recently committed an additional $100,000 towards dual enrollment grants and scholarships.
“Dual enrollment is a great stepping stone for young people to see the industry and that it’s an option,” Whitaker said in a nod to Christine and what she has done for the industry. “Because of the dual enrollment program, we have students starting earlier, interning by the age of 19, and coming on to the workforce with the equivalent of three to five years in the industry.”
The congressman wanted to hear the story and, ultimately, we were able to showcase the connecting of the dots. Jill and her predecessors set it up, Christine helps provide high school students with funding, and we hire the graduates. What may look complicated, they’ve made so easy.
“What Lackawanna College has done here is simple brilliance,” Dan stated. “Clearly, the natural gas industry is very significant and right under our feet. What they are doing here is world class. It’s starting at the high school level and leading into college, and it allows people to stay and work here if they choose.”
Congressman Meuser assured the attendees that this would not be his last visit to LC PNG. “We have some more work to do in Washington like increasing the availability of Pell Grants,” he stated. “It was also important to hear from the employers about their commitment to the area and their plans to be here for years.”
“It seems that it really opened up the congressman’s eyes and how the school can provide us with good candidates for employment,” Whitaker remarked. “I think it’s great that he’s been involved so quickly. Just seeing him being intrigued by the school and the industry, he can probably help us by sharing what the school and the industry do.”
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