In his haste to declare the oil and gas industry as an enemy to education, Gov. Tom Wolf fails to see how beneficial the industry already is to his cause.
The heat level of the debate of a severance tax reached a new high the other day, as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued a letter to the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and essentially called out not just the gas industry, but the logging, manufacturing and lodging industries as well, among others. The problems with the letter, itself, are numerous, and are outlined very well here, but my greatest issue arises from the heading of the news release.
“Governor Wolf Tells PA Chamber to Stop Putting Oil and Gas Interests Ahead of Children and Schools.”
Goes right for the throat, doesn’t it? An attempt to promote the image of standing up to big, bad industry for the sake of our children. The title seems to say that if you support the development of a local resource, then you can’t possibly support education. The problem with this statement is that not only is it a low blow, but it’s entirely untrue to think that oil and gas interests and education are separate issues. In fact, education is within the industry’s best interests since that is the future workforce, and the examples of the gas industry’s commitment to Pennsylvania education have formed some of the strongest educational relationships in the state.
Take for example the most recent Vehicular Career Day, held earlier this month in rural Susquehanna County, where hundreds of fifth graders from school districts all over northeastern Pennsylvania came to learn about various local industries. The majority of the businesses and companies that make the Career Day possible are from the natural gas industry.
“We’re very fortunate to have gas companies like Chief, Cabot, Williams and (Southwestern) helping with this event,” event organizer Marlene Butler had said.
Speaking of Cabot Oil & Gas, the company has been extremely involved with Pennsylvania education since joining the state. Besides paying royalties to the Elk Lake School District, Cabot was a huge contributor to making the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center a reality, and has also established scholarship funds with the career center.
Education in Pennsylvania has come a long ways because of natural gas, not hindered by it. Lackawanna College President Mark Volk stated during last week’s energy forum that the college “could not operate the program that we do without the industry investment.” That investment being a $2.5 million gift from Cabot.
Cabot and Susquehanna County area schools and colleges are not the only industry/education partnerships in the state, however. In Bradford County, Chesapeake Energy had partnered with the Daily Review to deliver newspapers to local area school districts. Last month, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline donated $10,000 to the Northern Tier Career Center, located outside of Towanda. Last year, Tunkhannock hosted the Careers in Energy program, which reached out to ninth grade students. The program travels to different area school districts to reach as many students as possible.
“Reaching out to public education is crucial,” John Augustine of the Marcellus Shale Coalition had said during the event, proving that the industry embraces education.
Then there’s Mansfield University, which has created Marcellus summer camps to provide natural gas education to high school students from around the state. South from them, the Pennsylvania College of Technology has received huge support from the industry in building the ShaleNET and ShaleTEC programs, including numerous donations of equipment to give students the best hands-on experience possible, such as its drilling rig simulator, one of only three in the entire country. In fact, the impact fee has also contributed thousands of dollars in scholarships to the college.
These are all only a few examples. In his haste to declare the oil and gas industry as an enemy to education, Wolf fails to see how beneficial the industry already is to his cause. The gas industry and education sector are not enemies; they are partners, and they continue to forge alliances in the interest of our future workforce without any help from the state.