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Published: April 24, 2012

While New York State is not yet drilling for natural gas, many businesses and residents in New York have seen some positives from natural gas exploration in Pennsylvania. That’s why, from 3-7 p.m. on April 11, the inaugural Broome County Natural Gas Career and Education Expo was held at the Broome Community College Ice Center in Binghamton.

The event, which was attended by around 50 vendors and many people, was hosted by the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY) in partnership with Broome Community College and Broome Tioga Workforce NY.

“The goal of this expo is to give residents more information about the hundreds of new natural gas development jobs, including jobs related to oversight, environmental protections, and reclamation, that are or may soon be available in Broome County,” Steve Herz, Broome County Legislator and chair of the JLCNY Political Action Committee, stated in a press release about the event. “These are well-paying careers that have the potential to put unemployed residents back to work and strengthen our economy.

“Although development of natural gas is on hold in New York until the state Department of Conservation finalizes regulation, the time to train and develop skilled workers from right here in our own area for jobs in the natural gas industry is now,” he stated. “We can’t afford to be behind the curve when state regulations are finalized.”

Brad Chubb, a member of the board of directors for the JLCNY, said the coalition is an umbrella organization of local landowner’s groups. The JLCNY can go to Albany and represent the groups, Chubb said.

Its mission, according to the JLCNY website, is “To foster, promote, advance and protect the common interest of the people as it pertains to natural gas development though education and best environmental practices.”

The JLCNY promotes safe drilling in New York, Chubb said.

“If it happens, we want to make sure it happens in a safe way.”

The JLCNY was one of the organizers of the event, Chubb said, adding that the event was held because they realized there were a lot of people in New York who needed jobs, and some were already going to Pennsylvania to get them. The expo presented job opportunities to many of the expo-goers.

Broome Community College (BCC) was present at the expo, discussing its new natural gas-related curriculum. Jan Hertzog, director of workforce development at BCC, said that they will be offering roustabout training through ShaleNet in June. The college is able to offer the course through a Department of Labor grant with Westmoreland College as the lead college, she said.

Up until recently, Hertzog said, New York couldn’t offer the natural gas related courses because of New York moratorium on gas drilling. It was recently decided to allow the courses to be offered in new York, she said, and now the college is ready.

Past the roustabout training, Hertzog said there are other gas-related courses that may be offered, including CDL training, welding, flood hand technology and others.

Mike Lindehorst, general superintendent for Lopke Contracting, was speaking with expo attendees about Lopke, which provides sand and gravel and crushed stone. Lopke’s work in the natural gas industry involves developing infrastructure, Lindehorst said. He said their products will be used in the creation of roadways, access to well pads and well pads.

Lopke, which does business in about five counties in the Southern Tier of New York and the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, has seen more business from the natural gas industry, Lindehorst said.

“We’ve opened three more plants to support it.”

Stacey Duncan with the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) said the chamber was attending the expo as a show of support for the gas industry. Duncan said the chamber has taken a position of support for safe gas drilling in New York since around 2008.

Though drilling isn’t yet taking place in New York, Duncan said the Binghamton area, just across the border from Pennsylvania, has seen some of the economic benefits. She said they have seen companies’ business go up, especially that of hotels, and she added that some of the area’s companies have been seeing a double digit increase in business. Seeing the benefits the gas industry has had in Pennsylvania, Duncan said New York could also use the job creation.

Binghamton has seen the economic benefits of gas drilling, Duncan said, adding that she hopes the natural gas industry will come to New York. She said she thinks New York will eventually allow drilling. Duncan said she thinks that New York will be a model of environmental caution when it comes to gas drilling.

Along with the vendors set up at the expo, there were also two seminars offered. The first seminar, which ran from 3:30-4:45 p.m., featured several different speakers: Robert Williams, of Barnes Williams Environmental Services, and Gregory Sovas, of XRM Environmental Consulting, talking about “jobs associated with pipelines and natural gas exploration;” Barry Butler of Wildlife Specialists LLC discussing “biological surveys and Wildlife-Specialists’ work with natural gas development in Pennsylvania,” as well as “educational requirements for employment in the environmental and natural resource field;” and Chad Gorman and Brody Webster, water resource engineers with Cabot, who talked about “education, training and experience with water usage as regarding natural gas exploration.”

The second seminar, which ran from 5-6:15 p.m., addressed four different topics. Peter Grill, a Certified Green Professional with Meadowlands Geothermal, talked about “use of natural gas in vehicles;” Scott Littlefield of Maine Technical Source discussed “positioning equipment, software and supplies to survey, civil engineering and construction;” Dave Black of Tri City Highway Products and Contour Construction was scheduled to talk about “local jobs that the gas industry can create and the quality of the pay and security of these jobs in both the construction fields and mining;” and Janice Lobdell of Cabot was to discuss natural gas usage.

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