LYCOMING County, Pa. - Economic boom, employment growth and increased wages were named as some of the benefits to having the gas industry in Lycoming County by a panel in late July.
As a response to the anti-gas documentary "Gasland," former science teacher and Susquehanna County farmer Shelly Depue talked to industry experts around the country about the truth regarding the gas industry in her film "Truthland," a first-of-its-kind project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and Energy In Depth. None of the experts, or Depue, were paid for their participation.
The film, seen across Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York since late June, was shown in the Community Arts Center, followed by a panel discussion to a room of about 30 people.
In response to the gas industry bringing in people from other communities, Jason Fink, executive vice president of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, said there are businesses not based in Lycoming County that he still considers local, such as Frito Lay, because they have been long-time employers.
By having the gas industry here making investments, creating resources and increasing the wage scale, it has benefited the county. It also has stabilized the unemployment rate, unlike other communities, he said.
"Painting these companies as outsiders, I really have a problem with that," Fink said.
The mayor and his administration, township supervisors and county commissioners have worked "very aggressively" so that issues such as housing can be brought to the forefront and apartment complexes within the city and neighboring communities can be built, he said.
It is necessary to have outside people come into the area to serve as teachers for the industry, Depue said.
"You don't want a rookie in there," she said.
Instead, it is better to have an overseer who previously has done the job to teach area workers, who can later advance their positions.
One of the issues addressed in the panel discussion were anti-gas industry groups.
"What concerns me about (anti-gas industry groups) is we all use energy," Depue said. "What alternate solution do we have? They haven't been able to give a definitive answer."
While wind and solar have been suggested, it is not yet readily available like the natural gas is, she said.
Hydrogeologist Brian Oram, founder of BF Environmental Consultants, Dallas, said he is an advocate of alternative energy, but the average person, like him, cannot afford to access it.
Some people have complained that the gas industry has created problems in residents' water, but Oram said it is because of the gas industry that people have begun having their water tested, alerting them to problems they could have already had.
In Susquehanna County, Depue said she has seen what a difference the gas industry has made.
"It has affected the lives of people there, especially the young people," she said.
Whereas before graduates would leave the area to find sustaining jobs, now they can take courses in high school to prepare them to work for the gas industry, allowing them to stay in the area.