Marcellus Haulers on the Board Room Chopping Block

Woolrich clothing, Hammermill paper, and Piper aircraft. They all bring up sore memories of jobs lost for Williamsport area residents to plant closures or reductions. It's not a new story in Pennsylvania, and it's happening again.

When the Marcellus shale industry moved in, the promise of family sustaining jobs was fulfilled for many. Although most of the technical, high paying jobs still go to out of state workers, one of the most common Marcellus industry roles for Pennsylvanians is hauling fresh water because a CDL plus a clean driving record can land you a position. If drillers were to pipe fresh water directly to their well pads, like Range Resources in Lycoming County, we could see the elimination of hundreds, if not thousands of jobs in the state.

In a May 7 Sun-Gazette piece, Karl Kyriss, president of Aqua Capital Ventures LLC, said "Water trucks haul an average of 5,000 gallons. Our pumping rate at Jersey Shore is 500,000 gallons per day, so every day we're pulling about 100 trucks off the road."
If the second pump station sited for the Riverdale Mobile Home Park, where residents and volunteers are valiantly fighting to keep their homes, is built, Kyriss predicts the withdrawal of 3 million gallons of water per day will remove about 6,000 truck trips per day. 

In addition to drivers, service industry workers, mechanics, and auto parts suppliers will also be impacted by this new freshwater pipeline trend.

Eric, April, and their daughters.
Eric, April, and their children are displaced residents of Riverdale Mobile Home Park. Eric is a native northeast Pennsylvanian and a hauler for the Marcellus industry. He told me, "Behind the wheel of every truck is a working man and his family." 

I feel strongly that whenever workers are replaced by a machine, in any industry, that a good faith attempt should be made to retain, re-train, or provide outplacement hiring help for them by the industry eliminating their jobs.

When the steel mills shuttered in the 1980s, an effort to pass the Trade Readjustment Act awarded unemployment benefits and four years of college to any employee whose job was sent overseas. Pennsylvania and other states ought to be preparing to provide similar, if not greater relief as the shale gas boom dissipates, whether it's because of low gas prices, environmental and safety legislation, or simply because the gas is gone. Eventually, there will be a big need to provide justice for gas industry workers so that we don't repeat the sad Pennsylvania history of coal, oil, and manufacturing busts.

In addition, our political leaders ought to be making a good faith attempt to attract permanent, safe, and family-sustaining jobs to the region, not coddling industry executives who have proven in the Riverdale case that they hold little regard for the well-being of rural, working class Pennsylvanians, including their own employees.
A sand hog operator, a gas pipeliner, and their young families were also among the 32 families displaced by Aqua America and Penn Virginia Resources' (PVR) plan for the withdrawal site.

Eric, the water hauler, explained to me as I helped him unload stripped drywall taken from his trailer to a landfill in Clinton County, that his American dream was shattered by the water withdrawal proposal. He had put new and used materials into his trailer, which started as a skeleton frame, to make it a place worth living. Late last year, he valued his home at $13,000, but now it is an empty frame and salvaged materials for sale.

With the money from selling the mobile home combined with his income as a hauler, Eric planned to purchase about seven acres of land to create a cooperative community for his children and neighbors. In addition, he was recently trained to install solar panels and wanted to educate community members how to build them, using his dream property to host a model solar project. Solar panels are permanent, safe, clean, and something Pennsylvanians could manufacture, assemble, and install, if only we put our minds to it.

Regardless of your stance on drilling, fracking, or related infrastructure, the water withdrawal proposal for Riverdale Mobile Home Park is a bad deal for Pennsylvanians. Residents and haulers are on the chopping block, but so is our future. We deserve better; we deserve respect.

by Alex Lotorto, Union Delegate, Industrial Workers of the World

1 comment:

  1. yes, even the low-end jobs for local people are being pre-empted-- removed by machines. This gas industry is a machine industry and it needs to go--



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