President Obama is scheduled to make a two-day trip across New York and Pennsylvania later this week, traversing two states that so far have taken very divergent paths over Marcellus Shale development.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president and other officials are scheduled to fly on Thursday from Washington, DC, to Buffalo, NY, aboard Air Force One. The group is then scheduled to travel by bus from Buffalo to Syracuse and Binghamton, NY, and make “an as-yet unscheduled stop somewhere in northeastern Pennsylvania.”
That undisclosed stop is likely Lackawanna College in Scranton, PA, which has been selling tickets for the public to attend a speech by President Obama on Friday.
According to reports, groups that support and oppose hydraulic fracturing (fracking) plan to hold protests and other events on both sides of the border — in New York, where fracking is currently banned, and in Pennsylvania, which is seeing record production of natural gas from unconventional wells in the Marcellus Shale.
The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York Inc. (JLCNY) plans to hold a picnic in Binghamton on Friday. In a statement, the group said it will not protest or picket Obama, but will “welcome him to the community, and show him that we too support natural gas development, just like he does.” JLCNY President Dan Fitzsimmons added that the picnic “is the only chance we will have to show President Obama just how many of us there are and how strong our support is when the eyes of the nation will be upon us.”
New York Republican Party Chairman Edward Cox said when Obama visits the Southern Tier of New York, he will find a region “that desperately needs jobs,” but he blamed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “lack of political will to end his moratorium on fracking,” and the state “is missing out on a multi-billion dollar natural gas bonanza. It is indicative of Obama’s increasingly lame duck status and Cuomo’s political cowardice that the governor does not seem willing to join his president in facing the rabid mob of anti-frackers who have promised to protest in Binghamton.”
It was unclear if Vice President Joe Biden would be joining Obama in Scranton, the vice president’s hometown. According to reports, Biden is currently visiting his son Beau Biden in a Houston hospital. The vice president canceled a trip scheduled Thursday to Maine and Rhode Island.
Last week, Lackawanna College President Mark Volk was present for the grand opening of a new condensed natural gas (CNG) station in Susquehanna County that was built by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. During the ceremony, Volk touted the school’s decision to convert its campus in New Milford, PA, to a Petroleum & Natural Gas Education Center.
Cabot spokesman George Stark told Daily GPI that although President Obama won’t visit the CNG station, he believes Lackawanna College is a good place for a speech about jobs and education to advance employment.
“It’s perfect timing because we were there last week hosting an event with [Volk], and he was pointing out how his students have doubled and that 75% of their [New Milford] graduates are getting placed in the oil and gas industry almost immediately,” Stark said Wednesday. “It’s a good venue to talk about jobs, energy and how colleges and universities in northeast Pennsylvania are focusing their curriculum around the energy field and placing their students in jobs in our industry.”
Earlier this year Lackawanna College announced that it was establishing the School of Petroleum and Natural Gas on its New Milford, PA campus, offering two Associates of Science Degrees in Petroleum and Natural Gas Technology, and Natural Gas Compression Support Technology.
The college notes that “major oil and gas companies located in the region, including Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Cabot, Chesapeake Energy Corp., Williams Midstream and Southwestern Energy Co. support the School of Petroleum and Natural Gas and hire many of its students upon completion of the two-year degree programs.”
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