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Who’s Who in Marcellus: The Rice Family & Rice Energy Inc.

In January, Rice Energy Inc. made an initial public offering, which made 62-year-old Rice Energy Founder Daniel Rice III a billionaire. The shares in the IPO, which includes natural gas gathering and compression systems in Pennsylvania, represent 43.5 percent of its limited partner interest. Rice

As state budget discussions begin, legislators debate pros and cons of a natural gas severance tax

R. Brock Pronko One of the signature proposals in Governor Tom Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign was imposing a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania, which is the largest natural gas producing state without a severance tax. In 2012, former Governor Tom Corbett

Northeast, despite highest gas costs, resists more pipelines

(AP) — There is near universal agreement that the Northeast has to expand its energy supply to rein in the nation’s highest costs and that cheap, abundant, relatively clean natural gas could be at least a short-term answer. But heels dig deep when it comes

Marcellus in the Community

Gas companies support natural habits and fire safety in Pennsylvania By R. Brock Pronko Besides providing jobs and economic stimulus to Pennsylvania communities through an influx of well-paid workers, Marcellus shale gas operators also give back to the communities they operate in a variety of

Companies that store and move frack sand are in demand

(AP) — One company situated on the edge of the Ohio River is about to pump $1.3 million into creating a better barge dock, spurred by the massive impact that the shale drilling industry has had on the business. McKees Rocks Industrial Enterprises (MRIE) is

Who’s Who in Marcellus: The Rice Family & Rice Energy Inc.

In January, Rice Energy Inc. made an initial public offering, which made 62-year-old Rice Energy Founder Daniel Rice III a billionaire.

The shares in the IPO, which includes natural gas gathering and compression systems in Pennsylvania, represent 43.5 percent of its limited partner interest. Rice Energy Inc. is an independent natural gas and oil company engaged in the acquisition, exploration and development of natural gas and oil properties in southwestern Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. The company is headquartered at Southpointe Business Park in Canonsburg.

Rice Energy - Core Assets_FC

Rice owns 42.7 million shares of the company directly and through two entities, Rice Partners and Rice Holdings. The company’s value rose 14 percent since the IPO, which made Rice’s personal stake grow to $1.02 billion. The company now has over $1.2 billion in its capital budget to invest in drilling and pipelines.

Rice, who now lives in Boston, spent seven years managing energy assets for BlackRock Inc., a national investment firm.

Two of Rice’s sons, Rice Energy CEO Daniel Rice IV, 33, and Chief Operating Officer Toby Rice, 31, also own shares in the company. A third son, Derek Rice, 28, is vice president of exploration and geology.

Daniel Rice’s three sons, who hold management positions at Rice Energy Inc., bring their experience and expertise to the company.

Daniel Rice’s three sons, who hold management positions at Rice Energy Inc., bring their experience and expertise to the company.

Rice Energy Inc. was founded in 2007 and produces about 161 million cubic feet of dry natural gas a day from a 100 wells in southwestern Pennsylvania. Last November, the company drilled its 100th horizontal shale-gas well, which has a lateral length of 10,200 feet and was drilled from the starting point to its target in less than five days.

“Among the chief reasons for Rice’s success is the diversity of backgrounds and expertise the three Rice brothers bring to their management positions, which complement each other perfectly for a natural gas exploration and production company,” said Kimberly Orcho, community relations director for Rice.

Daniel Rice IV, who holds a BS in finance from Bryant University, joined Rice Partners in October 2008 and served as the VP and the CFO of Rice Energy until October 2012. From October 2012 through September 2013, he served as the Chief Operating Officer of Rice Energy.

Prior to joining Rice, he worked as an investment banker for Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., an energy investment bank in Houston, Texas, and before that as a senior analyst of corporate planning for Transocean Inc., where he was responsible for mergers and acquisitions and business development. He was appointed CEO in October 2013.

Toby Rice, who holds a Bachlor’s degree in chemistry from Rollins College, has served as president and COO since October 2013. He joined Rice Partners in February 2007 and later became president and CEO in February 2008 through September 2013. From September 2005 until March 2008, he also served as founder and president of ZFT LLC, a consulting company specializing in the application of new hydraulic fracturing technologies for unconventional shale and tight sandstone reservoirs.

Derek Rice, who holds a Bachlor’s degree in geological sciences from Tufts University and a Master’s degree in geology from the University of Houston, has served as Rice Energy’s VP of exploration & geology since 2009.

Prior to joining Rice Partners and Rice Energy in August 2009, he worked as a wellbore geologist for a large oilfield service company, where he analyzed Marcellus, Haynesville, and Barnett shale plays.

“When we started the company, our focus was just trying to getting through to the end of the week, then the end of the month, then the end of the year,” said CEO Daniel Rice IV.

“What helped us grow beyond that point was making long-term plans while executing the short-term actions we had to take to keep our heads above water.”

Rice holds 85,000 Marcellus acres, less than 5 percent of which have been developed. The company also holds 55,000 net Utica acres, with less than 1 percent developed. This year, Rice will be drilling its first Utica well in Belmont County, Ohio.

As state budget discussions begin, legislators debate pros and cons of a natural gas severance tax

Severance Tax - drill rig

R. Brock Pronko

One of the signature proposals in Governor Tom Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign was imposing a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania, which is the largest natural gas producing state without a severance tax.

In 2012, former Governor Tom Corbett signed Act 13, which included an impact fee — gas drillers pay fees on a sliding scale for each Marcellus well, starting at $50,000 per well, $40,000 the second year, $30,000 the third, and decreasing each year over a 15-year period.

Last year, the impact fees garnered $224.5 million, 60 percent of which was distributed to county and municipal governments, with the lion’s share going to the counties and municipalities that host Marcellus drilling. The remainder was sent to select state government agencies.

In February, Wolf proposed an education reinvestment plan that featured a severance tax as part of his new tax package to fund public education in the commonwealth.

During the Corbett administration, Pennsylvania school funding was cut by $1 billion, which forced schools to lay off teachers and support staff, increase the size of classes, and make steep program cuts that critics charge make it difficult for students to receive a quality education. The funding cuts dropped Pennsylvania to 45th in the U.S. in the percentage of state funding for public education.

The governor’s Pennsylvania Education Reinvestment Act would impose a 5 percent severance tax on the Shale gas industry, plus 4.7 cents per thousand feet on the volume of natural gas extracted. Modeled after West Virginia’s severance tax, the Wolf Administration expects Pennsylvania’s tax to generate more than $1 billion by Fiscal Year 2017 before exemptions.

Under the governor’s proposal, gas drillers will not be allowed to pass the extra cost on to Marcellus landowners. In some states, landowners are subject to severance tax.

“We can get Pennsylvania back on track, and we can start by passing a commonsense severance tax that will help fund our schools – an idea with bipartisan support,” Wolf said.

State House legislators who support a severance tax and sponsoring the legislation are Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) and Rep. Tom Murt (R-Montgomery), along with Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) and Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-Philadelphia).

Severance Tax - MAP_FC

Unlike the governor’s plan, DiGirolamo’s proposal retains the impact fees and adds a 3.2 percent severance tax, which he would like to see used to fund 40 percent to basic education, 35 percent to public pensions and 25 percent to human services and environmental programs.

“In December 2013, I proposed a severance tax that did away with the impact fee,” DiGirolamo said. “I put the impact fee back in the legislation this year after talking to legislators who represent counties where the drilling is taking place, because they all told me that their municipalities and counties are very, very happy with the impact fee, and that whatever else we do, they want it to stay in place the way it’s set up now.

“The impact fee varies a little bit based on the level of production, but it’s somewhere 1.6 percent to 1.7 percent, and with the 3.2 percent severance tax on top of the impact fee, the total would be around 5 percent, maybe a little less.”

DiGirolamo estimates that his severance tax will generate $600 million in its first year, and that by the fourth year, as gas production increases due to the completion of major pipeline projects, the amount will increase to $900 million, nearly $1 billion in extra revenue for the state.

For DiGirolamo, any discussion of the state budget needs to begin with the severance tax, which he said has enough support in the state House to pass

But in the state Senate, the priorities are reversed.

“We understand there is a keen interest by Governor Wolf and others to enact a severance tax, however, we have priorities, too, including reforming pensions,” said state Sen. Jake Corman, (R-Bellefonte), majority leader in the state Senate, who represents Centre, Huntingdon, Mifflin and Juniata counties.

“We repeatedly have said we cannot consider new revenue until we reform the public pension system, which will have save individual taxpayers and businesses a significant amount of money in the long run.”

Corman also pointed out that although West Virginia’s severance tax is 5 percent, the state’s corporate net income tax is 6.5 percent. Pennsylvania taxes at a 9.9 percent rate, the second highest in the country.

DiGirolamo said that getting a severance tax passed on the senate side would be more challenging.

“Senator Corman is the majority leader in the state Senate, so his opinion carries a lot of weight,” DiGirolamo said. “I’m not in leadership, but I’m just doing my job over in the House because I absolutely think that taxing the industry is the right thing to do for the commonwealth.”

Corman addressed the opposition.

“It’s not the first time Rep. DiGiorlamo and I have disagreed on issues, and it won’t be the last, but let’s keep our eye on the ball and raise revenues by creating jobs and creating wealth,” Corman said. “The governor will want to talk about the severance tax and other taxes when we get to the budget, and so it will be part of the discussion, for sure, but it’s certainly not a priority for the senate Republican caucus.”

Over the past few years, several proposals have been introduced to deal with the pension deficit, but none had enough support to pass a bill in either house.

“Between state and local government this year, we’re going to spend another billion dollars in new revenue on the pension system,” Corman said.

“So it’s become a crisis, and we need to deal with the pensions this year to ensure their security in the long term and reduce the risks to the taxpayers. In my opinion, we don’t pass the budget this year until this is done.”

And that brings a concern about a budget stalemate and gridlock before the June 30 deadline.

“Unlike Congress, the state constitution mandates that we pass a balanced budget every year,” Corman explained. “The voters of Pennsylvania sent a divided government to Harrisburg – two large majority Republican houses in the legislature and a Democratic governor, so ultimately, there will have to be compromises on everyone’s part.

“The governor outlined his budget priorities to the legislature earlier this month, and the two houses will present their budget proposals, and we will undoubtedly have disagreements, but at the end of the day, we will put our heads together and come up with a compromise that addresses the budget challenges before us, and hopefully pass a budget that best serves the taxpayer and the businesses in the commonwealth.”

Northeast, despite highest gas costs, resists more pipelines

Resisting Piipelines(AP) — There is near universal agreement that the Northeast has to expand its energy supply to rein in the nation’s highest costs and that cheap, abundant, relatively clean natural gas could be at least a short-term answer. But heels dig deep when it comes to those thorniest of questions: how and where?

Proposals to build or expand natural gas pipelines are met with an upswell of citizen discontent. At the end of last year, a Massachusetts route selected by Texas-based Kinder Morgan generated so much venom that the company nudged it north into New Hampshire — where the venom is also flowing freely. During this winter’s town meetings, a centuries-old staple of local governance in New England, people in the nine towns touched by the route voted to oppose the project.

That Northeast Direct line is one of about 20 pipeline projects being proposed throughout the Northeast, where savvy environmental and political forces combine with population density to provide a formidable bulwark. There’s another reason the loudest protests are all coming from the region: They’re where the gas is, waiting just east of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale region.

“Everyone seems to know the Northeast has a pipeline capacity problem, but not many seem to be willing to make many concessions to fix that problem,” said Andrew Pusateri, senior utilities analyst for Edward Jones.

And these are folks who pay a lot to stay warm in the winter and keep the lights on in summer. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New Englanders paid $14.52 per thousand cubic feet of gas in 2014, compared to $10.94 for the rest of the nation. ISO-New England, which operates the region’s power grid, said in its 2015 Regional Electricity Outlook that natural gas availability is “one of the most serious challenges” the region faces as more coal and oil units go offline.

The Kinder Morgan plan would take gas from the plentiful Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania and pump it through a 36-inch line from Wright, New York, to Dracut, Massachusetts. Along the way, it would cut across a 70-mile stretch of southern New Hampshire, tickling the Massachusetts line. About 90 percent of the project would be along an existing power line corridor.

Homer Shannon and his wife raised three children on their suburban plot in Windham, New Hampshire, where the pipeline would pass a few hundred feet from their house. The retired high-tech salesman is part of a 10-family group of neighbors opposed to the pipeline’s route.

“This whole Northeast Direct thing is just fraught with question marks,” Shannon said. “Why in the hell is it in New Hampshire anyway? They want to get it from New York to Massachusetts and if you draw that line on a map, it sure doesn’t go through New Hampshire.”

Opponents — on the route and far from it — worry about environmental and scenic harm, lower property values, the potential for accidents and the idea that relying on natural gas only forestalls a switch to more renewable sources like wind or solar.

“It would be really nice if, as a region, we had a coherent energy policy that stated, ‘These are the things we need to do to improve our energy situation,’” Shannon said. “And if one of those things is I have to sacrifice part of my backyard for the greater good, I’d be willing to have that discussion. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as them enriching themselves on my back and I don’t like that.”

In New York and Pennsylvania, the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline has also fanned flames of opposition, some of it pegged to the price the gas company is paying to take land. Of 651 landowners in New York and Pennsylvania affected by the $700 million pipeline project, 125 refused to sign right of way agreements. Condemnation proceedings undertaken by Constitution have largely resolved the remaining disputes, either through settlements or access granted by a judge.

Donald Santa, president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, said it follows that the most complaints would come from the Northeast because that’s where most of the pipeline activity is happening, largely because of the boom enabled by the Marcellus Shale.

“Having so much of this gas literally on the doorstep of the market has really increased the need to get the gas to consumers,” Santa said.

Richard Wheatley, a spokesman for Kinder Morgan, said the company’s pipeline is not the only one getting pushback. He declined to address the opposition specifically but said the company continues to reach out to landowners and others as the siting process moves along. The company expects to file a certificate with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this year.

Pusateri, the Edward Jones analyst, said part of the resistance may also be inflamed because of how the gas gets out of the ground. The Marcellus Shale gas is extracted using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process, which blasts chemical-laden water into wells to crack open rock, has drawn heavy criticism. In New York, much of the antipathy toward pipelines was driven by the anti-fracking sentiment that resulted in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ban on shale gas development in New York.

“All major projects have some opposition, but I would say this pipe has garnered more attention and protests and gained more steam than average,” he said. “I think Kinder has done what they can to move the right of way of the pipe as much off of people’s property as possible. They can do this by utilizing utility easements at times. I don’t know that opposition really softens.”

Marcellus in the Community

Marcellus in the Community - Anadarko_FC

Gas companies support natural habits and fire safety in Pennsylvania

By R. Brock Pronko

Besides providing jobs and economic stimulus to Pennsylvania communities through an influx of well-paid workers, Marcellus shale gas operators also give back to the communities they operate in a variety of ways.

Anadarko is among the largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the U.S., with a significant portion of its production coming from the Marcellus shale in north-central Pennsylvania, where the company currently produces more than 600 million cubic feet of natural gas per day — enough to satisfy the daily heating and cooling needs of more than three million American homes.

Anadarko’s community investment projects not only contribute funding to local organizations, but they also provide sustainable and long-term benefits to local communities and habitats. Volunteers from the company often help to facilitate these projects.

In 2014, for the fourth consecutive year, Anadarko’s Williamsport employees worked with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry and Fish and Boat Commission to restore a new section of the Wallis Run stream bank in Loyalsock State Forest. Together, they built a variety of in-stream habitat structures to help reduce erosion and sedimentation in the stream and increase aquatic life.

“Classroom to Conservation” is an Anadarko educational program in partnership with Loyalsock Township High School, which is aimed at sharing Pennsylvania’s conservation heritage with high school students. With Anadarko’s support, Loyalsock’s engineering tech-ed class designed and built 150 songbird nesting boxes. Anadarko compiled information on the nesting boxes along with pipeline rights of-way into a publicly available educational pamphlet.

Anadarko employees also provided career presentations and assembled nesting boxes with the students during an “Anadarko Cares” classroom day. Partnering with the National Wild Turkey Federation, the company supplied the leased camps an acre allotment of native wildflower pollinator seed mix to enhance the habitat surrounding the installed nesting boxes.

“We’ve traditionally supported numerous organizations in our operating area, and we’re continuing to support them this year,” said Patrick Marty, Anadarko’s government relations advisor. “Our employees and management take servant leadership very seriously – it’s ingrained in the way we look at the world.”

Rice Energy Inc., headquartered in Canonsburg, is a fast growing exploration and production gas company operating in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. Rice currently employs 306 people and produces about 161 million cubic feet of dry natural gas a day from a 100 wells in Washington and Greene counties.

Each year, the company holds “Marcellus Mania” — a large company picnic and fundraiser.

Marcellus in Community - Rice Energy_FC

“Marcellus Mania is a two-pronged event where we have free food all day and music, and we gather our business partners to raise money to donate to the local volunteer fire departments who are in our footprint,” said Kimberly Orcho, community relations director for Rice Energy.

“The first year, we raised $30,000, which we donated to the Lone Pine Volunteer Fire Department, which was in the center of our operational area in Washington County.

“The second year, we raised $110,000, which was distributed among a variety of fire departments, and last year was monumental for us, our 49 sponsors raised $456,150, with Rice kicking in the rest for a total of $461,000.”

The largest donation – $35,000 – was given to the Washington County Department of Public Safety.

Thirteen volunteer fire companies each received the next-highest amount, $30,000. Nine of those companies were in Washington County – Amwell, Bentleyville, California, Cokeburg, Ellsworth, Fallowfield, Lone Pine, Richeyville and Valley Inn. Four were in Greene County – Center Township, Graysville, New Freeport and Richhill.

In addition, Washington Ambulance & Chair, Fort Cherry Ambulance, Nottingham Safety Focus and South Strabane VFDs each received $7,250, and McDonald and Midway VFDs received $3,500 each.

Companies that store and move frack sand are in demand

(AP) — One company situated on the edge of the Ohio River is about to pump $1.3 million into creating a better barge dock, spurred by the massive impact that the shale drilling industry has had on the business.

McKees Rocks Industrial Enterprises (MRIE) is set to begin construction on a 380-foot expansion to its main site’s existing barge services. The company moves and stores large amounts of sand used by drillers during the hydraulic fracturing process to prop open cracks in the ground to extract natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale plays.

Jim Lind, CEO of MRIE, said the upgrade, which includes the addition of a second dock, will increase the number of barges that can be unloaded per day from one or two barges up to three or four barges. Most of the upgrade, expected to begin in mid-May, is being funded by a more than $900,000 award from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The 100-acre facility, where frack sand shipments account for half of operations, receives sand by barges and on railroad cars dubbed small cube-covered hoppers. Each year, about 6,500 rail cars pass through the main facility.

But in the past 18 months, traffic of sand shipments by barge have increased dramatically, prompting Lind to apply for the PennDOT award.

Last year, the company unloaded about 200 barge shipments of all materials on a single river dock. With the upgrade, the company expects that number to reach more than 300 shipments by the end of the year.

MRIE isn’t the only company seeing more frack sand shipped by water.

At the S.H. Bell Co., a Pittsburgh-based company specializing in storing and moving a number of materials, both barge and rail transportation are on the rise.

Its largest facility in East Liverpool, Ohio, has seen a 137 percent year-over-year increase in sand arriving by barge. The sand coming in by rail, which makes up about 75 percent of sand deliveries, is up about 80 percent year-over-year.

Other products that flow through S.H. Bell are also on the rise. Steel and steel-related products arriving by river climbed 113 percent year over year. Meanwhile rail operations are at “close to capacity,” according to Sales and Marketing Manager Adam Bell.

Bell attributed this increase to a strong U.S. dollar and increased demand for the products by oil and gas firms.

“The fact that companies like ours can receive both barge and rail is appealing to [sand customers] because they have the option should anything happen to either of the supply chain modes,” Bell said.

Recently, frack sand deliveries across the country have been mired by shortages in the number of railroad cars available to move the material, causing some suppliers and end users to look to alternative transportation. But those shortages are easing up.

As late as the fourth quarter of 2014, analysts predicted that there would be a shortage through 2015 in small cube-covered hoppers dedicated to frack sand delivery. Some predicted that those shortages would continue as late as 2017.

However, those projections have since taken a big haircut due to dropping oil prices, according to Samir Nangia, a director at IHS Inc., who estimated that there could be an oversupply of hoppers this year due to a predicted 14 percent decrease in frack sand demand coupled with increasing car supplies.

“Prior to the recent downturn in the market, strong demand in not only the Marcellus and Utica shales, but also other shale plays… led to some car shortages,” said Ryan Fischer, assistant vice president for emerging markets for Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Services Inc. “This prompted sand shippers to seek more efficient use of cars through strategies such as dedicated unit trains, as well as creating more sand storage at their rail destinations, versus using railcars as storage.”

Fischer said these strategies are still on the rise. G&W Railroad, a Connecticut-based short-line railroad company, serves a number of transloading facilities in the region, including MRIE.

In 2009, over 760,000 carloads of crushed stone, sand and gravel, which includes frack sand, were moved across the country, according to the Association of American Railroads. Over the years, that number has steadily risen. Last year, it was at 1.2 million carloads. The movement of these materials accounts for about 4 percent of total rail traffic in the United States.

At Middleton Properties West, LLC, an Aliquippa-based company that originally opened with a focus on barge deliveries, frack sand has grown the business dramatically. Two years ago, the company received about 10,000 tons of frack sand per month by both barge and rail. Now, the company receives about 50,000 tons per month — 20,000 tons by rail and 30,000 tons by barge. Frack sand deliveries now make up about 80 percent of the company’s business.

Both Bell and the owner of Middleton Properties, Jim Lambert, said while many suppliers and end users would ideally use rail, barges provide a reliable method of transportation.

“A year ago when the fuel prices were high and they were drilling for oil, you just couldn’t get rail cars,” Mr. Lambert said. “Still just [barge] or [rail] wouldn’t be able to handle demand. You need both to keep up with it.”

DEP holding Q-and-A, public hearing on Shell cracker plant

Cracker PlantMONACA, PA (AP) — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has scheduled a question-and-answer session to be followed by a public hearing on Shell Chemical’s plans for a petrochemical plant in western Pennsylvania.

DEP spokesman John Poister says the agency and Shell will give brief presentations on the permitting process and the plans for the site in Potter Township, Beaver County, site of the former Horsehead zinc processing plant.

That begins at 6 p.m. May 5 and will be followed by an informal question-and-answer session. People who wish to make statements or ask questions at the formal public hearing — which begins at 7 p.m. — must register in advance.

The event will be held at the Central Valley High School auditorium in Monaca.

Shell has yet to commit to the plant about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania Highlands Community College: Stepping stone to success

JOHNSTOWN, PA — Pennsylvania Highlands Community College is one of five post-secondary schools in Johnstown. The others include Cambria Rowe Business College, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Commonwealth Technical Institute and Pennsylvania Academy of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences Johnstown. These schools represent more than 5,000 full-time and part-time students.

Pennsylvania Highlands alone has 2,544 students spread throughout five locations in Johnstown, Altoona, Ebensburg, Huntingdon and Somerset.

The Richland Campus of Pennsylvania Highlands Community College in Johnstown.

The Richland Campus of Pennsylvania Highlands Community College in Johnstown. (Photo courtesy of PHCC)

The college was founded in 1994 as Cambria County Area Community College. To grow enrollment and expand educational outreach to surrounding counties that were underserved or not served by a community college, the college petitioned the state Department of Education in 2004 to change its name to Pennsylvania Highlands Community College to reflect its new regional approach.

To help supply health professionals for the Conemaugh Health System, Johnstown’s largest employer, and for other health settings, the college offers programs in radiology, pre-health professions, health professions, healthcare information specialist, paramedic and histotechnology. Histotechnology focuses on the structure of cells and their formation into tissues and organs. Other new career-technical programs include welding and culinary arts.

The college has also expanded its course offerings in liberal arts to provide students with options for starting bachelor degrees at Penn Highlands. The college has also increased its non-credit, continuing education programs to meet the workforce development needs of the region.

These geographic and academic expansions have helped Penn Highlands increase enrollment from 2,204 in Fall Semester 2008 to 2,544 in Fall Semester 2014. However, enrollment has begun to slow as a result of the uptick in available jobs and the decline in the Johnstown region’s population.

Community colleges help provide the training needed today for a higher skilled workforce by educating a growing student body, predominately made up of economically-challenged students and those eager to enter or re-enter the workforce.

“More than ever, elected officials and the general public are recognizing the important role community colleges play in preparing people for a highly competitive global economy,” said Edward C. “Ted” Nichols, Ph.D., vice president of academic affairs and student services at Penn Highlands.

“This is the case not only because community colleges help lower the cost of advanced education and training, but also because community colleges offer students the opportunity to obtain a mix of general education and technical knowledge and skills.

“Employers value this mix because it enables new employees to ramp up quickly and demonstrate the problem solving, communication, and team-oriented skills they’re looking for, and community college education prepares students to fill the critical need for high skill manufacturing, healthcare, and technical jobs so essential to rebuilding the middle class and to America’s success in the world market.”

In the fall semester of 2014, 74 percent of the college’s matriculated students were between the ages of 18 and 26. A third were between the ages of 22 and 39. Students over the age of 40 represent about eight percent of the school’s most recent fall student population. Approximately 56 percent of students are female.

The college works hard to ensure that college programs stay current and relevant to the region’s workforce needs through a variety of means: closely monitoring regional, state, and national labor trends and high priority occupations; meeting regularly with advisory committees comprised of community leaders representing various economic sectors; reaching out to area employers and engaging in training needs assessments; and providing workforce development training to regional employers.

“As a leader in workforce development, Pennsylvania Highlands’ faculty and staff are particularly attuned to employer needs regionally and nationally,” Nichols said.

“We also offer a number of short-term certificate and diploma programs designed to prepare people for immediate employment including child development, early childhood management and leadership, pharmacy technician certificate programs and medical coding specialist diploma programs,” Nicholas continued. “Students completing these programs often gain employment or are promoted by their current employer almost immediately.”

Governor’s proposed budget discussed at CBICC event

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Members of the Centre County business community gathered on Tuesday, March 10, to hear the state Secretary of Policy and Planning John Hanger discuss how Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget will impact the region.
Hanger made it clear that the governor wants to make a change in the direction from where the previous administration was heading.

CBICC President Vern Squier (left) fields questions from the audience to state Secretary of Policy and Planning John Hanger (right) during the question and answer portion of the event.

CBICC President Vern Squier (left) fields questions from the audience to state Secretary of Policy and Planning John Hanger (right) during the question and answer portion of the event. (Photo by Emily Miller)

“The governor has proposed on all accounts of it, including those who are critical of it, a bold plan,” Hanger said. “The first question is, why now for a bold budget? I think the answer to that question is because the governor believes that Pennsylvania has underperformed as a state for 30 to 40 years, a good long period of time. We could be doing so much better.”
With the budget plan, Hanger said the governor has several goals.
Hanger first discussed the plan to cut the corporate net income tax rate from 9.99 percent to 5.99 percent to make Pennsylvania a more competitive state.
“It is almost like a scarlet letter on the state in terms of its attractiveness to other businesses . . . when businesses hear that Pennsylvania has a CNI rate of 9.99 percent, that pretty much ends the conversation,” Hanger said. “It is a ball and chain around the state when attracting business investment.”
The governor also believes that property tax has been another “ball and chain” around the state in terms of both communities and school districts.
In Centre County, the property tax relief would impact schools significantly. Bald Eagle Area would see the most property tax relief of with over 90 percent. Other school districts including Bellefonte Are School District (43 percent), Penns Valley (46 percent) and State College (16 percent), would also benefit from property tax relief.
“The governor feels strongly about this, because it’s been in his experience in business and as a community leader that in so many school districts and so many parts of Pennsylvania, the property tax rate has made whole areas of the state uncompetitive for investment,” Hanger said. “Millage rates are so high that they are driving out investment or keeping investment from coming in. What this plan would do for Pennsylvania as a whole, and for many of those communities, would be turn them from a ‘no-go’ place for investment to ‘we’re open for business.”
Hanger explained that the change would benefit homeowners as well.
“It would undoubtedly increase property values across the state, just about for every Pennsylvanian,” Hanger said. “For many people, their single most important wealth is their home. This plan will in fact increase the wealth of Pennsylvanians because it will increase home values. It is a very important part in this plan.”
According to Hanger, education is a key part of the governor’s plan, and the governor is in “unapologetic support” of education of all levels. In Happy Valley, this means that Penn State University would have $49.6 million restored.
“It will obviously be very helpful and important to Centre County, the institution, and all of the families and businesses that benefit from Penn State,” Hanger said.
Finally, the governor’s budget calls for a tax on Shale gas that is similar to the tax that is in place in West Virginia. Most of the revenues will be dedicated to education.
“The impact fee that is on the books now will be maintained and continued, including the uses of the money in the impact fee,” Hanger said. “Our intention is not to change the impact fee.”
The breakfast event was held at Toftrees Hotel and Conference Center and was organized by the Chamber of Business and Industry in Centre County.

The changing role of community colleges in workforce development

As the nation’s economy began recovering from the Great Recession, more jobs became available. However, many employers found they couldn’t find enough qualified candidates to fill those positions. Each year, the Manpower Group, a human resources consultancy based in Milwaukee, WI, conducts a worldwide talent shortage survey. Last year, of of the 38,000 employers polled, 35 percent worldwide reported difficulty filling jobs because applicants lacked the required skills. In the United States, it was 39 percent.

Policymakers have come to understand that post-secondary education is a necessity to meet the demand for a more skilled and educated U.S. workforce. However, at the current rate at which four-year colleges and universities are awarding degrees, by 2020, qualified job candidates will fall short by nearly five million, according to the Georgetown Center on education and workforce.

To help fill the skills gap, businesses are turning to associate degree and certificate-granting community colleges. In recognition of the importance of community colleges in workforce development, President Obama recently called for a new partnership with states to ensure that the first two years of community college are free for responsible students, whether they intend to apply their associate’s degree credits towards a bachelor’s degree or go directly into the workforce after graduation.

The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges in Harrisburg is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to help Pennsylvania’s community colleges increase the workforce readiness skills and educational attainment level of Pennsylvanians to create a more productive workforce and vibrant economy.

Community colleges in the PBC readership area include Community College of Beaver County,  Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and Westmoreland County Community College.

“I think the increased attention on community colleges is due to the realization that America’s workforce is changing, and that for some students, the pathway to a family-sustaining job is not always a four-year degree, but rather a series of credentials from high school to an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree,” said Elizabeth Bolden, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

“Community colleges are also more important today because we know that many jobs that will exist 10 years from now don’t exist today, so what the business community is looking for are higher education institutions that are quick to adapt in providing training in new and emerging industries.

“We find that because of their community nature of providing job candidates for local and regional businesses, community colleges are closest to those industry changes and therefore most able to quickly adapt.”

Unlike four-year colleges and universities that offer degrees in academic-oriented fields such as paleontology, anthropology and art history that are likely to lead to careers outside the state or outside the country, community colleges are continually evaluating the relevance of their programs to the local and regional economy and adjusting their programs to make sure they’re aligned with student demand and workforce needs.

“Many community colleges regularly consult with business and industry advisory councils, which are comprised of employers from various business segments and industries,” Bolden said.

“Ultimately, the decision about program offerings rests with the individual college’s board of trustees, but they are continually looking to make sure those programs are evolving to meet the needs of the local community and the state as a whole.”

Students who complete an associate’s degree or certificate at a community college are much more likely to earn more money than students who have taken a few or no college courses and don’t have a credential.

Post-secondary certificates offered at community colleges in certain fields such as welding, commercial driver license and mechatronics are the fastest-growing credential in the U.S. today, outpacing associate’s and master’s degrees, because they’re focused on good paying, high-demand occupations. Certificate holders, on average, earn 20 percent more in income over their lifetime, as much as $200,000, than those who only hold a high school diploma.

Community colleges also educate a large number of essential workers. Nearly 60 percent of new nurses and other health-care workers and about 80 percent of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians are credentialed at community colleges.

Although millions of students enroll in community colleges each year, the percentage of students who earn a credential or transfer to a four-year college is less than 50 percent. The success rate for low-income, black, Hispanic and Native American students after six years of enrollment, is even lower, at less than 30 percent.

“Our community college students are often juggling jobs or family obligations and school at the same time, so some students leave school for a while, but return later,” Bolden said.

“In Pennsylvania, one in five community college students complete some type of credential within six years of their initial enrollment, and that’s a rate that the students are satisfied with since they have a longer term viewpoint, because they are juggling so many responsibilities.

“We also have students who transfer, and they transfer prior or after their associate’s degree.”

Last year, 30,000 students from community colleges transferred to four-year colleges.

A major obstacle for workforce development in Pennsylvania had been the “brain drain” of young professionals who graduated from colleges and universities in the commonwealth, but sought jobs outside the state. The Shale gas industry has helped plug the drain, particularly in western Pennsylvania, with college graduates landing such jobs as petroleum engineers, environmental technicians, data analysts, IT professionals, attorneys and accountants. However, those graduates rarely work in the communities where they went to school.

Several community colleges in Pennsylvania have reported over 95 percent of their graduates staying in the local community after graduation.

“Part of community colleges’ core mission is to forge strong partnerships within their community and to create an environment in which the community and its residents can thrive,” Bolden said.

“Students are an integral part of those partnerships, because they establish their own relationships in a variety of ways with internships, job shadowing experience, and community service, which help form a strong bond that makes them want to stay and work in the community after they receive their credentials.”

Northeast Oil & Gas Awards, Industry Summit prepare for third conference

oilgas award can

The new Oil & Gas Awards trophies are a one-third scale barrel in highly polished aluminum. (photo provided) 

PITTSBURGH, PA – The 3rd Annual Northeast Oil & Gas Awards Industry Summit is making final preparations for its highly anticipated event to be held at the Westin Convention Center on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) President Louis D. D’Amico is this year’s guest of honor.

The event recognizes the outstanding achievements within the upstream and midstream sectors of the North American oil and gas industry. The awards are a platform for the industry to demonstrate and celebrate the advances made in the key areas of environment, efficiency, innovation, corporate social responsibility and health and safety.

Hundreds of companies submitted nominations for this year’s annual awards. Finalists were announced and notified in January, including publication in media partner Marcellus Business Central’s January edition.

Winners will receive new trophies – a one-third scale oil barrel in highly polished aluminum. Kerr Pumps & FlowValve designed and manufactured the trophies, which will be handed out to winners this year.

This year there are 25 categories:

  • Award for Drilling Excellence
  • Award for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Award for Geophysical Excellence
  • Award for Excellence in Health & Safety
  • Award for Excellence in Well Completion
  • Breitling Energy Future Industry Leader
  • Construction Company of the Year
  • Corporate Consultancy of the Year
  • E&P Company of the Year
  • Engineering Company of the Year
  • General Industry Service Award
  • Industry Leader
  • Industry Supplier of the Year
  • Law Firm of the Year
  • Manufacturer of the Year
  • Midstream Company of the Year
  • New Technology Development of the Year
  • Oilfield Services Company of the Year
  • Operational Consultancy of the Year
  • Recruitment Agency of the Year
  • Risk Management Company of the Year
  • The Oil & Gas Financial Journal Transaction of the Year
  • Trucking Company of the Year
  • VZ Environmental Award for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship
  • Water Management Company of the Year


The Northeast Industry Summit will be held during the day, immediately before the awards gala dinner. The summit will provide an extended platform to deliver strategic and operational business insights that have clear commercial benefits, as well as an extended network opportunity. The summit builds on the significant success of the Oil & Gas Awards, a unique series that has become a must-attend industry event.

Keynotes and panel discussions include Health & Safety, Corporate Social Responsibility, Environmental Stewardship, Lawmaking Through Litigation and Innovation and Infrastructure Delays. The Industry Summit will ensure that attendees are kept abreast of what the leading companies in the Northeast are doing.

Click here to see a full list of award finalists.