Interview with Tejas Gosai – Founder of TheMarcellusShale.com and TheUticaShale.com
Tejas Gosai is the founder of TheMarcellusShale.com
and TheUticaShale.com websites.
The mission is described as –
“TheMarcellusShale.com and TheUticaShale.com are dedicated to informing the public about news, events, updates, and other matters regarding the Marcellus and Utica Shale, on a local, regional, national, and international level. Our website assures that you’ll find all you need or want to know about the shale gas industry, stories about people in the community that have been affected by the shale industry, and the impact it’s having on businesses in the area. There is much to know and we are here to help make it easy for one to stay informed. Our talented staff posts daily news articles, videos, and many other forms of information regarding the shale gas industry in our area so that viewers can effortlessly stay up to date with the most relevant and essential information.”
Since its launch, the websites have grown to include radio and broadcasts on NewsRadio 1020, KDKA, the voice of Pittsburgh. Experts across the natural gas and energy industry join host, Tejas Gosai, on “The Marcellus Shale and You,” Saturdays from 2:00 – 3:00 PM EST to discuss America’s energy landscape throughout the northeast region. Furthermore, Forever Broadcasting and Key Market Group have retained Tejas Gosai to broaden the energy focus on all industries, not just natural gas. This new radio program called “All Energy Now,” provides expert opinion on all forms of energy, including, solar, hydro, electric, coal, nuclear, natural gas and more. All Energy Now is syndicated 23 hours per week throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia and podcasts are available on AllEnergyNow.com
Tejas is in a great position to assess how communities are managing the impacts of the shale energy industry. I think you will appreciate his perspective and find the interview an informative read.
You created TheMarcellusShale.com and the TheUticaShale.com as a way to help build a fact-based understanding of and appreciation for the shale energy industry associated with the Marcellus and Utica Shale play. Your website contains a combination of news, original content, resource links, video, radio broadcasts, event calendar, presentations and seminars making it a really easy for visitors to access information. As you look back, what are some of the persistent misconceptions about the shale energy industry that you and your team keep encountering as you interact with local community leaders?
Let me start by saying, there is profitability when misinformation is rampant. A small percentage of society sell stories and constantly bombard the masses with “fluff,” which we happily digest and go on with our 24 hours, thinking everything is fact, or at least close, why would people lie to us? Before society realizes it, the damage is already done, as even reading one headline can change the stance of a “media citizen.”
In regards to the shale gas industry, misconception and misinformation keep society in a constant state of bewilderment, where the truth is fleeting. Environmental impacts, severance taxes, impact fees, landowner rights, forced pooling, even the fundamentals of the fracking process, cause for earthquakes, and many more factors are tough to understand in the first place, but especially when the same discrepancies are masked and put in the newswire every day.
There are certainly many misconceptions out there, and I admit, before I started working day-to-day with folks in the energy industry, I had many misconceptions myself. As with any type of industry, there are always going to be people for and against. And there are always going to be pros and cons. The beautiful mess in the energy market is that anyone for or against can put something into the wire and cause turbulence as long as enough people digest it.
Here is one specific example, “All the jobs in Pennsylvania are going to people from out of state.” Yes, we certainly are seeing many out-of-state license plates around town as the drilling companies move in from out of state, set up camp, work, etc., but local residents are not only getting jobs with the drilling companies, they’re securing their financial futures by leasing their property and having these “outsiders,” keep the industry moving. KDKA Listeners call into The Marcellus Shale and You radio show with a very stern tone proclaiming that no one is hiring locally, this is going to kill our state, and they are ruining our environment. Logically speaking, one must look at the whole picture to get a true sense of what is beneficial here and what is not. Having these “shale strangers,” in our region should be viewed differently, as the expertise and understanding of this new-energy-world requires more than just pumping levers and making energy, it requires a mental shift and cultural change. Here is an example:
Drillers work on 12-hour shifts. To be able to work that shift, these “shale strangers” come in from Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, etc. to work for 3 to 5 weeks straight at 12 hours a shift, and they do it functionally, however not without sacrifice. How many of these drillers see their families in that time period? Or have time to do their taxes, etc. The hard-labor in this industry may pay $70,000.00 off the bat, but on day one, when you have to work a 12 hour shift and cannot pick up Jimmy from soccer practice, and you have to do it for 3 to 5 weeks in a row, then see why we need people experienced in this hard working culture. In time, as local workers get the necessary training, we will see more and more Pennsylvanians filling these jobs.
I also frequently encounter individuals who feel that everyone must take a position on shale drilling; that everyone has to be either for or against it. When in reality, it’s perfectly fine to have a neutral position or to believe that the benefits balance with the drawbacks. As a media outlet, we try to provide balanced coverage of the industry and the issues it faces, so our readers can educate themselves, and draw their own conclusions. We also encourage folks to participate in the discussion by posting comments to the site, calling in to our radio show or attending one of our many events or seminars.
The literature is replete with information describing the risk that communities may experience a boom-bust cycle as the industry transitions from the drilling to production phase. Based on conversations you’ve had with community leaders, what are some examples of decisions made in the drilling phase that you believe have put communities at increased risk?
I think community leaders need to be mindful of the long-term economic impact that this work will be having on our area for years to come, or lack thereof. Sometimes community officials get shortsighted and get the “happy puppy mentality,” leading them to build, build, build specifically for the “current” industry demands, which may not last very long. For example, community leaders in the northeast area of Pennsylvania raced like wildfire to complete multi-million dollar hotels relying on shale gas demand, only to find that the current phase of drilling will only last a few years and now things are shifting. Maybe the community will be okay, but the trickle down effect of losing shortsighted demand will lead to unoccupied commerce, which leads to un-employment.
Over building without following market trends will and has lead to extreme financial difficulties to prepare for this, communities should turn to the history of the energy markets in other regions, like Texas, Oklahoma, etc.
On another note, local leaders can put up barriers to prevent drilling work from being done in their community. While it’s true that the Utica Shale has attracted a lot of attention of late, and Marcellus drilling has slowed, there’s still going to be drilling in the Marcellus for many years to come, and everyone can benefit, if we are willing to work together for what’s best for our area.
How important do you feel it is for communities to create a 10-year strategic plan to guide their investment choices and minimize the risk of experiencing a boom-bust cycle?
It’s extremely important for communities to do this, but I don’t necessarily think it should be limited to ten years, meaning 1-year, through 5-year plans are appropriate also. The tough part is that once the plan is in place, the community’s leaders need to continually evaluate the plan to make sure it’s still relevant to the area and its ever-changing needs. Community leaders need to be flexible so they can work in partnership with whatever industries make sense for the region based on factual market trends. It’s also critical that those involved in the planning process keep the overall best interests of the community in mind, and set aside their own personal agendas. This ensures that the plan will benefit the region as a whole and not individuals. You can put trust in the system but not necessarily individuals.
Also, these boom-periods should spring other industries, rather than simply feeding on one piece of commerce.
Lack of housing is one of the bigger early challenges community leaders face when the shale energy industry begins drilling. What are some of the more novel solutions to the problem you’ve seen?
Note- The housing market and hospitality industry lead to the creation of TheMarcellusShale.com and TheUticaShale.com, during 2008 and 2009, our Management Company, www.tejastowers.com, re-branded the Best Western and Holiday Inn Express in Bentleyville, PA to cater to the shale gas industry. Our revolutionary changes lead to our hotels being sold out continuously with drilling and piping companies.
Western PA is certainly an anomaly when it comes to the housing market. Local home prices have maintained while the rest of the country has experienced steep drop-offs in home prices in recent years. And gas drilling certainly has a lot to do with that insulation we’ve experienced. The local rental market has also really taken off, with demand for rental units unlike anything we’ve seen in decades. Companies are doing everything they can to house their workers, from reserving all the rooms in local hotels, motels and even campgrounds to placing motor homes right at the job sites. I know of local individuals who have suffered a job loss when they economy went south, but were able to move out of their home temporarily and rent their home out to shale gas drillers and avoid foreclosure until they were able to find a new job.
Again, based on your observations, what are the top three challenges you would identify that community leaders need to have a solid plan in place to deal with in order to ensure sustainable economic prosperity?
[1. Leadership] Individuals in charge of setting the agenda in our communities need to set aside their personal agendas for the good of their communities. Specifically regarding gas drilling, I think community leaders need to challenge themselves to keep an open mind when it comes to the economic possibilities related to this industry. This type of work hasn’t been done on this scale ever before in our area, and there has been a lot of change.
[2. Change] For the simple reason stated above, communities may need to change the way they are used to operating and be flexible when it comes to partnering so that everyone benefits.
[3. Infrastructure] Communities need to make sure our communities have roads, technology, education, etc. to support commerce. Education is also important, as leaders must acknowledge that today’s school students are the future of our region and will be the ones to lead our communities in the years to come.
Finally, what are some of the benefits you’ve observed in communities that have forged a collaborative relationship with the shale energy industry companies doing business in their area?
There have certainly been benefits to the local community, from newly paved roads to additional money for local non-profit organizations. As an example, our local school districts saw a need to provide education to students about the gas drilling going on in our communities. The districts approached a local educational non-profit organization to see about putting a program together. The officials from the non-profit worked with shale industry leaders to develop an energy curriculum and to secure funding for the program. The new “Careers In Energy” program is being piloted in local schools right now, and volunteers who work for the shale industry will be going into the classroom to teach the material to school students. It’s a win-win-win for the community, the non-profit and for the shale companies.
On another level, technology has become a communities best friend, everyday, there is more and more trustworthy, reliable information being put into the news-wire for utilization, with smartphones, the internet, and collaborative relationships in the “virtual world,” all one has to do is engage to ascertain some very useful information.