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The Fracking Prostitutes of American Colleges

Public Policy

Lackawanna College, a two-year college in Scranton, Pa., has become a prostitute.

The administration doesn’t think of themselves or their college as a prostitute. They believe they are doing a public service. Of course, streetwalkers and call-girls also believe they are doing a public service.

Lackawanna College’s price is $2.5 million.

That’s how much Cabot Oil & Gas paid to the School of Petroleum and Natural Gas, whose own nine-building campus is in New Milford in northeastern Pennsylvania.  On the School’s logo are now the words, “Endowed by Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation.”

That would be the same Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation that has racked up more than 500 violations since it first used horizontal fracking to extract gas in the Marcellus Shale almost six years ago.

That would be the same company that was found to be responsible for significant environmental and health damages in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

It’s the same company, fronted by four lawyers, that managed to keep a peaceful grandmother anti-fracking activist not only off its property, but away from Susquehanna County’s recycling center, a hospital, grocery stores, restaurants, and 40 percent of the county where Cabot has mineral-rights leases.

Several major gas and oil companies and suppliers–including Anadarko, BakerHughes, Chesapeake Energy, Halliburton, Noble Energy, Southwestern Energy, Williams Midstream, and others–have also contributed scholarships, equipment, and funding to the School. The School’s mission includes creating “a campus that is focused and dedicated to the oil and gas industry.”

Lackawanna College proudly claims its Cabot-endowed School is “focused on its vision of becoming a nationally-recognized, first in class program in the field of petroleum and natural gas technology.” There is no question the School is fulfilling its promise. A $500,000 outdoor field laboratory simulates a working gas field; all students are required to complete internships.

Richard Marquardt, the School’s executive director, has B.S. degrees in petroleum engineering and business management, as well as a long history of work in the industry. The eight other full-time faculty also have engineering degrees and significant industry experience. Fifteen adjunct faculty also have significant industry experience.

By Fall semester, the School will have about 150 full-time students. Students major in one of four programs–petroleum and natural-gas technology, natural-gas compression-technology, petroleum and natural-gas measurement, and petroleum and natural-gas business administration.

Admission to the School’s rigorous academic programs “is highly competitive,” with students needing a strong science and math background prior to acceptance, says Marquardt. The students earn an associate in science degree upon completion of the two-year program. “It is focused on a very specific market,” says Marquardt, providing personnel at a level between the vocational training programs and the B.S. engineering programs. The placement rate is over 90 percent, says Marquardt.

In their fourth semester, students take a course in “Leadership, Ethics, & Regulations,” which explores “the holistic environment in which the Petroleum and Natural Gas industry operates, including the effect of corporate leadership on the company’s credibility and reputation; real world ethical issues … and the relationship of the industry to federal, state, and local governments, including regulatory agencies.”

The development of the process of high-volume hydraulic horizontal fracturing (commonly known as fracking) was the result of brilliant engineering by Mitchell Energy during the 1990s. Less than a decade ago, it became the most prevalent way to extract oil and gas. But, with the new technology has come significant problems.

An associate’s degree doesn’t mean the students, no matter how prepared they are to work in the shale-gas industry, will be exposed to the issues, reports, and scientific studies that suggest fracking causes significant environmental and health problems, major concerns of those who oppose the process of horizontal fracking. After all, Cabot wasn’t going to invest in a college program that presented all sides of the issues. Nor is Cabot likely to invest anything more if the college expands its program to require that students also take classes in renewable energy, and the health and environmental effects of fracking.

But, that really doesn’t matter. Cabot paid $2.5 million, and other gas supplier, extraction, and development companies donated scholarships, funds, and equipment to make sure the students receive what may be one of the nation’s best possible educations to be prepared to work in the gas fields. They didn’t put money and resources into a program that would ask some of the most important questions–“What are the major effects to the health and environment from what we are doing?”, “What should we be doing to develop new technology that doesn’t threaten the health and safety of the people?”, and “Is fossil fuel really the best way to assure the production of energy?”

[Next week: Other colleges that may have been compromised by accepting corporate donations.)

 [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor emeritus of mass communications. He is author of 20 books, including Fracking Pennsylvania, a critically-acclaimed in-depth investigation of the process and effects of high volume hydraulic horizontal fracturing throughout the country.]


5 Comments on "The Fracking Prostitutes of American Colleges"

  1. HARM on Mon, 28th Apr 2014 7:49 pm 

    Yes, it always boils down to the “Golden Rule”, doesn’t it? The man with the gold makes the rules.

  2. Kenz300 on Tue, 29th Apr 2014 1:29 pm 

    Follow the money from the Koch brothers………….

  3. Nony on Tue, 29th Apr 2014 8:15 pm 

    What’s so evil about oil and gas extraction? These are important factors of production and the jobs are good ones.

  4. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 29th Apr 2014 8:36 pm 

    Noon, good and evil are a human construct in my mind so in a view of man being just another species extracting energy from its environment there is nothing good or evil about that. It is nothing but natural. As a human being who is part of a morality based culture the question becomes clouded. Fossil fuels are basically required for life at the moment. There will be a mass die off without them right here right now. The flip side of that is FF are killing us, our ecosystems, and all our fellow species. What clouds the issue even more is it is not FF that is good or evil it is “US”. We humans are practicing good and evil in the way we exploit FF. So it comes down to a human dimension not a geological dimension. It is completely possible to have had a different development that created none of the so called evil we see today with FF but what we have now is some pretty nasty shit. I can no longer be proud of our species now that I know what we are doing and how we are doing it. Yet, in a realm above our human system is the greater system. In the big picture one can look as humans being no different than cyanobacteria that supposedly caused a snowball earth through their overproduction of oxygen by their overshoot. Can we really claim exceptionalisim and claim to be above cyanobacteria in the act of global extinction? In a strictly scientific objective viewpoint we are causing an organic extinction event just like our cyanobacteria friends did.

  5. Boat on Tue, 29th Apr 2014 9:44 pm 

    Sounds like a great school to learn cutting edge tech. It’s what the world needs. Maybe these kids will be smart enough to stop flaring and other pollution problems resulting in a less hazardous environment in the process.

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