Energy. Environment. Economy.

Community College Faculty Angry Over New Marcellus Training Center

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Community College of Philadelphia president Stephen Curtis speaks at the announcement of CCP's new "Energy Training Center."

Faculty at the Community College of Philadelphia say they were surprised to learn about plans to create the Energy Training Center aimed at connecting Philadelphians with Marcellus Shale related jobs.

“I’ve just been flabbergasted,” said Miles Grosbard, professor of architecture and chair of the department of architecture design and construction at CCP.

Grosbard, who has been developing energy related curricula for the past several years at CCP, says nobody from the college contacted him about the plan. He stumbled upon the press event earlier this month by accident.

“You can’t just throw together an energy training center by administrative fiat,” Grosbard told StateImpact. “It’s a big endeavor.”

But CCP president Stephen Curtis says there will be no new building, and no new curricula. The effort is to package the programs that CCP already offers, and gear them toward regional jobs related to the Marcellus Shale industry.

“We’re trying to make more visible the opportunities in the energy industry,” says Curtis. “That includes gas, water, renewable energy, electricity, these are things we’ve been doing all along.”

At the announcement, president Stephen Curtis stood with Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway, and representatives of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group. Hearthway said industry jobs in the area were going unfilled due to a lack of skills.

“Philadelphia is ideally suited to have that job opportunity, to have that job growth, in this area as long as there’s a trained workforce to fulfill it,” said Hearthway at the event.

Sue Mukherjee, from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, told StateImpact that the training center would focus on the shale supply chain.

“Whether you are trying to be a drafter, whether you are trying to get into architecture,” said Mukherjee, “these are all some of the fundamental base supply chain occupations that are not restricted to the core areas where the drilling is going on.”

Mukherjee pointed to the need for civil engineering technicians, who she said could make $22 dollars an hour assisting civil engineers.

Grosbard says he’s puzzled why he wasn’t told about the plan.

Curtis praised Grosbard’s efforts at developing the College’s energy conservation degree program. He says faculty would be involved if any new credit-based curricula is developed.

“We would never move forward on the credit side without faculty,” Curtis said. “We would never dream of that.”

Other faculty are uneasy about the school making a connection with the Marcellus Shale industry. Margaret Stephens is an associate professor in social science, environmental conservation and geography.

“Clearly there’s substantial evidence of physical and environmental public health concerns relating to the fracking operations in their totality,” said Stephens. And we’re very concerned about involving our students in that industry.”

CCP president Curtis says the training would not involve direct gas drilling jobs. Rather, the goal is to fill jobs in the Philadelphia area.

“Right now we’re trying to do things that will help put people in jobs,” says Curtis.

Professor Stephens says she plans to bring it up at the faculty union meeting next week, and call for a resolution to halt the program.



  • Iris Marie Bloom

    It’s great to see faculty take an ethical stand. When teachers and other academics show moral courage and insist on actual clean energy jobs instead of dirty shale gas-related jobs, it encourages everyone else to do likewise. These faculty members are well-informed. The “Philadelphia jobs” the Marcellus Shale Coalition wants filled would include things like lawyers representing huge corporations against lawsuits from people with contaminated water, contaminated air, and health problems due to Marcellus Shale gas drilling in all its phases.

    Some people in PA right now have to keep their windows open in the freezing cold all year long because otherwise methane leaks into their water, due to shale gas drilling, could make their homes blow up. That’s exactly the kind of secret the MSC wants to keep. The industry is prepared to pay quite well (Halliburton and all the other fracking corporations do have quite a lot of money) for employees, including lobbyists, lawyers and PR people, who will take that paycheck and keep those toxic fracking secrets.

  • Rita Varley

    There are worse things than not having a job, and one of them is having a job that causes extreme pollution that ruins public health, destroys vast amounts of fresh water, and poisons the land ruining it for future organic farming. I would like to see training for inspectors, regulators and lawyers in defense of the public health in relation to the fracking industry. I am grateful to the faculty at Community College for their concerns.

  • Sandra Folzer

    As a faculty member of CCP for 30 years, I value the work that the College, primarily the faculty, does in educating students. This movement to stop an “Energy Training Center” is a good example of the faculty’s ethical standards. Fracking is a dirty process which pollutes air and water and destroys precious farmland. The Gas industry is very good at lobbying. They even hired the firm Hill and Knowlton to convince the public fracking was safe. This is the same company which, 60 years ago, was hired by the tobacco industry to convince the public that smoking was perfectly safe.
    Many of the fracking chemicals dispersed into the air are carcinogenic and cause health problems, especially among children. The chemicals can also be radioactive when radon is brought to the surface.
    Fracking does not create the numerous jobs which the industry promises. For example, The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a lobby organization, claimed that 88,000 new jobs were created in PA in 2010. However, according to Pennsylvania’s public records, only 60,000 new jobs were created, and most of these were in education and health.
    There is no safe way to frack. CCP would be better to invest more in alternative energy.

  • Audrey Gozdiskowski

    Kudos to the faculty for taking a stand against the dirty fracking industry. Young people should be offered more training in the renewable, clean and sustainable energy sector, the jobs of the future. Living in a Marcellus Shale area and experiencing all the negative impacts to the environment and my family’s health, what we don’t need are young people trained to work in this unethical industry’s culture.

  • Chara Armon

    It’s time for academic institutions to play their part in the renewable energy transition: CCP and others should be training people to weatherize buildings, install wind turbines and solar panels and geothermal systems, and do other important work that creates jobs AND protects human and ecological health.

  • L Sbrolla

    There is nothing like an education community that embraces critical thinking and encourages it’s students and faculty to join together employing these skills to fight an industry that lacks integrity and a moral compass. Well done.

  • K. Lezenby

    I am very heartened that the faculty at CCP are taking a stand against this industry which seems to have so far been able to use its deep pockets to buy influence in every important sector of society, from government, to the media, to universities. Just the construction of drill pads alone is doing massive damage to our forests, farmlands, and other open spaces, as well as killing off native wildlife, even before drilling begins. Furthermore, committing ourselves to a future dependency on natural gas, means we recklessly put off development of renewable energy sources to forestall environmental crisis.

    Dangling the prospect of jobs, gas companies attempt to lure us all in to support and streamline access for an industry which stands to make a lot of money at the public’s expense. No amount of jobs is worth the consequences we will suffer from expansive gas drilling.

    I have been shocked at how many people in leadership positions have become spokesmen for an industry which has acted with shocking disregard for its impact on people and the environment. I applaud these professors for acting with rare integrity

  • Joe B

    The faculty reaction is very encouraging. As a graduate of a university that served as a pipeline to industry, and where professors cared more about their research than educating students, I am happy to see faculty take on this important responsibility. If education is to have any true value, then we cannot let the industry build its empty jobs promise into curricula on any level.

  • Susan Sunanda Deckhart

    Bright job seekers do not want to take part in an industry that wreaks havoc on the environment and will taint our drinking water supply for our progeny. That’s why “industry jobs in the area are going unfilled.” CCP administration, DO NOT add to future misery by catering to the corrupt shale gas industry!

  • Miles Grosbard

    Under the leadership of President Curtis and others, Community College of Philadelphia has taken a leading role in preparing students for “Green” jobs in energy conservation, creating one of the nations only Associate Degree Programs in Building Science. CCP’s liaison with the Marcellus Shale Coalition is still very much unformed, and may prove to be a tempest in a teapot. My hope is that the College is poised to invest heavily in a Energy Training Center that prepares students for 21st Century, sustainable, healthful jobs, rather than jobs aligned with the shale gas industry, which in any case are associated with community colleges in the northern tier and western counties of the state.

  • Eric Durante

    I am 100% behind the faculty members of CCP who oppose the creation of a shale gas industry training center. Thank you for doing the right thing.

  • loretta weir

    My deepest thanks and respect for those willing to stand up against this unethical, toxic process. An educational institution has an obligation to “educate” itself and it is a pleasure to read/hear that there are faculty out there that are doing just that. I drive past our local Community College in West Mifflin, Pa, and see the classes for marcellus posted on their billboard. I can’t tell you how disgusted I become knowing that there are “educators” in that building that either haven’t “educated” themselves or feel that ‘profit’ is a suitable exchange for poisoning our environment (and therefore, ourselves).
    Hearing of these academics taking a stand, gives me hope. Thank you.
    Loretta Weir

  • Kendra

    It troubles me quite a bit to see that this industry is targeting schools where many young adults are trying to create a good life for themselves by continuing their education only to provide them with jobs that will ultimately create negative impacts on the environment around them, even if they are not jobs that are directly involved with the drilling.

    Props to the faculty of CCP for standing up to the Marcellus Shale Coalition and keeping in mind that a future in energy is not drilling, but working to find a renewable energy that has nothing to hide and is fair to the public.

  • Rebecca Mitchell

    Thank God for intelligent, caring folks who are willing to stand up to conglomerate bullying by companies with selfish motives in the name of energy for all!

  • Chris Salmon

    How could anyone possibly be against this? These are good jobs, well paying jobs, highly scientific and technical jobs in a vital industry, an industry that makes our entire modern life possible. An industry that is vital to our people’s well being and our security as a nation. This type of education gives not only currently needed skills to a person, but lifelong skills in science, logical thinking, precise technical and engineering thinking, and a generally well-disciplined and educated mind. The idea that it’s somehow “ethical” to be against education and training in vital job skills is poppycock and balderdash.
    Also .. I’ve seen a lot of PA people complain that Marcellus jobs are going to people from OK and TX. That’s because they have training in this vital and important industry. THIS type of training and education will be a big part of solving that issue. Yet, these SAME EXACT people are also against training and education! Talk about unethical!

  • Tom

    This industry should be halted immediately for ruining the environment through air, water and soil pollution via their toxic by-products. The results are well known in areas that have been devastated by them with medical issues, environmental degradation and wildlife death the primary results. Once fracking is allowed to spew their toxic poison for profit we all lose and the planet is that much closer to being uninhabitable, like many of the homes and farms this industry has impacted. We should be completely done with fossil fuels and investing completely in renewable, green, sustainable energy like solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and other methods. End fracking in the Marcellus Shale areas now, before more damage is done that can’t be cleaned up or “fixed.”
    Thank you faculty of CCP for showing the kind of leadership on this issue that other larger schools like Drexel are wrong-headedly supporting (for the jobs but failing to take into account the consequences to public health and the environment). i stand with you and commend your brave and thoughtful resistance.

  • Angelo Leotta

    Great to see leaders standing up for what they believe in, especially when they are standing up to something as vile as fracking. Good for you. We Philadelphians want fracking gone. We must make the preservation of nature a top priority. Jobs for at the cost of clean air and water is unacceptable.

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