keller

U.S. Congressman Fred Keller spoke at the Rural Energy Roundtable on Friday.

LACEYVILLE — Energy was the reason local, state and governmental leaders gathered in the small town of Laceyville on Friday — but what also rose from the conversation between commissioners, farmers, congressmen and community members was a promise that rural America is not forgotten.

Friday’s joint meeting brought representatives from America’s Rural Energy Coalition, the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Small Business Administration to not only update locals on the happenings of Washington D.C. but even more so to hear pressing issues on the minds of those who reside north of Interstate 80.

Curt Coccodrilli, a representative from the USDA, praised the area’s large economic growth over recent decades.

“I’ll tell you what, it is remarkable to see what a group of good communities and community leaders can do when they get together, I mean phenomenal,” he said.

Coccodrilli listed actions taken post gas extraction as “the next wave” for economic development, workforce development, training and trades in Bradford County.

A panel of Coccodrilli, Ken Humphreys of the DOE, Chad Rupe of the USAD and Michelle Christian of the SBA shared about plans for economic growth in the area, including forming an energy grid that is resilient, affordable, reliable and modern as well as the importance of broadband and the Trump Administration’s push to offer consumers a wide variety of energy choices.

Christian addressed locals, stating that while rural areas have been overlooked in the past, the President has put an emphasis on recognizing them and utilizing them in the future.

“Your areas have been forgotten a lot by the federal government and by resources,” she said. “This President wants us to be in rural America because he realized that there was a need that has been neglected in the past and that’s why we’re here.”

Humphreys shared that one of the largest advancements the current administration is attempting to make is to supply every consumer in any area with “the maximum number of energy choices” including natural gas, wind and nuclear energy.

“We believe families should have the choice between any one of those and they should have the choice preferably at the lowest possible cost and also at stable prices,” he said.

Humphreys explained that government officials are working to innovate and create access to energy that is abundantly produced in Pennsylvania, including by means of eliminating the blockage of energy flow from Pennsylvania to New England states that pay some of the highest prices for energy nation wide by bordering states.

Humphreys said that due to advancements in energy through sources like Marcellus Shale in Bradford County, America is now the number one producer of oil and of natural gas in the world and will export more energy than it imports next year for the first time since 1953.

“It means we’re not only taking care of people here at home, we have enough energy to share with our friends and allies around the world, it gives them choices,” Humphrey said. “I’d like to give them that choice and I think this community is an incredibly important part of creating that option for the world as well as advancing your own economics.”

Coccodrilli told of a recent Memorandum of Understanding forged between the DOE and the Food and Drug Administration with intentions of the agencies working together “to identify areas of collaboration to get out into rural America and taxpayers that have been neglected so often.”

Christian informed that the Trump Administration has also worked to eliminate regulations that harm energy creation, boasting a record of cutting 22 regulations for every one that was enacted in the President’s first year in office.

“It was a lot of red tape, it was a lot of nonsense and it was really hurting the energy sector,” she said before noting that the record is now seven regulations cut to everyone one in place.

The panel then opened the floor to questions, which led to in depth discussion of energy shipping, how Marcellus Shale affects housing, protests of energy means that Christian attributed to a lack of education by protestors, small business, international trade and more.

Jim VanBlarcom, a local farmer and landowner again brought the topic of governmental neglect to producers, especially of those in rural communities to the table.

“I’d like to ask your help on getting the message out to our large cities, the east coast and the west coast — the reason they have plenty of energy, food and fiber is because of us here in rural America and I don’t think that’s understood enough,” he said. “There’s a whole lot of minds in this country, if it wasn’t for us being here to accept the gas industry, take the risks, let pipelines go across our country, take the risk of everyday weather and create food and fiber for the whole country and beyond...it would not happen if it were not for us here in rural America. So I’m asking all of you take that message back with you and remember it.”

U.S. Congressman Fred Keller (R-12) further assured attendees that their voices are heard in the White House.

“We’re sticking up for rural Pennsylvania whether it’s agriculture, whether it’s energy development, broadband internet access...we are doing that.We know that we have to be in community if we’re going to get it right,” he commented.

Following the morning’s presentations, officials toured the Eureka facility and gathered at the VanBlarcom Farm in Troy to discuss rural economic development specifically as it relates to agriculture.

See future editions of The Daily Review for more on Friday’s Rural Energy Roundtable.