EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Each year the American Petroleum Institute hosts its State of American Energy, highlighting the natural gas industry right in our own backyard and beyond.

A Susquehanna County man was featured in this year’s event. He spoke with Eyewitness News about the challenges the industry faces with environmental concerns. The natural gas industry continues to boom as the demand increases, calling for more workers in all fields.

“Everything I do in life, I try to do for my community and make my community a better place. And that’s why I work in natural gas and oil,” Coterra Energy completions engineer Zach Conrad said.

Conrad is a graduate of Blue Ridge High School. After college in Ohio, he came back to Susquehanna County to pursue his career.

“Oil and gas just brought a whole new tech side to things for anyone interested in that. It was a great opportunity for people to really put their heads together and make an amazing living up here,” Conrad said.

Conrad is a “completions engineer” for Coterra Energy, formally known as Cabot Oil and Gas. He was recently highlighted in American Petroleum Institute’s 2022 State of American Energy.

“They were just looking to talk to some people, get some thoughts, feelings. Thoughts on the industry. They interviewed me and I thought that was it,” Conrad said.

He was among five others in the industry across the country.

“A great opportunity to really put our community and what we do in northeast PA in the the natural gas industry on display,” Conrad said.

An industry that was built by employees from out of state has now turned to hiring local employees.

“For us to be able to work in this industry that wasn’t here, to be come out of nowhere in the last 12 years to grow to the point where one of the companies is now one of the largest employers in the entire county, I really think that is impressive,” Conrad said.

“Here we are today with a work force that is almost 90 percent made up of Bradford, Susquehanna or Wyoming, Lackawanna County residents,” Coterra Energy director of external affairs George Stark said.

Stark says the industry will still be here in 30 years. Pushback against natural gas production is still prevalent, as the push for greener energy is in the forefront.

“You can’t make solar panels without natural gas. You can’t make a wind turbine without natural gas. That’s what happens. We all need to be coming at this together,” Stark said.

“If we’re really serious about tackling this challenge we have to think really creatively about product design and supply lines as a whole integrated problem,” University of Scranton assistant biology professor Dr. Cara Krieg said.

As the industry plans to be here for decades, Dr. Krieg understands it comes with environmental concerns.

“The thing that is scary about methane is that it is much more powerful in warming agent then carbon dioxide. Even just a little leak can have a big impact on the global climate change picture,” Dr. Krieg said.

You can see the 2022 State of American Energy featuring Conrad or learn about the industry by clicking the links.