Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom has reshaped the nation’s energy landscape and pumped billions of dollars into small town economies. But the surge in drilling has also brought disruptions like skyrocketing housing prices and an influx of new people to rural areas.
StateImpact Pennsylvania recently paid a visit to the borough of Towanda in Bradford County. It’s a place that’s experienced a bumpy ride as its drilling boom went bust.
Grace Connection is a church-run nonprofit that provides emergency assistance to people who need help. Volunteer office manager Judy Smith is fielding requests for things like shelter, transportation and food.
This is how she sums up the gas boom: “There was a lot of good and a lot of bad.”
Not long ago, Towanda was a major hub of Pennsylvania’s drilling industry. It meant a lot more jobs and money flooded into this rural area. But housing prices spiked, and some people were left out in the cold.
“During the boom, there were a lot of people who could no longer pay the rent because the landlords started raising the rents,” Smith says. “And we were trying to find them a place to live. However, a lot of folks—we just couldn’t find a place for.”
Smith says even some people who did well during the boom weren’t expecting the drastic slowdown that came when the price of gas plummeted and the rigs disappeared.
“Now, we’re seeing people who purchased a new car to get to work no longer can make the payments,” she says. “People who got a loan to fix their house up can’t make the mortgage payment or the extra loan they took out.”