When Eric Stroud’s sport-utility vehicle rolled over several times and caught fire on Interstate 79 in Greene County during the night of Aug. 3, 2018, Zachary A. McDowell and Scott Ullom didn’t hesitate to act.
The first at the scene of the accident, McDowell and Ullom did not wait for protective equipment to arrive and decided to pull Stroud out of his burning sport-utility vehicle. Since they were unable to open the door on the driver’s side of the SUV, Ullom entered through the rear hatch door while McDowell deployed a fire extinguisher to quell the flames near Stroud. Ullom extricated him from his seat belt, and dragged him to safety, with McDowell assisting. Shortly after, the SUV was consumed by the fire.
For the extraordinary steps they took to save Stroud’s life, both McDowell and Ullom are among the recipients of Carnegie Medals, the highest honor for civilian heroism in the United States and Canada.
McDowell, 22, is an emergency medical technician from Prosperity, and Ullom is 59-year-old paramedic who hails from Dallas, W.Va.
The medals are awarded by the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie 116 years ago. Individuals who die carrying out acts of heroism are also awarded medals. The fund has also dispersed $41 million in grants, scholarship aid, continuing assistance and death benefits over the course of its life.
The latest round of medal recipients were announced this week. Neither McDowell nor Ullom could be reached for comment.
Other recipients of Carnegie Medals this year include residents of 11 other states, with four of the 15 recipients having died while carrying out the acts of heroism for which they were honored.
Washington County has recorded three new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, according to data released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
The total case count in Washington County is 171. Greene County remained unchanged at 35 cases. Allegheny County, which has seen a slight uptick in cases in recent days, logged 19 new cases, bringing its total to 2,239.
Across Pennsylvania, 38 additional deaths attributed to COVID-19 were reported, bringing the total to 6,464. Overall, there were 510 new cases.
Health officials and Gov. Tom Wolf have emphasized that wearing a mask in all businesses in the yellow and green phases of reopening the economy could help keep a surge of COVID-19 at bay.
Wolf said, “As most counties are in or will soon be in the green phase of reopening, mask-wearing is a vital measure to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Pennsylvania has emerged as a leader among states for reduced cases amid increased reopening and we want that to continue to keep people safe and healthy while returning to many of the activities we enjoyed before COVID.”
According to a recent study in the Institute of Physics, wearing medical masks or improvised facial coverings reduces community exposures from asymptomatic, but unknowingly infectious, individuals.
Wolf continued, “Mask-wearing needs to be a part of our everyday routines. When you leave the house, grab your keys, your wallet and your mask. Mask-wearing has proven to be an important deterrent to the spread of the virus and keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy is the goal as we reopen and continue our mitigation efforts.”
Many reasons prompting a visit to Washington County Coroner Timothy Warco’s office in Courthouse Square are bound to be stressful, but for the next few weeks, a furry addition to the staff may serve as a source of comfort and emotional support. Ruby, a four-month-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, is on hand to lend emotional support to those in need. She’s the pet of Gretchen Gasmier, 21, of Canonsburg, at student at Gannon University in Erie, where she’s studying to become a physician’s assistant.
A year and a half ago, Joe Morascyzk acknowledged, the price of natural gas in Marcellus Shale was a reasonable $3 per thousand cubic feet. An industry slump followed, later accompanied by what he calls the mild “winter of no winter” of 2019-20.
“Then COVID-19 kicks in and puts Marcellus Shale on pause like a lot of other things,” Morascyzk said. Last month, the skidding price dropped below $1.40 Mcf. And with supply continuing to outstrip demand and producers drilling less, things aren’t getting better.
Ask landowners holding mineral rights leases, which aren’t as lucrative during this pandemic.
Morascyzk, a Cranberry Township-based attorney with Canonsburg roots, represents a number of these landowners, and he discussed their plight Tuesday morning during a virtual webinar organized by the Center for Energy Policy and Management at Washington & Jefferson College.
The presentation was the second in a three-part series titled, “Effects of COVID-19 and the Economic Downturn on Western Pennsylvania Shale Gas Development,” which is offered free through CEPM’s Shale Gas Knowledge Hub.
“Lower natural gas prices mean less royalty revenue. That means less income for landowners,” said Morascyzk, a founding partner of Morascyzk & Polochak law firm and a W&J alumnus. He said the gross sales price has plummeted nearly 65% over the past year or so.
He said because of lower gas prices, many drilling companies are drilling fewer wells. He added that prices affect the number of leases and that some may not be renewed or extended.
“Low prices mean low urgency,” said the attorney. “Drillers don’t have the incentive to drill.”
A few production companies are no longer drilling in the region. Chevron Corp., which had operated in Greene, Fayette and Westmoreland counties, announced late last year that it was selling its assets in the Appalachian Basin.
As a result of these factors, he added, “more royalty owners have chosen to sell their oil and gas rights.” Some are holding on, hoping for a rebound.
“If you’re getting a monthly royalty check,” Morascyzk said, “it’s a lot lower than a year or year and a half ago ... even a few months ago.”
Natural gas is a fossil fuel, and while he endorsed the use of solar and wind energy – renewable and eco-friendly sources – Morascyzk called natural gas “vital. It’s the cleanest of fossil fuels. A lot of people in the world need electricity. My opinion is natural gas will be there to displace coal.”
Part III of the series is scheduled for July 14, featuring Jesse Bushman, revenue analyst for the state Independent Fiscal Office. He will address trends in natural gas production across the state and its effects on Act 13 Impact Fee revenues and local government revenues.