March 20, 2017 | Charleston Gazette-Mail
There’s no denying that West Virginia continues to face big challenges.
The Associated Press reported recently that unemployment rates rose in all 55 of West Virginia’s counties last month. Making ends meet is getting tougher for West Virginia families and communities.
In Charleston, the Legislature is focused on a number of these challenges, including our budget shortfalls and policies related to job growth — and West Virginia families are watching these efforts closely.
The good news is that we have real opportunities for positive and sustained growth, which can lift up every West Virginia family and community.
Our workforce knows how to get the job done. Our schools and universities are centers of innovation. West Virginia’s abundant natural resources — particularly clean-burning natural gas — can power our homes and businesses for generations to come.
By focusing on these opportunities, our elected leaders can position West Virginia for a brighter future with more jobs and economic success for everyone who calls our state home.
Republican and Democratic leaders alike — including Gov. Jim Justice and Senate President Mitch Carmichael, among many others — as well as business, civic and labor leaders, recognize that natural gas development can create the good-paying local jobs that West Virginians want, while boosting much-needed revenues to support critical statewide programs our communities need.
There’s also broad recognition that our abundant supply of affordable natural gas can fuel a rebirth in manufacturing, which can provide an economic shot in the arm to small- and medium-sized local businesses in the long-term.
What’s needed — and what West Virginians are demanding — is a sense of urgency from the Capitol to enact meaningful change through common sense solutions that will allow us to fully realize these important energy-related benefits. It is perhaps more critical than ever that we come together and deliver results that will brighten West Virginia’s future.
There’s no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all policy that can tackle these big challenges, of course.
Strong, modernized and predictable regulations that reflect current technologies and also ensure that we protect our people and our environment — which we all care about deeply — are absolutely needed.
To move West Virginia forward, we must encourage greater and more efficient natural gas production, as well as use. Today’s technologies enable energy producers to access more resources while dramatically reducing disturbance to land.
Encouraging more natural gas development with less land disturbance makes economic and environmental sense, and it will increase royalty payments to West Virginia families and generate more tax revenues that support critical state and community programs.
Common sense proposals before the Legislature, including joint development and co-tenancy, can enable that boost in production and benefits.
Energy infrastructure is critical to more fully realizing the benefits tied directly to abundant natural gas resources.
As Steve White, director of the Affiliated Construction Trades in West Virginia, which represents more than 20,000 union construction workers, recently wrote for the Gazette Opinion page: “In West Virginia, green-lighting the construction of more pipeline projects would create hundreds — perhaps thousands — of good-paying construction jobs in our communities.”
On Tuesday, hundreds of West Virginians will ensure their unified voice in support of energy development is heard loud and clear in Charleston.
Lawmakers must take action — with a renewed sense of urgency — to help create new job-creating energy opportunities for our state.
Anne Blankenship is the executive director of the W.Va. Oil and Gas Association (wvonga.com). Charlie Burd is the executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of W.Va. (iogawv.com).