Corky DeMarco | April 25, 2016 | Gazette Daily Mail
It’s no secret that West Virginia needs an economic boost.
More jobs, more revenue, and more people are needed for the Mountain State to thrive and reach its full economic potential.
On that topic, national economist Ted Abernathy told a gathering of manufacturers in Charleston last month that West Virginia must bring more wealth from outside in.
Yet many are sensitive to state resources serving interests outside of the state instead of helping West Virginians.
But with West Virginia’s abundance of natural gas and the pipeline projects underway, the state can reap the benefits of both — shipping gas to customers outside its borders to fuel the nation (and other nations) while bringing in outside revenue — and fueling our own homes and developing our own manufacturing industries while generating wealth from within the state.
West Virginia-based Mountaineer Gas Company recently applied to build 56 miles of natural gas pipeline in the Eastern Panhandle. Little natural gas service exists in that booming area of the state, and a reliable natural gas supply from a Mountaineer pipeline can greatly increase economic development, as well as provide a clean, inexpensive fuel for existing homes.
“The [Economic Development Authority] board of directors is absolutely thrilled,” EDA Director Betsy Heath told the Morgan Messenger. “This is a game-changer for Morgan County.”
Heath said not having natural gas service in the area had been a deal-breaker before Mountaineer’s announcement. She said the EDA will reengage companies who had ruled out Morgan County now that new natural gas service is planned for the area.
And it’s not just the Eastern Panhandle. West Virginians across the state recognize the benefits the natural gas industry provides. State residents strongly support pipeline development. A recent survey of state residents about their perceptions of the natural gas industry by Energize West Virginia revealed:
Seventy-six percent of West Virginians support pipeline construction to transport natural gas to areas where it is used and sold.
Eighty-two percent of West Virginians believe growing the natural gas industry in West Virginia is important to creating more jobs and providing more tax revenue to the state for services such as roads and schools.
Eighty-three percent of West Virginians believe that developing more natural gas in West Virginia will help the U.S. become less dependent on foreign energy, such as oil from other countries.
And, 93 percent of respondents believe the natural gas industry will be important to West Virginia’s economy and job market 10 years from now.
There are now six major interstate pipeline projects proposed to move West Virginia natural gas to markets in state and across the nation — and possibly for export.
Taken together, these projects represent a $5.7 billion investment in construction related spending, 18,000 construction jobs and more than $60 million in property tax revenue to local governments.
And with increased access, manufacturers that use large amounts of natural gas are more likely to build in or near the Mountain State, thereby diversifying the state’s economy far beyond just the extraction of minerals.
It’s an overused term, but the abundance of natural gas from the Marcellus shale, Utica shale and traditional underground formations in West Virginia is a potential “game changer” for the state’s economy.
West Virginia’s policy makers, lawmakers and citizens across the state are encouraged to do all they can to support natural gas development and new pipeline construction for the manufacturing, job growth and revenue boost that it all will bring to West Virginia and its citizens.
Corky DeMarco is executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.