Charles Young | The Exponent Telegram | October 22, 2017
CLARKSBURG — With citizens voting to approve Gov. Jim Justice’s “Roads to Prosperity” road bond amendment and federal regulators approving two pipeline projects that will cross through the state, West Virginia will soon be flush with economic opportunities and thousands of new jobs.
According to lawmakers, state officials, representatives of labor organizations and other invested parties, the projects funded by passage of the road bond amendment, as well as construction of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, will greatly benefit the state and its economy.
Before passage of the road bond amendment, Justice repeatedly told the state’s voters that highway projects funded as a result would generate more than 48,000 jobs and spark economic development in the state.
“What you are on the cusp of will absolutely launch the state forever more,” Justice said. “You’ve got 48,000 jobs — the revenue is going to be unbelievable that comes from that. The opportunities are going to be unbelievable. We’re going to be able to do things with education and with our universities and on and on and on. Tourism will explode. Manufacturing will come from everywhere. It is absolutely our sole ticket that we have waited on forever.”
During the two-day special session of the Legislature last week, lawmakers passed House Bill 205, which increases the fines imposed on contractors for state-funded public improvement projects if the contractors fail to employ a workforce made up of at least 75 percent West Virginia workers.
Under the bill, fines will be raised to $250 per worker per day, up from $100 per worker per day.
Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, said he supports the changes to the West Virginia Jobs Act because they “give (the law) more teeth.”
“I can only hope that the changes to the West Virginia jobs Act brought about by HB 205 are effective,” he said. “If West Virginians do not get the jobs created by the road bond, the benefits of the road bond will be greatly diminished.”
The Mountain Valley Pipeline, a project of EQT and several other partners, will span more than 300 miles from Northwestern West Virginia to Southern Virginia. The pipeline will be used to supply natural gas from Marcellus and Utica Shale production to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic.
According to information on the project’s website, the pipeline will pass through 11 West Virginia counties.
The pipeline’s owners plan to spend $811 million directly on resources — including equipment, materials, labor, and services — in West Virginia.
The project is estimated to create more than 4,500 jobs — 2,829 of which would be directly involved in the construction, 633 would be created along the supply-chain and 1,052 jobs would be created in the general economy.
The project is estimated to generate $47 million in aggregate tax revenues.
Once the pipeline is complete, it will support 54 jobs, with average annual wages and benefits of almost $65,000.
The project has a targeted in-service date of “late 2018,” said Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Precision Contracting is the only contractor currently chosen to work on the project, Cox said.
“We are in the process of reviewing work proposals and expect to identify the rest of the contractors in time to begin work,” she said.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a project of Dominion Transmission and several partners, will cross more than 600 miles between Harrison County and Greensville County, Virginia.
The underground pipeline will transport natural gas produced in West Virginia to energy producers in Virginia and North Carolina.
According to information on the project’s website, the project is estimated to generate 17,240 jobs across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina and bring more than $2.7 billion in total economic activity.
Approximately 7,200 construction workers will be needed in 2018 and 5,600 in 2019 as the construction is at its peak.
Josh Sword, president of the West Virginia American Federation of Labor and Congress of industrial organizations, said his organization supports any new job opportunities in the state.
“We are excited about these projects and the jobs they will create,” he said. “We stand ready to work with both the public and private sectors to meet the workforce challenge we will soon face.”
Brian Dayton, communications manager for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said all three projects will have “a profound impact on the state’s economy and our citizens’ employment opportunities.”
The pipeline projects reaffirm the state’s commitment to the oil and natural gas industries, Dayton said.
“In the last five years, marketed production of natural gas in West Virginia has increased by over 300 percent,” he said. “The approval of these pipeline projects will facilitate continued growth of this important sector. Additionally, manufacturers, which provide good-paying jobs, tend to have high-demand for natural gas.”
The projects resulting from the road bond will likewise bring major economic development to the state, Dayton said.
“This was an important component of an overall highways program that has projects planned in every county in the state,” he said. “Solid infrastructure and highways are one of the key components employers need to succeed.”