West Virginia’s long history of providing energy for the United States is growing with the times, and we need to align ourselves for the future by retaining the maximum value from our resources and creating jobs in the process.
There are plenty of anti-energy activists who’d like to impose their will on West Virginia by stopping the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline and, in turn, the expansion of our natural gas industry.
Their noisy rhetoric ignores the real benefits to our families and businesses that these two critical infrastructure projects have provided: employment, a boost to local and regional economies and the promise of helping our state earn more value from the natural gas in our ground.
Without the expansion these pipelines offer West Virginia, prices will be held back and the financial benefit we gain will be choked by a lack of offtake capacity, according to recent research.
That’s not the only loss we’d face. Completion of the pipelines will create and secure good-paying jobs that will last, given the abundance of natural gas we have here in West Virginia. It’s understandable that many West Virginians have concerns about an industry like natural gas because of the many cycles of boom and bust we experienced.
Yet pipelines are long-term commitments by their very nature, and once in service, both the ACP and MVP will require skilled workers for maintenance and operation over decades. Not only that, both will generate property tax for the counties on their routes for the same time span. For example, ACP’s builder, Dominion Energy, said the project will employ more than 2,000 workers, and at least 600 of those will be West Virginians.
There are also jobs that will persist even after the gas is pumped out of the ground, or the pace of production slows. The potential economic benefits to Appalachia if a petrochemical production facility is built – like the “cracker” plant Shell is building in Pennsylvania’s Beaver County – would include $36 billion in capital investment, roughly 100,000 new jobs, $28 billion in economic growth and $2.9 billion in annual tax revenues, according to the American Chemistry Council.
The Longview power plant is a major draw in recruiting manufacturers to the area, offering a clean energy source for them to make their products right here in the 48th District. It has three advanced clean coal, natural gas and solar electric generation plants to provide more than 2,000 megawatts of inexpensive power to northern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania.
And though coal use is decreasing, high-quality Appalachian coal will provide fuel for the state-of-the-art, low-emission clean coal power plant at Longview, which will generate continuous baseload power. At the same time, the combined-cycle natural gas plant can spool up quickly and cleanly to meet demand, while the solar plant – 185,000 panels on 300 acres – will be Appalachia’s largest such facility.
All those power plants will create 180 high-paying jobs and support combined annual payroll and benefits of more than $22.5 million.
How does all that tie in to a better life for our families and better business environment for our companies and entrepreneurs? Since nearly 75 percent of U.S. economic growth is contingent on consumer spending, higher energy bills for indispensable goods like electricity means fewer dollars to spend on other things for families and businesses alike. Reliable and affordable energy is essential to our economic success.
Natural gas has done its part to put more money in West Virginians’ wallets. From 2006-2016, expanded natural gas production saved consumers nearly $4.3 billion. Residential users saved almost $1.6 billion while commercial and industrial users saved over $2.7 billion, according to report by Consumer Energy Alliance.
And that’s before we consider the jobs. In the last decade, shale-related industry employment grew nearly 78 percent and employed nearly 12,000 West Virginians. That’s compared with barely 16 percent growth for all other industries in West Virginia over the same period.
As a native of Clarksburg and a resident of Bridgeport, I know what our past and our present look like. For our future, I strongly believe that we must find solutions to make West Virginia as prosperous as we once were. Through my work as treasurer of the Harrison County Executive Committee and activity in the Harrison County Republican party, I’ve developed a vision of how to make that happen. Only by changing policies to make our State more competitive can we can bring good-paying blue collar jobs back to our hard-working Harrison County residents.