Op-Ed By Sen. Capito: Powering West Virginia’s Energy Economy
West Virginia is no stranger to large-scale energy production. We have long been one of the nation's largest energy producing states, and we are proud to power America.
The recent expansion of the natural gas industry has only added to our abundant energy supply, and it has provided a sense of optimism for the industry's future.
Since the first Marcellus Shale permit was issued in 2005, the amount of natural gas recovered in West Virginia has grown more than 300 percent.
West Virginia's Northern Panhandle has seen the potential of this rapid expansion firsthand.
In Wetzel County, a single natural gas producer operates a well that provided enough gas in 2014 to power more than 77,000 homes for a year.
That's a lot of energy from one single well.
From the producers, to the transporters, to the refiners and distributers - the growing natural gas market presents a huge opportunity, and it has the power to transform our state.
I hosted a roundtable in Wheeling on Thursday with representatives from a wide spectrum of West Virginia's natural gas industry to discuss our potential for growth and the challenges that must first be tackled.
One of the largest issues faced by the natural gas industry is infrastructure.
While we are producing an unprecedented amount of natural gas, a large portion of it has nowhere to go.
The lack of pipeline infrastructure means that producers are not reaching their full capabilities, and American families and manufacturers are missing out on a crucial energy source.
I introduced a bill last spring that would address this problem by improving the permitting process for new pipelines. A more streamlined process means more certainty for investors, less cost overruns for construction and more jobs for West Virginians.
The Oil and Gas Production and Distribution Reform Act would provide greater certainty around the timeframe for natural gas pipeline approvals, which currently take months or years.
It would also establish the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency for the permitting process, helping to address interagency disputes that lead to project delays.
I remain committed to advancing this important legislation, whether it be as a stand-alone bill or as part of a broader, bipartisan, all-of-the-above energy package.
Another issue discussed during the roundtable is the need for a skilled workforce.
As the industry continues to evolve, so too do the training and skills needed to perform the jobs that will accompany development in fields ranging from production to construction to hospitality.
During the Senate's recent consideration of the Energy Policy Modernization Act, I introduced an amendment that would provide resources for energy job training programs at schools like West Virginia Northern Community College that operate in shale play areas.
While I am disappointed that this energy package is currently stalled before the Senate, I am pursuing other avenues to make sure that West Virginia workers are prepared for the opportunities shale gas brings to our region.
Building our workforce is crucial to the natural gas industry, and proper training ensures that West Virginians can secure good, high-paying jobs.
William McKinsey, a student at Pierpont Community and Technical College, joined the roundtable to discuss the training he has received as part of the college's petroleum technology program.
William will graduate in May with an Associate in Applied Science degree and an education that has prepared him for employment in the natural gas industry.
We must place a greater emphasis on making sure that our students, like William, are equipped with the skills and training needed to take advantage of the jobs that will come along with the natural gas boom.
I look forward to bringing stories like William's back to Washington.
As a member of the Senate Energy a Natural Resources Committee, I am working to schedule a field hearing in West Virginia later this year to further examine the need for energy infrastructure, workforce training and fewer regulations that threaten to derail natural gas' potential.
Now is the time to harness this power and open the door to opportunity across our state.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and chairs the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
By: Senator Shelley Moore Capito
Source: The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register
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