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Natural Gas Developments Lead To Stronger Region

Gov TomblinpngOp-ed by West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin as published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail on October 27, 2015

As a lifelong West Virginian who has spent more than four decades serving the people of our state, I can honestly say we are currently embarking on one of the most exciting times in our state’s history.

West Virginia, along with neighbors Pennsylvania and Ohio, is at the heart of a worldwide energy revolution, and last week I was pleased to join Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (via video conference) for the first ever Tri-State Shale Summit.

This collaborative effort gave us the opportunity to come together as a region and showcase our collective potential to become the petrochemical capital of the world — home to billions of dollars of investments that will not only strengthen our workforces, but improve the economies in our three states now and for decades to come.

West Virginia has established a reputation as a leader in the development of the Marcellus and Utica shales. We were the first state in the Appalachian Basin to pass comprehensive legislation on horizontal drilling to provide certainty for business and industry looking to invest in this abundant resource.

This year, I signed an executive order to create the Commission on Oil and Natural Gas Industry Safety to ensure that as we continue to make the most of this resource, we must protect our workers and make sure they return home safely to their families every night.

While I represent West Virginia first and foremost, I also recognize these natural gas formations know no state boundaries. That’s why it’s important that we work together to discuss how we can best align efforts to encourage responsible development in all three states.

While we all have individual state interests, it is important to understand that potential investors are not as concerned themselves with state borders as they are with the overall regional workforce and resource availability.

Much as we don’t hear about Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama individually but about the Gulf Coast being a petrochemical hotbed, we must work to promote the Appalachian Basin as an outstanding place for companies to invest, locate and expand.

The agreement signed at the Summit showcased the first step forward on this path toward a joint venture among our neighboring states.

While each neighboring partner will continue work toward their respective state interests, we recognize that potential investors are not as concerned with our state borders as they are with the overall regional workforce and resource availability.

Gas and oil reserves in our region will continue to sustain projects and create jobs, and as the worldwide energy market stabilizes, I believe we will have numerous opportunities to capitalize on that both as a state and as a region.

As we look toward this bright future, a highly trained regional workforce will be one of the most critical components to attract business and industry that want to use these resources or plan projects to create downstream development based on the byproducts. And I’m proud West Virginia is leading the way in these workforce development efforts.

We are gaining a national reputation for our skilled training programs and for having a workforce committed to getting the job done — and doing it well.

We are working to give business and industry access to the high-tech resources and highly skilled workers they need to fill jobs they are creating here. With support from our community and technical college system, West Virginia’s advanced technology centers are providing the latest technologies and programs to increase economic growth, focus on job creation and foster economic development now and for years to come.

Advancing our workforce through these educational partnerships and training programs is an investment with a lasting, invaluable return — a future that is bright for West Virginia and her people.

Our state has never had the number of opportunities that are before us today, and I’m pleased to have joined and partnered with our neighbors in Ohio and Pennsylvania who share in this same vision.

I look forward to working with them in the near future to continue developing our abundant natural gas resources, as well as our workforce, to ensure a bright future for West Virginia and the entire Appalachian Basin now and for years to come.