NEW ORLEANS 0- Gov. Joe Manchin was elected chairman of the Southern States Energy Board, a regional organization that focuses on enhancing economic development in the south through innovations in energy and environmental policies, programs and technologies.

"West Virginia is a leading energy-producing state in the leading energy-producing region of the country," Manchin said July 17 after being elected. "Our natural resources and power generation industries are important job creators. Therefore, I am honored to have been selected to serve as chairman of this important regional energy organization.

"As chairman of the Southern States Energy Board, I will work, to promote policies and programs that continue to move our state, region and country forward. Establishing a regional model in the south that promotes job growth and energy independence will allow other regions to follow in our footsteps in addressing the nation's energy needs and the high costs of energy including gasoline," he continued.

Manchin was named chairman during the joint annual meetings of the SSEB and the Southern Governors Association. He was not able to attend in person due to his continuing recovery from knee-replacement surgery.

Pat Esposito, chief executive officer of Augusta Systems, Inc., currently serves as the chairman's alternate on the board and provides assistance to implement the governor's agenda for the energy organization. Esposito attended the meeting on the governor's behalf along with Paul Hardesty, Executive Director of the West Virginia Public Energy Authority.

"Our states, our region and our country are at an energy crossroads. We must chart a new course to supply more of our own energy resources to be more energy independent. Our economy, our independence and our way of life is dependent on how we chose to move forward," Manchin said.

Founded in 1960, the SSEB is a non-profit interstate compact organization created by state law and consented to by the Congress with a broad mandate to contribute to the economic growth of the southern region through programs in energy and environmental policy, science and technology research and related areas of concern. The SSEB consists of 16 southern states and two U.S. territories.

"West Virginia has not only been a leader in the energy industries, but also in the research and development of new energy innovations, such as clean coal technologies and new uses for coal, such as coal-to-liquids and other polygeneration options," Manchin said. "We must encourage energy conservation, energy efficiency and a diverse energy portfolio including renewables and alternative energy options.

"Through the SSEB, I can continue to support technologies that increase our energy supply, create new employment opportunities, help to protect the environment, and, most importantly, reduce our nation's dependency upon foreign sources of oil and gas."

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