By EARL RAY TOMBLIN

CHARLESTON -- New Year celebrations are often marked with the hope of new and better beginnings.

I am proud to say West Virginia is working in anticipation of 2012 toward what promises to be a significant advancement for our state.

Last week, the businesses and individuals responsible for advancing energy opportunities in West Virginia came together for the fifth annual West Virginia Energy Summit. This year the Summit's theme was West Virginia: Energy Powering Economic Development. The theme accurately reflects our economic future.

Earlier this month, more than 1,300 job seekers attended a job fair with 30 oil and gas employers at the Alan B. Mollohan Training Center in Moundsville. At that same job fair, West Virginia Northern Community College provided information about its training programs to those job seekers in need of the required skill sets to work in the oil and gas industry. WorkForce West Virginia also secured several orders from the job fair's employers requesting assistance in acquiring qualified applicants for their job openings. These are clear indications that a substantial need for skilled workers exists in West Virginia's oil and gas industry. What makes this more exciting is development of the Marcellus Shale is just beginning.

High energy costs continue to eat away at the wallets of many Americans. West Virginia is and will continue to be a key component of our country's energy solution. We power the world and I will continue to promote our energy industries' role in providing for the stability and security of our citizens and the nation. That is why I advocated for passing meaningful Marcellus Shale legislation this week. The regulations are of the utmost importance to our land owners, natural gas companies, and citizens. I worked with legislators to pass regulations that address all stakeholders' interests, including our largest stakeholder of all: the next generation.

West Virginia can help bring an end to our nation's reliance on foreign sources of energy, while being environmentally responsible within our borders. Our children and grandchildren need not be dependent on foreign sources of energy. We have the power today to insure that domestic energy will propel us into the future. I am mindful that the steps we take today will allow our economy to blossom, giving rise to greater educational and employment opportunities for our citizens. These are the long-term benefits directly related to economic stimulation driven by Marcellus Shale development in West Virginia.

I look forward to signing the Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act because it is a bill that establishes realistic and reasonable regulations for our oil and gas industry, job opportunities for our people, and energy independence for our nation. As the theme of this year's Energy Summit states, and as the Moundsville job fair demonstrated: Energy is powering our economic development. I am proud that our legislators joined me in exhibiting the hard working, can-do spirit of our constituents by laying the foundation for our future economic prosperity.

Tomblin is governor of West Virginia.

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