WASHINGTON – When United States Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz visited West Virginia on Monday, he got a first-hand look at our state’s role in America’s energy revolution.

The United States is quickly becoming a dominant player in global energy production. In 2013, the United States surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the leading oil and gas producer in the world. By exporting liquefied natural gas to our allies abroad, we can continue to grow jobs in energy producing states.

West Virginia is in a prime position to be a major player in this production boom.

Located in the heart of the Marcellus shale region, we have the right location, resources and workers necessary to continue powering the nation with affordable, reliable energy. We can do this not only through natural gas development, but also by advancing carbon capture and storage technologies that can ensure coal remains part of the nation’s energy portfolio.

The only thing standing in our way is a woeful lack of infrastructure and a blanket of overreaching regulations.

During an energy field hearing I hosted in Morgantown last month, Brian Anderson, Director of West Virginia University’s Energy Institute, spoke about the potential of an ethane storage and distribution hub in the Utica-Marcellus-Rogersville shale region. An Appalachian ethane distribution hub would not only create new downstream energy infrastructure but also boost manufacturing in the region.

West Virginia has a robust chemistry sector that accounts for nearly 40 percent of our state’s manufacturing jobs. Ethane from natural gas serves as a feedstock for many chemical companies, so an ethane storage hub in the region would mean more companies choosing to operate in West Virginia. As of April of this year, there have been over 250 new industry projects nationally because of the shale gas boom. Imagine if this potential was unleashed in West Virginia.

Secretary Moniz learned about Longview Power in Maidsville, the newest, cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power plant in the country. This West Virginia facility is proof that you can continue to operate coal plants that create affordable energy while implementing more efficient technologies that produce fewer emissions. Coal is a reliable source of base load generation, and it must remain a part of our energy mix to meet the demands of powering the nation.

Innovation, not across the board regulation, should be our focus. This is why I support bipartisan legislation to promote carbon capture technologies through tax credits that encourage research. I have long been a big proponent of investments that will extend the life of coal and a big opponent of crushing mandates like the harmful Clean Power Plan.

Since 2011, overreaching regulations have cost more than 60,000 coal workers across the country their jobs, devastating American communities and families. During the Morgantown hearing, one witness testified that the decline in coal production has caused a “great depression” in six southern West Virginia counties.

Unfortunately, some have signaled that natural gas will be the next target. Choking off our most reliable and affordable sources of energy will not only devastate the livelihoods of other hard-working people around the country, it will discourage progress and stifle emerging technologies.

Secretary Moniz’s visit to West Virginia comes as a House-Senate conference committee is in the process of reconciling the first comprehensive energy bill since 2007. This legislation includes several important measures to expedite pipeline permitting, advance clean coal technology and study the benefits of a regional ethane storage distribution hub.

This modern, comprehensive energy bill is a needed step to ensure West Virginia remains part of nation’s energy foundation. I am glad Secretary Moniz had an opportunity to witness our potential, our challenges and the benefits an updated energy policy will bring. His visit comes at a critical time.”

Capito (R-W.Va.) is a member of the United States Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee as well as the Environment and Public Works Committee.

More News