MORGANTOWN – U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) recently chaired a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the economic importance of modern, reliable infrastructure in West Virginia and other energy-producing states.
“West Virginia has proven time and again that we have the perfect storm of natural resources and the skilled workforce that make investment in energy infrastructure so valuable,” Capito told The West Virginia Record.
The hearing was held on Aug. 29 at the Monongalia County Justice Center.
The Morgantown field hearing featured several West Virginia experts, including Brian J. Anderson, director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute; John Deskins, director of the Bureau for Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University; Chad Earl, director of Business Development at Orders Construction; Steven Hedrick, president and chief executive officer of Matric; Jeff Keffer, CEO of Longview Power LLC; and Dan Poling, business manager/secretary treasurer of the District Council 53 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
“(The) hearing was an opportunity to further the dialogue about the need for modern energy infrastructure, highlight the projects already taking place in West Virginia, and identify the areas of opportunity for the future,” Capito said.
The senator said there is arguably no other state where the issue of energy infrastructure is more relevant than in West Virginia.
“Building modern infrastructure will do exponentially more than just deliver cheap, reliable energy – it will also create jobs, boost the economy and local communities, improve the safety of our grids and pipelines and contribute to lowering emissions,” Capito said.
At the hearing, Capito said that, although West Virginia has always been one of the blocks in the foundation of America’s energy production, the state’s “economy and many of our communities have been devastated due to the downturn in the coal industry.”
However, Capito said, West Virginia still ranks 10th in the production of natural gas and second in coal production for the year so far, and advanced drilling techniques have made West Virginia’s natural gas wells some of the most productive in the country.
Because of its upstream capacity, Capito said West Virginia also has a robust chemistry sector that accounts for nearly 40 percent of the state’s manufacturing jobs, and is the second-largest exporting industry in the state.
“We need to foster an environment where the risks associated with innovation in energy infrastructure are vastly outweighed by the incentives,” Capito said at the hearing. “This attitude toward infrastructure should apply to an all-of- the-above approach to energy.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a member of the ENR committee, also attended the hearing.
“West Virginia has helped power the nation for decades and today’s hearing in Morgantown symbolizes our state’s importance in shaping policies that will expand energy technology and infrastructure,” Manchin said in a statement released following the meeting.
Manchin echoed Capito’s sentiments about the importance of the issue of energy infrastructure to West Virginia.
“Considering the economic challenges we face today, it’s more important than ever that we go the extra mile to examine opportunities for job creation and economic development while ensuring we remain an energy leader for the nation,” Manchin said. “Our state is rich in natural resources and we must support policies that ensure West Virginia continues to be a significant and sustainable participant in the energy future of this nation."
Manchin said the hearing highlighted these points and said he would work with his colleagues and key stakeholders “to keep West Virginia at the forefront of energy innovation.”