CHARLESTON – An $83.7 billion agreement with China Energy has state leaders downright giddy.
Early on Nov. 9, the West Virginia Department of Commerce announced an agreement with China Energy to invest that much money in shale gas development and chemical manufacturing products in the state. Gov. Jim Justice called it the largest private investment in state history.
The first two projects will be natural gas power plants, likely in Harrison County and Brooke County, according to Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, who signed the Memorandum of Understanding in Beijing with China Energy President Ling Wen as President Trump looked on.
West Virginia’s $83.7 billion agreement was the largest among several signed with states. The total amount of those agreements is about $250 billion. To put the agreement in perspective, West Virginia’s gross domestic product last year was $73.4 billion.
“I realize it’s close to the unbelievable range, but we really have, I think, landed something that’s going to significantly impact and dramatically change the face of the petrochemical industry within West Virginia,” Thrasher told MetroNews’ Hoppy Kercheval.
The Department of Commerce said China Energy officials had made several trips to West Virginia and the memorandum represents the first of several expected commitments by the company. The work will happen in phases over 20 years, and it will focus on power generation, chemical manufacturing and underground storage of natural gas liquids and derivatives.
China Energy is the world’s largest energy company with more than 200,000 employees.
“This is a great day for the state of West Virginia,” Justice said. “I’ve been saying for the last couple months that the tides are turning in West Virginia and this is proof. Today is another sign as we joined with my good friend President Trump to announce the largest investment in our state’s history.”
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito helped broker the agreement.
“Expanding Appalachia’s energy infrastructure, including developing a regional storage hub and market for natural gas liquids, will have a transformative effect on our economy, our security, and our future,” Capito said. “From driving growth and creating jobs to maximizing America’s energy potential, the benefits for West Virginia and the country from this new investment will be significant and long-lasting.
“That’s why I worked diligently to expand West Virginia's energy infrastructure and bring this investment to our state, advocating for it with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretaries Perry and Ross. I’m excited to continue working with the administration, and state, local and private-sector leaders to keep this effort moving forward.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said he was thrilled by the news.
“I have always said that West Virginians are the hardest working people in the world. I’m glad China Energy recognizes this and is working with us to create jobs and economic growth in our state,” he said.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley also worked on securing the deal.
“This investment in shale gas resources located here in West Virginia will spur tremendous economic growth in our communities,” McKinley said. “Secretary Thrasher has been in constant contact with my office as his team has worked out the details for this project. We commend him for his dedication to bringing new jobs to the Mountain State, and we look forward to the opportunities created by this new partnership.”
U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins praised the news.
“West Virginia’s energy resources are second to none, and this announcement is wonderful news for our state,” he said. “I’ve always said that an energy economy is a jobs economy, and we now have a president who is embracing West Virginia’s energy and jobs potential. This shows what we can do when we put our resources to work for us.
“I will work with our state and federal officials to ensure that this agreement will result in unprecedented job growth and investment in West Virginia.”
The president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce also hailed the announcement.
“West Virginia is a major producer of energy for the nation and world,” Steve Roberts said. “The global economy is fed by energy and our state is perfectly positioned to provide energy and its byproduct to the nation and world.”