CHARLESTON— Although coal still makes up the vast majority of power generation in West Virginia, natural gas is beginning to develop in the area.
There are currently three natural gas power plants set to be built in West Virginia: the Moundsville Power Plant, which will be a 595-megawatt plant; the Brooke County Power Plant, an 830-megawatt plant; and the Harrison County Power Plant, a 550-megawatt plant.
The plants have the potential to provide more than 2,000 jobs over the course of construction and when they are operating.
The power plants would cover more than 1.5 million homes in their surrounding areas, according to the power plants' websites.
David Yaussy, an attorney for Spilman, Thomas & Battle, said there isn't much change happening in power generation in West Virginia.
"AEP has asked for permission to buy a wind farm, but other than that, it's a pretty small part of West Virginia electricity generation and is likely to remain that way for awhile," Yaussy said, who noted 97 percent of electricity generation is still coal.
Anne C. Blankenship, the executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said with the closure of coal-fired power generation facilities, new facilities and sources to fuel those must be developed.
"The obvious choice for that fuel is natural gas," Blankenship said. "West Virginia sits on top of one of the largest oil and natural gas fields in the world."
Blankenship said it is low-cost fuel for power generation, the development of which would result in lower utility bills and a stronger business climate at a time when we have seen great hikes in our electric bills.
"For some industries, electricity is the highest expense," Blankenship said. "Natural gas would provide that service at a lower cost and would keep our resource right here in West Virginia."
Blankenship said aside from the obvious benefits of natural gas-fired power generation, creating additional downstream uses for natural gas benefits the entire state by creating demand for increased production, resulting in greater taxes which benefit our counties and local communities.
"Unfortunately, the development of natural gas-fired power generation in West Virginia is moving much more slowly than in our surrounding states," Blankenship said. "We should encourage such growth in this state for the benefit of us all."