Leaders from 3 states sign historic shale collaboration in Morgantown

Marcellus_shale-drillingMORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio join forces to strengthen the Marcellus and Utica shale industry.

At the Tri-State Shale Summit in Morgantown Tuesday, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said through collaboration, the northeastern region of the country could become the petro chemical capitol of the world and home to billions of dollars in economic development.

“As much as we don’t hear about Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama individually we hear about the gulf coast being a petro chemical hot bed,” Tomblin stressed. “We must work to promote the Appalachian basin.”

Projects like a 500 mile Atlantic coast pipeline through the state reaching North Carolina and a 300 mile mountain valley pipeline from Wetzel County to Virginia could attract drilling and gas companies to West Virginia.

Independent state programs lowering taxes to entice industry growth and legislation on horizontal shale can create interest in W.Va. alone. But, Ohio Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, also speaking at the summit, said through collaboration each state could maximize its workforce to maximize interest in the region from companies worldwide.

According to Taylor, 13, 863 jobs have already been created by Marcellus and Utica drilling.

She noted a SafeNet program helping create qualified natural gas industry workers.

“It’s a training program that is very specific to this industry and it’s currently offered at 3 schools in Ohio. I know workforce development will continue to be a key component of this agreement,” she explained.

Since 2007, community technical colleges in W.Va. have created 130 new programs tailored to workforce development in the industry.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who addressed the summit attendees via video, said working as a single region is beneficial. While he agreed creating a skilled workforce to meet company needs is important, he said there’s another layer to the tri-state partnership.

“In order to maximize this development in an environmentally safe way, we must work together. We must support development processes that add value to these resources.”

Tomblin emphasized the need to create workers gas industries want to hire.

“As we prepare workers for the skills of today and tomorrow, WorkForce West Virginia is drug testing all applicants before we start career training before we spend state dollars on people who can’t pass a drug test,” he said.

The Tuesday agreement among the three governor’s offices points to collaboration ahead while touting current collaboration.

For instance, WVU and Ohio State University have already been coordinating research efforts into Marcellus and Utica shale.

The Tri-State Shale Summit attracted educators, researchers, business leaders and economists. West Virginia Public Broadcasting provided live streaming of the summit and shared audio from it with WAJR AM.