WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told business leaders Wednesday he is not willing to sit back and let all of the natural gas products extracted in West Virginia be piped out of state to create jobs elsewhere.
Tomblin told attendees at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's Business Summit at The Greenbrier Resort that the development of shale gas and associated liquids like ethane and propane offer enormous potential for the state - both in terms of low-cost energy production and by providing "an opportunity to reinvigorate our manufacturing in West Virginia."
"There are companies willing to create these jobs here and we believe we have a right to expect a partnership between those companies which are developing the Marcellus and Utica resources and those companies who can use those resources to manufacture value-added products here in West Virginia," Tomblin said.
Tomblin said he's convinced officials will be able to bring to the state a so-called "cracker" plant that can convert a chemical left over from natural gas drilling into compounds widely used by industry. Last year, West Virginia lost out to Pennsylvania in its bid to attract a Shell cracker plant.
"We're working every day to make it happen, and I am convinced it is going to happen in West Virginia," Tomblin said.
He says officials are working hard to develop the infrastructure that will support an entire industry "for generations to come." While much of it already is in place, he said, "Plans for billions of dollars of investment are on the drawing board."
Tomblin, a Democrat, also used his talk with business leaders to take a stab at Washington and what he called "misguided" energy policies. He called any energy policy that fails to recognize the essential role coal plays a flawed policy.
"Misguided policies in Washington won't change the fact that they need us to keep their lights on," he said.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said his office has worked with the governor and others to fight back against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He said he would like to see other states join West Virginia's efforts to push back against anti-coal policies.
"Let's be clear, West Virginia is in a fight for its life with the EPA and we have to speak with one voice," said Morrisey, a Republican.
Morrisey also appealed to business leaders to join the fight against drug abuse, saying it's unacceptable to have an employer say they can't find workers because of drugs.
"We're zeroing in on substance abuse," he said, touting steps his office is taking to work with law enforcement to curb the problem. "I can tell you one thing: Substance abuse is a jobs issue and we must attack it with vigor.
The three-day business summit also will feature addresses by several congressional and legislative leaders.